Switching out your old steering wheel with a new aftermarket model is one of the easiest and rewarding projects you can undertake to change the look and feel of your BMW. There are a wide variety of steering wheels to choose from – the stock BMW wheel is not too exciting so tackling this alteration is a lot of fun.
One note before diving in: If you have a newer model BMW that is equipped with driver’s side air bags, you might want to skip the new wheel. As fun as it is, you will be unable to keep your airbags in place when you install an aftermarket wheel. Your airbags are one of the best safety features your car has so please do not disregard them just because a new wheel would look cool. If you have an older model without driver’s airbags or you’re converting your car into a racer or track car, press on, my friend, full steam ahead!
You need to first disconnect the battery. Once this is done wait at least fifteen minutes. This is a precaution because the air bag is a dangerously explosive package and can be set off accidentally by a variety of triggers. The air bag control system is designed to remain operational for up to fifteen minutes after the battery has been disconnected.
Now take the lower plastic cover off. This is located under the steering wheel. Then disconnect the air bag connector (it is bright orange). Next, take the air bag out of the steering wheel by unscrewing the two Torx screws that attach it to the front of the wheel so it will be loose. Disconnect the small harness, remove it, and place it aside.
Now you need to take the old steering wheel out. The best tool for the job is an impact wrench. There are some tricks you can use if you don’t have one but many of them can damage your rack and pinion if done incorrectly. Your best bet would be to invest in or borrow an impact wrench or simply take your new steering wheel to a BMW service provider to have it installed.
The goal here is to remove the nut. Once you have that off you should easily be able to pull the wheel off the steering column. If it gets stuck or is hard to get off you can use a rubber mallet to gently tap the rear of the wheel to loosen it. This should get it to move. Install the new steering wheel onto the included steering wheel hub and then onto the car. Hook up the horn and test it before you tighten the wheel down again.