The steering on classic and early non-assisted water-cooled Buses has never been noted for its lightness. In truth, add a full camping interior, equipment for a trip away and multiple occupants and it can become a bit of a nightmare to manoeuvre into a parking spot, especially when compared to driving a modern car.
That’s where our good friends at Lite-Steer (www.litesteer.com) come in with their Electric Power Steering (EPAS) kits. The kit transforms the driving experience in an older Bus, and it’s something you can do on a DIY basis if you’re a relatively competent spanner spinner.
That said, you’ll need to allow yourself plenty of time to complete the job yourself and a safe, flat surface on which to work. The whole thing took the Lite-Steer team around four hours, but realistically set aside a weekend if you haven’t done an installation before. While under the front of your Bus it makes sense to inspect all the steering components for wear, as any worn items will need to be replaced to get the best out of your power steering.
Lite-Steer kits are available for the Split, Bay, Brazilian Bay, T25 and T4 and the basic fitting process is broadly similar to that in the following steps on a Late Bay T2b.
01 – Get prepared
Jack up the front as high as is safe to do so, then secure on a pair of axle stands (under the front axle beam is best), but be sure to avoid the two grease fittings at the outer ends of the beam tubes. With the front of the Bus in the air, head around to the engine bay and disconnect both battery terminals (starting with the Negative) before removing the driver’s side kick panel.
02 – Remove steering wheel
Gently pry off the horn button (not the silver metal ring) with a small screwdriver, being careful not to damage it. Next, pull off the horn wire connector so you can access the 24mm steering wheel nut. Undo with a 24mm socket and remove both the nut and steering wheel. You can now remove the coil spring and top bearing tapered sleeve.
03 – Remove column – Part 1
The upper column housing is held in place with an M8 shear bolt. Neil at Lite-Steer has found that this can be removed by tapping in a T20 Torx bit, which then allows the bolt to be undone. Don’t attempt to remove the housing yet, as it is held under the dash by the upper column. Now remove the two lower coupling cover screws and set aside for later. Then, working underneath the Bus, remove the M8 (13mm head) bolt, which holds the steering column rag joint to the steering box input shaft.
04 – Remove column – Part 2
Next you can remove the M6 (10mm head) bolt that holds the upper column bracket to the fresh air box, before removing both the M8 (13mm head) bolts that hold the steering column top housing to the dashboard. With these free, put the key in the ignition and turn to release the steering lock. Unplug the wires for the ignition, wiper and indicator switches and draw the housing upwards off the column and tube; be careful not to disturb the washer hoses. Set the housing to one side.
05 – Remove column – Part 3
With the housing out of the way, you can now prepare to move the column tube and steering shaft. Firstly, undo the speedo cable from the speedo head and remove any wiring that may have been routed through the same hole. Now, turn the column to the right (RHD) or left (LHD) and withdraw the complete column and steering shaft assembly. Now is the perfect time to check and top up the steering box by removing the rubber plug and filling until the oil overflows. Penrite Steering Box Fluid is a good option as it’s a little bit thicker than straight gear oil, so will be less prone to leaking out if your seals are past their best.
06 – Cut column tube
Using the spacer in the kit supplied, slide it over the tube so it rests underneath the top bracket. Mark underneath the spacer with a pencil or scribe, then run some masking tape around so you get a good line to cut to. Lite-Steer uses a tube cutter for this, but using a hacksaw carefully in a vice, followed by deburring with a file will be fine.
07 –Fit control unit
Next, drill the holes in the column support bracket for the control unit to be mounted. Using the control unit carefully mark and drill the new holes with an 9mm drill bit; drilling small 2.5mm pilot holes first will make the job a lot easier.
With the holes drilled and de-burred, you can bolt on the control unit with the provided M8x30 cap screws, ensuring the bolt heads are at the top and the torque sensor connector is on the right-hand side.
08 – Fit Lite-Steer unit
You are now ready to fit the power steering column into the Bus. On a RHD you may need to remove the plastic accelerator rod cover first. When fitting the column, first ensure you fit the steering joint over the output shaft on the box, before screwing the unit down to the floor with the two original lower coupling cover bolts. You can now fit the shortened column tube assembly to the top of the unit and pivot it into place under the dashboard.
09 – Fit universal joint bolt
You can now slide the plastic housing onto the new column and plug in all the wires. Refit the housing shear bolt, but don’t tighten it yet, as you will need to set the gap for the horn contact once the steering wheel is refitted. With the bolt installed loosely, you can now loosely fit the front M6 bolt and 2xM8 bolts you removed earlier, to secure the column and housing to the dashboard.
With the column secured at the top, you can now fit the M10 bolt, which secures the universal joint to the steering box input shaft noting that it will only fit in one position. You may need to temporarily refit the steering wheel to align this properly. Tighten the bolt to 45ft lb and turn the column lock to lock, to ensure there is no rubbing anywhere. If needed, you can release the two screws holding the unit to the floor and re-position.
10 – Install speed sensor/wiring loom
You can now position the speed sensor by using the self adhesive pad to either the side of the control unit or on the air box. Now fit the Lite-Steer wiring loom, which follows the original loom through the Bus to the engine bay, ensuring it’s clear of moving or hot components. You may need to remove the putty from the bulkhead hole first before passing the loom over the front beam and along the chassis into the engine bay. Neil uses a piece of wire in the engine bay as a draw wire for this, before attaching the new loom to the old neatly with a series of cable ties.
11 – Engine bay wiring
Working in the engine bay, you can now fit the short fly lead supplied to the positive battery terminal. Attach the fuse box to it and fit the main power wire to the other terminal. Cable tie the fuse box to the loom.
12 – Connect front end wiring
Connect the loom at the front, firstly connecting the white and blue terminals before attaching the earth wire to the M8 bolt just above the power steering motor. The lead with the inline fuse is the ignition feed; instead of disturbing the fuse box wiring, you can remove the headlamp switch from the dashboard and fit the piggyback terminal to the switch on the terminal with the black and yellow wire. the earth wire fits onto the m8 bolt on the top of the unit.
13 – Refit steering wheel
With the wiring all done, you can now refit the steering wheel; you will centre the position once you have test-driven the Bus so just fit for now, remembering the top bearing wedge and spring before tightening the 24mm nut. you can now set the height of the ignition housing, leave a gap so the wheel doesn’t run on anything other than the horn contact, but ensure the indicator self cancel still works. Leave the horn button off until the steering wheel is centred during read test. Refit the battery terminals and start the engine; the control unit should click and the unit will be operational. Check all the other electrics work properly in case you have disturbed anything. Before lowering the Bus to the ground, check every nut and bolt and re-fit the splash pan (if fitted).
14 – Test drive
Take the Bus for a test drive, noting how incredibly easy and light the steering is. Once you have driven the Bus and are happy, pull up straight and remove/refit the steering wheel in the correct position, before tightening the 24mm nut to 26ft lb and refitting the horn wire and button. Job done!
Need to know
Tools required: Trolley jack; axle stands; 6mm Allen keys; 8, 10, 13 and 17mm spanners; 9mm drill bit; 10, 13, 17 and 24mm sockets; T20 Torx bit; torque wrench; side cutters; a selection of screwdrivers; hacksaw; vice/workbench; tape measure; PPE (gloves, safety glasses, etc)
Materials used: WD40; steering box oil
Skill level: 3
Time taken: 4-8 hours
Cost DIY: £850 + VAT for parts (Late Bay)
Cost Pro: £1100 + VAT parts and labour (Late Bay)
Words and photos Mark Walker