Steering Wheel Grinding Noise: Vanagon

What the heck is that noise? Why won't my horn work? Why does my horn stay on?

There are two possible reasons why the steering wheel on your Vanagon might be emitting a grinding sound. It is either the steering column covers rubbing the steering wheel, or it's the horn contact.

The fist thing to check is that the plastic steering column covers (251-953-515ABK upper, and 251-953-516ABK lower) are not rubbing against the steering wheel.

There should be a visible gap. The two covers clamp on to the column in two ways. First there are two screws that fasten the two to each other towards the top, near the ignition switch. There is also a steel spring-clip on the lower half further down that snaps round the steering column lower tube and supports the lower cover. If the covers are touching the steering wheel it is usually because the covers in poor shape, and it is usually the lower half. The first thing to check is that the aforementioned steel spring-clip is still attached to the lower cover. Originally the manufacturer fastened the clip to the plastic by melting the plastic around a hole in the clip. The plastic breaks at this point, allowing the lower cover to drop, which causes the two covers to come out of alignment with the column, and rub against the steering wheel. If this is the case, you can remove the two screws, remove the lower 1/2 of the cover, and you will find the spring clip still clipped on the steering column lower tube. We usually re-attach the clip to the lower cover with a pop-rivet and put it all back together. Sometimes, however, the covers are just all cracked up and have to be replaced. We keep them in stock.

If the covers are not the problem it is probably the horn contact. To inspect the parts you must first remove the steering wheel. This is very easy on a Vanagon. Just pop-off the horn pad, and remove the nut that fastens the steering wheel to the steering shaft. The steering wheel just comes right off, it is not pressed on or anything like that.

Flip the steering wheel over and check out the brass ring (321-419-661A) attached to it. Against that brass ring rubs a tab that is part of the turn signal switch (251-953-513 or 953-251-513B with cruise control switch), also clearly visible with the steering wheel out of the way. These parts comprise part of the ground circuit for the horn. This slip-ring arrangement allows the horn button to rotate with the steering wheel and still provide a continuous ground path for the horn regardless of steering wheel position. Over time friction simply wears-out the ring and/or the tab on the turn signal switch. Both parts are easy to replace. The turn signal switch is held in place by four screws, and all the electrical plugs only go on in one way, so it's pretty fool-proof. The brass ring just snaps in, so that's a no-brainer too. You can try just leaving the parts in place, cleaning them and dabbing on a little dielectric grease, and put it back together to see what happens. If the problem persists, call GoWesty and order the parts man!