The iconic Volkswagen Bus holds a special place in automotive history. Its distinctive design includes unique features like the classic split windshield and the ultra-stylish steering wheel. For many owners, the VW bus steering wheel is a beloved signature component that’s an integral part of the overall aesthetic.
But with many VW buses now decades old, steering wheels require maintenance, repairs, or upgrades. Understanding the original equipment wheels, aftermarket options, and how to properly care for these cherished icons will help you keep your VW’s helm in ship-shape condition.
Let’s navigate through the past and present worlds of Volkswagen bus steering wheels. Whether you’re looking to restore your vintage wheel or customize your van’s interior, this essential guide will help steer you in the right direction.
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History of VW Bus Steering Wheels
Volkswagen unveiled the first Type 2 Transporter bus in 1950. Early split-window models featured a large banjo-style steering wheel measuring 19 inches in diameter. The wheel had three aluminum spokes radiating from the stamped steel frame.
In 1967, VW introduced a new three-spoke wheel design that was smaller in size. Diameter shrunk to just under 18 inches with a thicker rim profile. The new wheel provided tighter turns and more legroom.
Throughout the bus production run ending in 1979, VW offered sportier steering wheels on performance models. The options included a padded wheel and one with full wooden construction.
Original factory wheels varied in material, size, and styling, but all shared the iconic Volkswagen look. Finding an authentic wheel today can be challenging, but reproductions offer a faithful throwback option.
How to Restore an Original VW Bus Steering Wheel
Restoring a decades-old VW steering wheel takes work, but refurbished ones retain their vintage charm. Here’s an overview of the process:
- Carefully remove the wheel using a steering wheel puller tool. Avoid damage to the fragile splines and hub.
- Disassemble the wheel down to its core components. This typically involves just the frame, rim/spokes, horn ring, and center cap.
- Thoroughly clean all parts to remove dirt, corrosion and wear. Polish any metal pieces.
- Assess damage and determine if any sections need repair or replacement. Welding or metal fabrication skills may be required.
- Sand and prep surfaces for fresh paint. Apply high-quality automotive paint in original interior color.
- Reassemble the polished and painted components. Use new fasteners and adhesive as needed.
- Install the restored wheel using a steering wheel installer tool. Align it properly before securing.
- Test horn function and wheel tilt adjustability to ensure full functionality.
With care and patience, you can revive even a badly worn original VW steering wheel to look stunning again. Take time disassembling to avoid cracking fragile plastic pieces.
Where to Buy Reproduction VW Bus Steering Wheels
If restoring the existing wheel isn’t feasible, purchasing a new reproduction is a great option. Several companies offer high-quality replica VW bus steering wheels:
- Wolfsburg West – Offers Gen 1 or Gen 2 wheels with options like woodgrain or leather wraps.
- BUS Depot – Sells steel and wood wheels in various sizes and colors patterned after OEM designs.
- Mongoose – Specializes in 1957-67 bus wheels replicated with modern materials and coatings.
- Victory Lane – Provides steel and wood reproduction wheels along with steering wheel accessories.
- CSP Outlaw – An affordable eBay source for steel replica bus steering wheels ready to bolt in.
Aim for a wheel using color-matched paint on steel or high-grade polyurethane on wood replications. Pay close attention to dimensions and design nuances.
With an accurate reproduction VW steering wheel, you can easily refresh your bus’s interior cosmetics on a budget.
Aftermarket Custom VW Bus Steering Wheel Options
For those wanting to upgrade or customize the look, many aftermarket steering wheels are available:
- Three-spoke leather-wrapped wheel – Offers improved comfort and sporty style.
- Wood wheel with leather grip – Provides classic appeal with modern durability.
- Momo tuning wheel – An aftermarket racing wheel brings performance flair.
- Custom wood wheel – Unique wood types like mahogany or maple provide one-of-a-kind style.
- Adaptive wheel – Allows attachment of assistive devices for disabled drivers.
- Heated wheel – Takes the chill off on cold morning drives.
- Steering wheel timer – Displays engine run time for maintenance tracking.
With so many custom wheel choices, you can put a unique stamp on your VW bus steering system. Just ensure proper fitment and safety.
VW Bus Steering Wheel Maintenance Tips
To keep your bus’s steering wheel in great shape for years to come:
- Use conditioner to nourish and protect leather or wood.
- Repair nicks, cracks, and deterioration promptly to prevent damage growth.
- Replace endangered plastic horn rings or insulation before they disintegrate.
- Verify steering column tightness to avoid excessive wheel play.
- Clean periodically with mild soap and water to remove grime buildup.
- Avoid harsh chemicals or abrasives that can harm finishes.
- Consider covers to shield wheels from sun damage or wear.
With occasional TLC, you can keep your VW’s special steering wheel as good as the day it rolled off the line.
The singular steering wheel design remains a beloved signature feature of the classic Volkswagen Bus. Whether restoring an original, installing a quality reproduction, or customizing with an aftermarket wheel, paying attention to proper fitment, materials, and aesthetics will result in a helm you’ll be proud of. With care and maintenance, your VW’s steering wheel can provide enjoyment and stylish driving for many more miles down the road.