Tilt Steering

A major project (for me), to add a tilt steering column.

I originally had trouble seeing the top half of the instruments, and with the taller power seats, the problem became worse. I couldn't find a VW tilt column, so decided to build one. I could have used a tilt unit from any number of other vehicles, but did not want to modify my van's wiring to suit a new array of signal light, headlight, wiper and cruise control switches. Plus, I wanted to keep the original VW steering wheel.

I started with building the outer column first so I could get an idea of how much height and tilt would be needed, or allowed by wiring, steering wheel, switches, dashboard, etc. The inner part was much easier to build.

The project cost:

Click on the image to see it full size.

Tilt Steering Column

This is what the original steering column looks like, under the black plastic covers.

Various components for the outer column.

Bottom: Wooden mock-up of the steering column. It allowed me to adjust height of the steering wheel, and determine how much tilt angle was sufficient without welding and cutting steel.

Centre: Original Vanagon column and lower fittings. Here it is fitted with a VW Golf switch head, which funcions the same as the Vanagon but has different kinks in the levers, and has no cruise control.

Top: New tilt column fitted with Vanagon switch head. The column is 1" longer from the bracket to the top, although it may not look it in this photo.

The inner shaft parts.

Left: Original Vanagon steering shaft - top portion.

Middle: Donor shaft with universal joint from an old Ford pickup. Chosen because it has no upper column steering lock and a small universal joint.

Right. Original Vanagon steering shaft - lower portion

Luckily the Vanagon shaft is hollow, so the Ford shaft was turned down to fit inside it.

Tech drawing.

The extent of technical drawings for the project.
It was generally a case of make a cardboard template, try it, cut it to fit, then transfer it to metal.
The inner shafts, however had to be correct to the millimeter to work correctly.

Outer column details.

Left: upper (swivelling) portion with legs that project down into the lower portion. Three small holes can just be seen in the tip of the top leg, which should be turned so it fits into the locking mechanism on the bottom (photographer's error).

Middle: pivoting bushings and allen cap screws.

Right: lower portion with tilt lock lever

Parts ready to assemble.

The 3 pieces of shaft have been welded and pinned together.

The black plastic piece at the left is the original VW spacer between the steering wheel and switch head bearing.
The yellow plastic piece is the VW spacer which fits below the switch bearing.
The grey piece in the middle is a new nylon bearing to support the lower end of the uper shaft. It is needed because of the universal joint just below.
The aluminum collar at the right end replaces a plastic version on the VW column. It retains the lower bearing, held in place by the black spring tube.

Tilt lock mechanism.

A hardened steel pin with a large head fits below the spring. The pin passes through a small box tube pivoted by the large lever. It then passes through the larger box tube and bracket and will pass through the leg of the upper column.

The lever will fit closely up beside the column cover. It is pressed outward to release the tilt mechanism.

New column and cover.

Bottom: Lower cover, to be cut just above the reinforcement, opposite the hinge point on the tilt column. The silver clip near the bottom (right hand end) clips onto the steering column.

Top: Upper cover, cut away at the top back (right side as seen here) to allow column to tilt against the dashboard.

The column and cover in place.

This is the mid position. The column is straight, as the original was, only about 1 inch longer. The two upper parts of the cover are held together with the original screws and clips.

The lower cover is held in place by the clip onto the steering column, and two new screws drilled and fastened to the new bracket, just under the dash.

The tilting effect.

The lower most positions is non-locking.

The other four positions lock, giving four different driving positions.

I finally got the black leather bellows type cover to fill the gap between the upper and lower covers.
One piece was glued inside the uppper steering column cover to keep dust and items from falling into the space. Another piece was glued into the lower steering column cover and tucked upward inside the upper portion. It hides the wiring and mechanicals.

If you have questions, or suggestions please email me.

The author takes no responsibility for anyone else making modifications based on this information.
Photos provided by owner. Contact the postmaster for permission for use.

Back to
Home Page.
Back to
Spitfire Hangar.

Copyright © 2017
F. Griffiths

Last updated December 5, 2016

webmaster: F. Griffiths,

To contact us, please type the following into your email address
griffco AT griffco DOT ca
to avoid automated email spammers.