Vanagon – can you remove the covers of the adjustable arm rests?

Yes you can.

We’re talking about the adjustable armrests. The procedure is pretty straightforward but there is one important warning. Do not unscrew the adjusting knob. Please don’t. I did do that (on one of the armrests I got on the old skanky seat I bought a  couple of weeks ago ) and I haven’t managed to get it screwed back in. Unscrewing the knob (armrest on the bench, I don’t think you can unscrew all the way when armrest is on the seat) releases some part of the adjusting gubbins that appear to be inaccessible.

So don’t unscrew the knob.

Ok, on to the procedure. You know that you have to drive out a roll pin to remove the arm from the seat. It’s a little awkward as the upholstery gets in the way.


Then lay the arm upside down on the bench. The knob is pressed onto the end of the steel shaft. There are splines, and it is tightly pressed on. This picture taken after I had the knob levered al,out all the way off.

I used a big screwdriver to lever the knob off.

Now that the knob is off, remove both screws holding the plastic trim to the arm.

Dig out the staples and the cover will come off.

That’s it!

This naked arm is going to a friend who has a broken arm, you know what I mean, and her old arm cover put on.  I’m digging into the other arm, the one that I unscrewed the adjusting knob all the way – don’t do that! – and so far it doesn’t look too good that there will be an easy way to get into the mysteries. The foam is cast around a plastic shell and a beech wood stiffener. Maybe more on that mess later.

  1. #1 by Brent Weide on April 26, 2016 - 4:25 pm

    Great writeup. One additional suggestion….before reassembling the armrest assembly, wrap the adjustment steel shaft with some felt or similar to eliminate the rattling sound that comes from the adjustment shaft. You’ll really appreciate the peace and quiet and at least one less rattle.

    • #2 by albell on April 26, 2016 - 8:48 pm

      That’s a good tip Brent, thanks. I’ll pass it along to the recipient on the arm that I didn’t screw up 🙂

      No adjustable arms on my 86 syncro. But I’m one of the ” I really don’t care about arm rest” people.


  2. #3 by David McNeely on May 7, 2016 - 9:10 pm

    Nice write up Alistair. The “guts” can be opened and fixed. I had one that had received a lick some time in the past, bending the shaft. The knob would not adjust the arm. There were other faults as well, so I went for it. I slit the foam to get into the cavity in the arm. Thought the shaft was slightly bent, I could then fit everything back together properly, and the adjustment screw now works. The foam, though with a split in it, still fit ok, and with the cover stitched and stapled, the split essentially disappeared.

    • #4 by albell on May 8, 2016 - 9:24 am

      Hi Dave,

      I’ve made a couple of cuts into the foam on my messed up arm. No luck getting access though the now uncovered plastic body underneath. I haven’t cut into the top surface foam yet, but I’m suspecting that he beech wood top plank is full length. Maybe not. I’ll take pics and post.

      Thanks for the guidance Dave,


  3. #5 by Simon on July 26, 2017 - 12:43 am

    Hey Alistair,
    do you still have the pictures?
    My armrest seems to be loose and I wanted to fix that.

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