Steering Box and Horn Wire Replacement ('68-'71 Type 2)

Steering Box and Horn Wire Replacement ('68-'71 Type 2)

by Craig K

Replaced the steering box in my 70 bus recently. While there, figured I'd

A) Replace the big rubber square (steering coupler: part # 211 415 417) that connects the box to the steering column and

B) redo the horn wire, which has been a button-on-the-dash hack for some time now...

If I did it, you can.

You will need at least:

Read the procedures and look at the pictures of whatever manual you have. GET ONE if you don't!


One: replace that rubber coupler when you do any work to the steering gear that looks likely to give you the chance. They don't break very often, but break they do, and bye-bye steering. Especially if you are replacing the steering box, there is no reason NOT to spend the $10 or so bucks here... plus, you will likely never have to do this again for as long as you own the bus.

Two: in a 68-71 bus, the electrical circuit for the horn is as follows: the hot wire (yellow and black) comes from the brake switch line or somewhere straight from the fuse block (depending on year), goes to one terminal on the horn - have been told that some horns prefer one terminal over the other to be hot - and the wire on the other terminal (brown) connects to a spade lug on the underside of the steering column, under the bus. You can just see it, above the steering box, in the front (Front Is Front). There also is a rubber seal in this area that insulates the column from the rest of the car. Don't worry about it now; the gist of this is that the column is now "seeking" ground, but is isolated.

The horn button is the key - underneath the button is a ring of tin or something; below is another ring, this one of copper. When you push the horn button, you are pressing these two together momentarily and BEEEEP because attached to that FIRST ring is a wire, the notorious 'horn won't shut off' wire. This travels down the center of the hollow steering column (itself travelling down the center of the hollow steering tube) and connects to the bolts that hold that little rubber coupling twixt box and column. Convoluted, no? It gets worse.


That wire from the horn button, which travels down the steering column, MUST go THROUGH the hole in the center of the rubber coupling disk, and be attached to the bolts on the STEERING BOX side of the coupling - this bushing is basically what isolates the steering schmeck from the rest of the car; when you push the horn button, you are completing the ground circuit thru the bolt and then thru the steering box to the frame. If you connect that wire to the steering COLUMN side, it ain't gonna work. Bentley does not tell you this. Muir does not tell you this. Archives didn't mention it. Bob Hoover didn't know. Clymer, Chilton, nope. Which is silly, coz its the most import thing here.

When your horn won't shut off, its because that wire is grounding to the column somewhere. Which is analogous to connecting the wire to the wrong side of that bushing!

So. First, disconnect the battery, and then straighten the wheels out on the bus. Don't jack it up, as you will want to keep those wheels right where they are. Under the bus, remove the splash pan. Use the pillow, log or steering box to prop up your head... much more comfy that way. Make a reference mark on everything in sight - this will help you determine reattachments for a centered steering wheel, wheels and steering box! Next, take the standard screwdriver and unbend the cotter ends on each bolt you see; use the pliers to pull out the pins. Undo the big nut that holds the steering arm on.

Put the key in - BATTERY DISCONNECTED - and rotate it to undo the steering lock. You might break the lock otherwise. Use the Pitman puller to pull the arm off of the steering box - DO NOT HIT IT! You will damage the internal gearing (Hit it if you are replacing it, and you feel better for the hitting :)). You don't need to remove the drag link, just push it aside. Up in the cab, undo the turn signal assembly; push it aside.

Back under, loosen the bolts from steering box to frame. Undo the bolts that hold the steering box to the rubber coupling. You should see the old horn wire - remember where it goes! Finish removing the box. You should see a flange with a bolt (with a lockplate on it). If you are replacing the steering box, remove it and put it on the new one - tight . If not, leave it alone. Remove the bolts that hold the old coupling to the steering column. You can pull or move the column around to get better leverage. Replace the coupling, and reinstall the bolts. Go back topside, and center your steering wheel. Hopefully, this will line up w/ your marks. If not, REmark to center.

Whether it is old or new, try and determine the center point of the steering box's travel - mark it! Loosely reinstall the steering box to the frame; then drop the horn wire thru the hole in the coupling, and reattach it using the nut and bolt. Put this wire on the UNDERSIDE - steering box side - of the coupling.

Tighten everything up - you will use up the first set of cursewords doing all this while trying to keep things aligned properly!! With luck, your steering wheel should be centered and the wheels still straight. Jack up the bus at the center of the beam, just enough to test the steering from side-to-side; make sure that all is correct HERE, not on the road!! If things aren't right, this is the place to use the second set of cursewords. If ollakalla, reattach the Pitman arm; tighten the big nut to 58-80 lbs/ft - VERY IMPORTANT!!!

Now put in new cotter pins and rejoice in tight steering and/or loud horniness!

[Craig made a couple of posts to the lists about a new problem - his Bus would become horny at random times. The following is his post of 22 Jan 2001 where he described the diagnosis and solution. -- Editor]

A loooooooooong day resulted in my finally fixing my too-noisy horn; as some may recall, it had begun to beep when the steering wheel was turned, and I had ALREADY done the replace-the-wire-and-even-put-straws-on-it thing.

As crazy as it sounds, I was right: it was the ignition switch; specifically, the ignition lock.
There is - or was - a plastic bushing that fits betwen the steering shaft and the column that the steering shaft resides in, and that has a little hole where the column lock protrudes; this had gone The Way Of All Things. The column lock (a small metal bar) was making a ground between the shaft, the column and the housing for the ignition switch when the wheel was turned, as the lack of this bushing (and resulting wear on the others) allowed the whole assembly to flex. Figure 9-12 of the Front End section in my Bentley shows the various bushings; the ignition stuff isn't in the Bentley, I found pictures in a reprint of a VW parts manual, and in the T2 library.

I took the entire ignition assembly out ( a pain) and removed the column lock by grinding it off. This was a little odd, as I prefer to keep things stock, but I never liked that little thing anyways. Locked the wheel up on me once when I went to restart the motor while driving :P Next, I took a sheet of THICK rubber and cut a 2" tall section of it to fit the column; this was glued to the column, and the ignition housing, bearing, bushings, turnswitch housing etcetc were put back on. Even got to take that little bit of misalignment outta the steering wheel's positioning :)

No horn beeps except when I want them, turn signals cancel properly... nothing caught fire when I hooked the battery back up =)

I found that a key factor was having the steering housing screwed TIGHTLY to the support that resides beneath it; the slightest looseness will cause the column to flex, the bushings to wear, and the horn to beep.

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