This post is a follow up to a comment that David Z. made , when he mentioned that the steering wheel in his Phaeton made a ‘groaning’ noise when he turned the car on or off, and the steering wheel moved up-down and in-out. Other Phaeton owners have occasionally mentioned this noise in the past. I have not had this problem with my Phaeton, however, while I was disassembling the steering column a few weeks ago to install the paddle shifters, I found what is causing this noise problem on other Phaetons.
The steering column assembly is quite tightly shrouded. There is a spring-loaded shroud assembly that fits down and over the top of the steering column. You can see this assembly if you tilt the steering wheel down to the lowest possible position. I have identified it in the photo below with arrows. Please forgive the presence of the screwdriver in this photo – I took the photo for a different purpose, and I am in Africa now, there are no Phaetons here I can use to take another photo.
The lower and side surfaces of this shroud have a felt tape attached to them, to enable the upper cover of the steering column to slide against the shroud without getting scratched up, and without making any noise. The felt tape is affixed to the shroud with a double-sided adhesive tape. In the photo below, you can just barely see the felt tape at the bottom of this shroud. You are not supposed to be able to see it if you have not disassembled the parts.
Felt Tape on Lower Edge of Shroud
For some unknown reason – possibly heat buildup in the car when it is parked outside on a warm, sunny summer day – the adhesive that holds the felt tape to the shroud is loosening up, and allowing the felt tape to peel off of the shroud. When this happens, you will either have direct contact between the shroud and the upper cover on the steering column, or, instead of the upper cover on the steering column rubbing (quietly) against the felt, it will rub (noisily) against the residual adhesive left behind after the felt strip gets displaced. Hence the groaning sound.
In the pictures below, you can see that the felt strip has peeled away from quite large areas of the shroud on my car. When I noticed this, I thought it was abnormal, but because I was not encountering any problems, I just made a mental note to pick up a new roll of adhesive felt strip at my VW dealer, next time I was there, and replace the felt. I didn't think any more about it other than that.
Note evidence of failure of the adhesive that holds the felt strip in place
The fix for this problem should be pretty simple, although I am speculating about how it would be carried out, because I have not yet had a chance to do the job. But, here’s my speculation about how to fix this:
Remove the two trim bezels that cover the stalks that protrude from the steering column. I have been unable to find instructions for this in the Phaeton Repair Manual, so, I have provided these photos. To remove these bezels, you need to twist the steering wheel around such that you have access to the single Torx bolt that holds the bezel in place.
Removing the stalk trim bezel retaining screw
It is NOT necessary to remove the airbag – I had it out for another, unrelated reason when I took this picture.
The same procedure is followed on the other side.
Loosening the bezel with the VW Trim Removal Tool
If you know in advance where you should be poking at with the VW Trim Removal Tool, the job is much easier.
Pop the tangs on the upper cover free from the lower cover clips they engage into
Now lift the upper cover up, pull it forward over the steering wheel and remove it.
You will now have easy access to the entire lower surface of the shroud, and you can remove any damaged felt strip, clean off the adhesive residue using an appropriate solvent (3M Adhesive Remover is my favorite), then install a new felt strip. Be sure to do a perfect job of cleaning any adhesive residue off of the upper steering column cover – if you fail to do that, the adhesive residue will grip onto the new felt strip, and tear it off once you start moving the steering column again.
I have not actually done this job (I’ll do it when I get home, when I finish up the paddle shifter installation), however, I don't think it will be a difficult job to do. All it requires is attention to detail – making sure you do a perfect job of removing both the damaged original felt strip, all the adhesive on the lower part of the shroud, and any adhesive that may have transferred to the upper cover of the steering column. Plus, you will also need about one foot of new felt strip material, which costs about 50¢. That is considerably less expensive than replacing the whole darn steering column, or the motor…
If the steering column on your Phaeton makes a noise when it moves up or down (or in or out), you can test to see if the cause of the problem is the felt strip or not: Just press your finger against the upper cover of the steering column, and see if that results in any change in the nature of the sound that is made when the steering column moves. If the sound changes when you push on the upper cover – then, chances are the sound is being caused by excess friction between the upper cover and the shroud that surrounds the upper cover.
Below are pictures of the "Squeak and Rattle Repair Kit" that every North American VW dealer has. You can obtain the replacement adhesive backed felt material from this kit.
VW Squeak and Rattle Repair Kit(every dealer has one)