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Author Topic: Repro or Rebuild steering box?  (Read 26538 times)
gyles
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« on: November 07, 2012, 12:20:23 pm »

Having found my old stock steering box on my '72 1200 looker a bit sloppy and beyond adjustment, I shelled out for a repro.  Think its a Varga and was from VW Heritage.  Wherever it came from, the thing is just crap and worse than my original box (which I have now weighed in!).  I have since heard they have a tendency to either jam or come apart halfway up the quarter.  Nice.

So, BBT sell a different repro made by TRW, which they say is excellent and have never had problems with (well they would!).

Has anyone experience of what is a good repro steering box?  Or would I be better finding a good used box and getting it rebuilt?
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Zach Gomulka
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« Reply #1 on: November 07, 2012, 12:36:25 pm »

In my experience the new boxes are worse than a worn out original. Best to find a good used one and rebuild it.
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leec
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« Reply #2 on: November 07, 2012, 12:40:49 pm »

Hi Gyles,

Hope you and family are well. I fitted a brand new one to my 63 and was quite pleased with it. Sure it was from G+S. Short of finding an nos one not sure what else to recommend.

Lee
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Jon
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« Reply #3 on: November 07, 2012, 13:46:00 pm »

Leec here is the first I have heard of that keeps using the repro insted of the original worn one.
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deano
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« Reply #4 on: November 07, 2012, 13:47:26 pm »

TRW boxes are ..... let's say, terrible? Lets.
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Bendik
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« Reply #5 on: November 07, 2012, 13:57:39 pm »

Nice to know that I just shelled out for a new TRW then..
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Donny B.
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« Reply #6 on: November 07, 2012, 15:16:42 pm »

My TRW box leaked from the get go.  After a few years it ended up with a dead spot; I could turn the wheel and nothing would happen.  This happened to me once on my way to one of the California shows.  I was turning off I-10 onto the 60 and I thought I was going to hit the guard rail at over 60 miles per hour.  That was a real wake up call.  After that I put my original box back in and it is far from good.
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Zach Gomulka
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« Reply #7 on: November 07, 2012, 15:27:35 pm »

TRW boxes are ..... let's say, terrible? Lets.


To say the least. We rebuilt the original box in AssHull's car, it was pretty iffy so we swapped it for a new TRW. The TRW is downright frightening. I can't believe they can sell such a critical part of such horrible quality.
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leec
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« Reply #8 on: November 07, 2012, 15:28:01 pm »

Leec here is the first I have heard of that keeps using the repro insted of the original worn one.

I siad, one from G+S works well for me, when did I say repro is better than a worn original or an nos one? A worn steering box is shocking to drive with

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jaqo
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« Reply #9 on: November 07, 2012, 17:36:25 pm »

Interesting thing is that trw made steering boxes for vw - i have an NOS box with both TRW and VW logo on it an a repro TRW with vw logo ground off.
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Jeff68
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« Reply #10 on: November 07, 2012, 19:47:30 pm »

I thought I was the only one with this problem. I put a new TRW box in my car and it definitely leaves a lot to be desired.  Does anyone know who sells the rebuild kits? I would like to try and rebuild a box and swap it for the POS TRW.
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plasticblack
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« Reply #11 on: November 07, 2012, 21:00:14 pm »

This is a really sad thread Cry

I've had 30+ years of selling VW Parts (25 Years with VAG) from 1976 to 2001.

I then had 5 years working for Independent VW Parts Suppliers and right from the start I was Shocked by the appalling quality of what was being offered as VW Replacement Parts..

Things have gotten progressively worse during the last 10 years and this is directly because VW Parts Buyers (mostly Trade) have been seduced by the offer of ever cheaper parts by the Big Independent Suppliers.

All that anyone was interested in was cheaper 'in'cost equals higher profit margins... Nobody gave one second to the thought that over time the lower prices would mean lower and lower quality of parts would become the 'Norm'..

Until what we have is a Steering Box sold by most of the 'Big' Suppliers that is a worse item than the 20-30 year old part it is SUPPOSED to replace??

The sad (very sad) thing is that WE did this to ourselves (the Trade mainly) and now Parts Manufacturers have become conditioned to produce and supply only parts that the market will pay for.. Hence Crap (NEW) Steering Boxes are a fact of life now..

The same goes for many of the VW Replacement Parts that we now consider to be the 'Norm' ...   The Quality we desire cannot now be provided at the prices we were prepared  to pay for them...

It sounds like quite a few people out there would really like a decent Steering Box so I'm going to suggest that in order to find one, you do something really strange and head down to your Local VW Dealership and get them to order one in for you...

Likely it will cost you a fair chunk of cash, but we know from experience that it will still be better than a brand new repro item 30 years from now?  Wink


Apologies I've had a shit Day Today.. Roll Eyes
« Last Edit: November 07, 2012, 21:04:18 pm by plasticblack » Logged
j-f
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« Reply #12 on: November 07, 2012, 21:03:36 pm »

I thought I was the only one with this problem. I put a new TRW box in my car and it definitely leaves a lot to be desired.  Does anyone know who sells the rebuild kits? I would like to try and rebuild a box and swap it for the POS TRW.

I had exactly the same problem. I drove my car for less than 10.000km with a new repro one and have to change it.
If rebuild kit are available, I would prefer to rebuil an old VW.
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Bendik
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« Reply #13 on: November 07, 2012, 21:26:56 pm »

Is the original one for older cars available from VW Classic?
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Jeff68
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« Reply #14 on: November 07, 2012, 21:31:03 pm »

I remember a while back seeing a picture of a steering box rebuilt by Danny Gabbard (GabFab) for his '67 (Cow Look?) I wondered where he got the rebuild kit but forgot to ask. Yes, let's find a rebuild kit (a high quality one!) if it's out there somewhere.
Thanks
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plasticblack
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« Reply #15 on: November 07, 2012, 21:34:41 pm »

I remember a while back seeing a picture of a steering box rebuilt by Danny Gabbard (GabFab) for his '67 (Cow Look?) I wondered where he got the rebuild kit but forgot to ask. Yes, let's find a rebuild kit (a high quality one!) if it's out there somewhere.
Thanks

Now Thats' what I like to hear.. Find a Kit?box that's of acceptable quality and the Big VW Suppliers can keep the 'Tat'...

Perhaps then the VW Scene will get the quality from suppliers that it deserves..  Grin
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lawrence
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« Reply #16 on: November 07, 2012, 21:35:15 pm »

My TRW box leaked from the get go.  After a few years it ended up with a dead spot; I could turn the wheel and nothing would happen.  This happened to me once on my way to one of the California shows.  I was turning off I-10 onto the 60 and I thought I was going to hit the guard rail at over 60 miles per hour.  That was a real wake up call.  After that I put my original box back in and it is far from good.

I have this "flat spot" issue as well. I do not like it at all, but have gotten used to it.

Yes, anyone who can provide information on a rebuild kit for Original VW boxes, please do.
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Jon
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« Reply #17 on: November 07, 2012, 23:40:09 pm »

Leec here is the first I have heard of that keeps using the repro insted of the original worn one.

I siad, one from G+S works well for me, when did I say repro is better than a worn original or an nos one? A worn steering box is shocking to drive with



I believe you missunderstood what I ment, you are happy with yours. And I guess it's a repro?
So there have to be some good ones too.
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hotrodsurplus
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« Reply #18 on: November 08, 2012, 02:35:27 am »

I can offer some information about rebuilding steering boxes. I did hundreds of them when I worked for Kymco in the '90s. Warning: this is going to get long.


There is no 'kit' for a steering box. Period. End of story. The only commonly replaceable parts are two seals: one for the input shaft and the other for the sector. They are both available at bearing-supply houses. We bought them in bulk but you can buy them individually for a little more money.

Most--I would say more than 99 percent--of all Type I and III steering boxes are perfectly good inside and worthy of rebuilding. This of course was almost 20 years ago but even the worst looking boxes then were usually good inside.

There are five wear points: 1: from the sector shaft to the housing, 2: from the top of the sector shaft to the steering-box top, 3: between the roller and the sector shaft itself, 4: between the roller and the worm gear, and 5: in the input-shaft bearings.

It was exceedingly rare to find a box that had perceptible wear between the sector shaft and the housing or the sector shaft and the box top. The surface area is so great and the cars are so light that there's almost no real load there. If you want to then you can drop the sector shaft in the housing and check the lateral movement with a dial indicator but I could count the number of boxes that were worn in that way on a wood-shop teacher's hand. And those boxes usually had other problems that prevented their rebuilds.

It would take a really loose fit between the sector shaft and steering box to induce enough movement to wear the box top. That's a really rare case.

You can bore and sleeve worn steering boxes to tighten the fit between the shaft and box but you're just better off starting with another box. That type of wear is so rare that you're not likely to find another one worn that way.

Every once in a while we would come across a sector shaft with a loose roller. The rollers slop sideways when the sector is bad and you just throw those away. Still, that's really uncommon. Those usually came out of Baja bugs and buggies. We got them as loose cores but you could tell the ones that were in off-road cars because they were usually painted funny colors.

The wear between the roller and worm gear isn't exactly common but it's easy to wipe out the fit if you don't know what you're doing. The LAST thing you want to do is touch the screw and jam nut on the steering-box top when the box gets sloppy. That's a sure-fire way to wipe out a worm gear. Trust me on that one.

The fifth type of wear is what makes the boxes sloppy over time. Wear there alters the preload on the bearings on the worm gear (input shaft). Those bearings do wear but they almost never wear out (if water gets into the box it will rust them which destroys the box anyway). That great-big (I think 30mm broach) socket-head fastener is what preloads those bearings. You can't effectively set preload there with the box top and sector shaft in place so you have to remove those parts. You might as well just tear down the entire box while you're at it and replace the seals. Here's how to do it.

Remove the box from the car and clamp it in a vise. Remove the pitman arm and all the grime from the end of the sector shaft. Loosen the jam nut on the box top but don't try to turn the preload screw yet. Remove the four 8mm bolts that hold the box top on to the steering-box housing. Put a drip pan under the steering box and lift the entire top/sector shaft assembly as one unit. Snot will ooze from it if there's any left.

Before you remove the set nut from the preload screw on the box top make sure the threads are good. Otherwise they'll booger up the threads in the box top. Remove the sector shaft from the box top by first removing the set nut and then screwing the set screw down and out of the hole. You'll likely have to grind a screwdriver to get it to go down into the 8mm hole all the way.

Before you go further feel how the input shaft feels in the steering box. It will likely feel loose and spin freely. It doesn't seem like much but even if it just spins freely chances are that's what's causing the box to feel sloppy. It's not uncommon for that shaft to actually feel a little bit sloppy. Those steering boxes feel spooky--you have to turn half a rotation to make the car steer. Usually they're just fine.

Here's how people who don't know what they're doing destroy boxes. They crank down on that jam nut on the top which tightens the fit between the roller and worm gear but it does not do anything about the slop in the input shaft. So they crank down even harder. That makes the steering box feel 'notchy'. After a while the excessive load just wipes out the parts. It doesn't help matters that the steering box is way down on oil at that point. All the while the input shaft moves back and forth making it feel as if the fit between the worm/roller is bad.

Use a big pair of channel-type (Channel Lock) pliers to remove the locking collar from that big ol' set nut. I did that for years and it works fine if you're careful. Then use your new 'tool' to remove that giant preloading fastener. The input shaft drops out through that hole.

You'll have to make your own tool to remove that gigantic set nut that preloads the input. We went down to the local industrial hardware shop (McFadden-Dale's for you California and Las Vegas people) and ordered the right size nut. I just welded a 19mm or so nut to the nut face. The larger nut fits into the fastener and the 19mm or so nut welded to it makes it easy to use a common wrench on the tool.

Before you remove the input shaft, stop and remove the collar that's supposed to be on it. It's not always there but if it is it will tear up the input seal if you try to remove the shaft with the collar in place. There are cases when you can reuse the input seal. They're not always bad.

At this point you can remove the seals and take the parts to your local bearing shop and order new ones.

Clean all of the parts. We ran everything through the washer. We ran everything through the glass-bead cabinet but i have a few tips. First, tape off the part of the sector shaft that fits into the steering box and blast ONLY the area outside the steering box (on the outside of the seal where the pitman arm fits). Sometimes the seal deposits itself on the shaft. In that case POLISH that area to remove the residue. Also blast ONLY the area of the input shaft that's outside the input seal. Again, polish the seal area if it's not squeaky clean. There's no need to blast the bearing races and/or worm gear or roller. That does more harm than good.

You'll likely want to blast the area where the seals were. That's fine but try not to blast the part of the box where the sector shaft fits. It's inevitable that you'll hit that part but just don't sit there blasting. And blast only the topside of the cover. The bottom side of the cover has the precision-machined bore and blasting that area can wear it prematurely. Carefully knock out the filler seal in the box top. Don't try to pry it out because it will likely fall apart. Just punch it out from the bottom.

A circlip holds the set screw in the top of the sector shaft. You don't need to remove it and i don't advise it unless grit has gotten in there. Kymla made me do that and cut out shim stock to go between the set screw and sector to take up the slop but that's wholly unnecessary. Just don't go there if you don't have to.

Reassemble the worm gear with the bearings and the preload fastener. I did the following without the input-shaft seal in place so i could better feel the preload. You can slip the seal over the shaft at a later point but you'll need a thick-walled tube to do seat the seal. Otherwise install the seal with a larger drift and then assemble the input shaft. Squirt some engine oil on the bearings for the time being.

Hokay, the VW manual called out a very specific preload on the input-shaft bearings. It called for a scale in pounds-inches and an arm bolted to a rag-joint coupler. We found that largely unnecessary and i can't remember the specs anyway. Instead, bolt a rag-joint coupler to the input and tighten that preload nut until the slop goes away. Then tighten it more until you can feel the resistance in the input shaft. Then tighten it some more until it gets unnaturally tight and notchy. Now loosen that preload until it takes a bit of wrist effort to rotate the shaft by turning the joint coupler. It shouldn't feel notchy but it shouldn't spin freely either. You should feel a bit of resistance in the bearings. Install the locking collar nut on that giant fastener, hold the fastener in place with your special tool, and check the preload again. You might have to do this a few times if you're working alone.

Now thread the sector-shaft set screw ALL THE WAY UP into the steering-box top. Don't just stop at one point because you can damage things if you try to bolt it all together. Pour some engine oil on the roller and the worm gear.

You don't need the paper gasket to seal the lid to the housing; just use some plain ol' RTV (I use T0y0ta FIP Form in Place and it works awesome). Verify that nothing binds as you tighten the lid. If it binds, take it apart and check for interference. Use the engine specs for the torque on those fasteners.

Now slowly turn the preload screw clockwise as you turn the input shaft back and forth through the whole range. At one point it will get tight enough to feel very slightly notchy at center. You want to go just a little bit beyond that point. It should get almost tight at that point but you shouldn't feel any more than the slightest notchiness in a stock-sized steering wheel. That's absolute center and you want to make a note of that orientation with a mark on the shaft and housing. Now install/tighten the set nut on the preload shaft.

You should now have a properly set steering box. If you haven't installed the seals then do so at this point.

Now you have to fill the box with OIL. NOT GREASE--OIL! And don't try regular gear oil. Those old gearboxes used really thick oil--like 600 weight in early Fords. You can get similar weight oil at industrial shops but there's an easier way. The oil additive STP is super thick--about 500 or 600 weight (at least it used to be). Fill the box through the hole in the top. Fill it all the way and punch the plug back in.

You have a rebuilt box but you're not done yet. The following step is critical and always overlooked.

Remember the 'notchy' part when the steering box is at center? Install the steering box in the car and align it so it's dead-nuts center. Now install the steering shaft and wheel so the steering wheel is perfectly straight and not off to one side or the other when the steering box is centered. Now have the car aligned so the wheels point straight when the steering wheel is pointed straight.

The alignment goes to hell when people lower their cars and align them themselves. They often get the toe in set right but they don't always get the steering wheel centered when the wheels are toed properly. When confronted with that scenario people usually just remove/reinstall the wheel to straighten it out. Well the crooked steering wheel was saying that the steering box wasn't set straight and re-positioning the wheel only covered up the problem instead of correcting it.

That tightness when the box is straight preloads the steering ever so slightly when the wheels are straight. I can guarantee that a good number of you have your steering boxes installed ever so slightly off center--that's really common on lowered or raised cars. An off-center box will feel like junk even if it's perfect. This is experience talking here. I can almost guarantee that those 'junk' TRW boxes were installed that way. At least when I was doing boxes those TRW pieces were top-shelf parts. Preparation and installation are key to a good steering setup.

This may or may not work for you but it worked for me hundreds of times. The steering box in my Thing is one of my rebuilds and 15 years later it's as tight as the day it was made.
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Fritter
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« Reply #19 on: November 08, 2012, 04:19:32 am »

Wow, that is some good detail!

Yes, the pitman arm needs to be straight up front to back when the steering wheel is centered.  On a lot of boxes, there is a notch on the steering shaft nub coming out of the box that is supposed to line up with a mark on the box casting. 

Also make sure there is metal to metal contact from box to beam, otherwise your horn won't work in a lot of cars!
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danny gabbard
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« Reply #20 on: November 08, 2012, 04:59:58 am »

Great info, Thanks for spending the time to post!!
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hotrodsurplus
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« Reply #21 on: November 08, 2012, 05:27:59 am »

Hey, you're welcome guys. I have to find some sort of way to use this information.

I was alarmed at how rudimentary steering boxes were and how many 'bad' boxes were in fact perfectly good. I always reserved a pile of really pristine boxes, perfect ones that were yarded off for who knows why. People replace parts for the weirdest reasons.


 

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hotrodsurplus
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« Reply #22 on: November 08, 2012, 06:52:22 am »

I had a moment of clarity a few minutes ago. The broach in the input shaft preload nut is 24mm. The oil-pressure switch has a 24mm hex on it. That hex is a perfect match.

I knew that because one time after I lost my main tool I made a backup by carving out a pressure-switch's innards and brazing a nut (I think 10mm nominal/19mm hex) to the NPT boss that otherwise threads into the case.

If you have a coffee can full of fractional fasteners then dig around for a 9/16" nominal bolt and nut. They have a 15/16 hex on them which is just shy of 24mm. Braze that stuff together and you have an heirloom preload tool. You could pass it down to your kids provided they actually care and cars are still legal.

It pays to save all that old junk, especially if you're a piker as I am. I'm famously cheap, a proper nail straightener at heart.
 
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leec
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« Reply #23 on: November 08, 2012, 08:44:14 am »

Leec here is the first I have heard of that keeps using the repro insted of the original worn one.

I siad, one from G+S works well for me, when did I say repro is better than a worn original or an nos one? A worn steering box is shocking to drive with



I get what you mean, sorry, read it wrong. But so far mine seems good but rebuilding originals would be a great idea.


I believe you missunderstood what I ment, you are happy with yours. And I guess it's a repro?
So there have to be some good ones too.

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gyles
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I'm too old for this shit.


« Reply #24 on: November 08, 2012, 10:47:18 am »

Wow.  And I thought I was going to get a one line answer!

Thanks for all the input guys.  Looks like another repro is out then.  Onward with the re-build...
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Jeff68
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« Reply #25 on: November 08, 2012, 14:11:34 pm »

Hey, you're welcome guys. I have to find some sort of way to use this information.

I was alarmed at how rudimentary steering boxes were and how many 'bad' boxes were in fact perfectly good. I always reserved a pile of really pristine boxes, perfect ones that were yarded off for who knows why. People replace parts for the weirdest reasons.


Thanks so much for sharing this information and procedure! Like so many parts in our old cars, most can last or be revived with care, ingenuity,and or knowledge. This is what makes these cars so great! One of the VW mags should do an article detailing the steering box "rebuild" procedure. Maybe they have in the past and I forgot about it or missed it. Thanks again.
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Worm
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« Reply #26 on: November 08, 2012, 16:27:22 pm »

I am on my 4th TRW box.  Keep switching them out thinking the next one is going to be the magic solution.  The last one was a bit better, but damn I am tired of the process.....
J  U  N  K  I say.

If anyone can come up with a better solution that I can buy and install, I'm in.
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plasticblack
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« Reply #27 on: November 08, 2012, 16:56:47 pm »

As HotRodSurplus said there are few parts in the Steering box, but apart from the obvious seals and bearings wear can also happen on both the Roller shaft and Worm Shaft which in some cases cannot be repaired.

Bad fitting is certainly a cause of many problems and people messing with the adjuster is responsible for plenty of misalignment and grinding.

I've always fitted good secondhand (Genuine VW) units that haven't been into the aftermarket yet and I'd advise folk to go that route if possible, before spending out on a product that is getting so much negative feedback.

I spent about half an hour on the net and managed to find several places that had Roller Shafts and Worms available. Although these won't last forever obviously.

Here's a pic of the kind of wear that causes a huge dead-spot in the steering box, although this isn't actually a VW Box (BMW 2002) the wear that happens to the Worm Shaft is very similar.

I'm investigating what means of repairing this kind of wear currently exist.

       
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qubek
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« Reply #28 on: November 08, 2012, 17:19:39 pm »

My TRW box leaked from the get go. 

No wonder. Newer boxes were supposed to be filled with grease, not oil.

As for VW classic parts, I don't know what they have but how can they hove other boxes then TRW if TRW was OEM for Volkswagen?
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hotrodsurplus
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« Reply #29 on: November 08, 2012, 17:47:50 pm »

No wonder. Newer boxes were supposed to be filled with grease, not oil.

Not so, at least with the type of grease we're familiar with. Until the mid '60s Volkswagen specified heavy gear oil for steering boxes (including roller boxes). From that point it specified what it referred to as 'liquid grease.' It's not grease as you'd get from a grease gun. It's runny like a super-duper-thick oil--think molasses or honey.

You don't want conventional chassis grease in our style of steering box. Solid grease will displace in this style of steering box leaving the mechanism to operate without the benefit of lubrication.

Out of the hundreds of boxes I did I never got an untouched one that was filled with grease. You could see where people jammed grease into them but it usually ended up as a lump in the box lid.

Ford (and I'm sure others) specified a specific type of grease in its steering boxes starting in the '50s but those boxes operated in a different environment than our boxes do. First, they're oriented on their side and not vertically as they are in our application so the grease is more likely to stay in contact with the mechanism. Second, the heat from the engine compartment melts the grease and causes it to re-flow into the mechanism.

We had the benefit of a bank of VWoA books that took up almost a whole wall. Volkswagen specified heavy gear oil for early boxes and the liquid grease for later ones. It specifically discouraged hard chassis grease.
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