Replacing the rear seat/bed hinges

During the pre-purchase inspection of our bus I noticed that the support brackets on the rear seat did not rest on the box frame underneath when the seat was unfolded into the bed position. As a result, the mechanism was difficult to operate and the bed did not lie completely flat.  Initially, I thought the right bracket was bent and could be easily fixed.  Eventually, I tweaked it enough to work, well sort of anyway.  In working on the hinge, I found the real culprit turned out to be that the arms that lock the system in the seat position were bent.  Because these locking arms (on both hinges) were no longer straight, they slipped past the (for lack of a better term) locking nub and stabbed the lower seat cushion, preventing the bed from unfolding flat and pushing the right side support bracket out and over the box frame.  As a fix, I bent the arms back to their original position and restored the correct operation of the seat/bed system.  However, this proved only a temporary solution as the now weakened locking arms quickly bent once more and then finally broke.

In searching for replacement  hinges, I discovered that bent locking arms are a common issue with these brackets.  They are prone to damage if the seat is pushed too far up against the seat back while rummage through the storage area below or when removing the seat from the bus.  I think it is odd that I never encountered this problem in other buses as I am sure the younger me was not very gentle in using the storage area below the seat or in taking them out of parts buses.  In fact, I never heard of this issue at all before.

Eventually, I found a set of replacement hinges in a parts collection I bought shortly after bringing Moby home.  They were not perfect, the locking arms, while not bent, were instead crushed and that caused them to bind against the main section of the hinge.  Although fixable, I decided to grab a better set of hinges out of a ’72 camper during a trip to the boneyard a few weeks later. Then I got distract by other bus related projects and life in general.  With no major bus upgrades scheduled for this winter, I finally got back to them, along with a few other small odds and ends.

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Arrow showing the bent locking arm on the right hinge. The hinge is black because I painted both rusty hinges with a rust reforming paint during the initial repair.  The “tooth” at the end of the arrow is designed to fall back into the arm’s groove and allow the locking nub to pass by without engaging the groove when unfolding the seat into the bed position.

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The broken arm on the left hinge.

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Junkyard replacement right hinge with a straight locking arm pulled from a ’72 bus. Arrow indicates the locking nub on which the arm rests when locking the seat back in an upright position.

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Flipped view of the same hinge.

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First step in installing the new hinges was to wire brush all the rust off. I elected not to remove the old paint because I didn’t want to completely disassemble the hinge.  Left hinge shown above.

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After rust removal, each hinge received a coat of rust reforming spray paint.  Painting was completed in stages as the hinge need to be moved around in order to get complete coverage.

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Both hinges shown here after applying two coats of finish paint. Although it isn’t as dark or grey as the original paint, I found RUST-OLEUM Painter’s Touch satin fossil to be a very close match.  I’m sure other paint manufacturers provide a spray paint in a similar color or a paint supplier could mix a perfect match.  After the paint cured, I treated all the hinge joints, locking arms (including the “tooth”) with a silicon lubricant.

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While I was at it, I decided to freshen up the seat clips. When folded in the seat position, these clips lock the seat bottom to the frame in order to keep the items stored underneath from flying about in the event of an accident.

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Same fossil color paint.

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Clips installed in the base frame.

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Right hinge installed on the seat bottom. Some of the screw holes in both the bottom and back of the seat were stripped out due to over tightening some time in the past.  To provide a purchase for the screws, I inserted two glue-soaked toothpicks into the enlarged holes and let the glue dry.  For some reason I neglected to freshen up the seat support brackets (seen here to the left of the hinge). On the bright side, this photo shows a nice comparison between new and old paints.

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Side view of the same hinge.

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Seat bottom installed on the base frame.

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Seat back added.

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Back in the bus and working perfectly.

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Rear view.

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Apparently after the ’71 model, VW shortened the back of each bracket to just one bolt hole (’71 and earlier had two). Perhaps this saved them a few pennies worth of metal and a couple of minutes of drill time at the factory, but these shorter hinges still fit (phew).

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