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Steering Wheel Replacement
 
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Pelican Technical Article:

Steering Wheel Replacement

Nick Czerula

Time:

1.5 hours

Tab:

$200

Talent:

*****

Tools:

16mm socket on 1/2 drive ratchet, T27 Torx driver

Applicable Models:

BMW Z3 Coupe/Conv (1996-02)

Parts Required:

Steering wheel, driver airbag, multi-function switches, clock spring

Hot Tip:

Use a thin T20 Torx driver when releasing airbag spring. Always store airbags facing up.

Performance Gain:

Access to components behind steering wheel.

Complementary Modification:

Replace steering wheel with upgraded model

The BMW Z3 steering wheel and steering column house a number of electrical and electronic controls. Steering wheel components include:

  • Horn button
  • Driver airbag
  • Steering wheel multi-function switches (includes radio and mobile phone control switches)
  • Steering angle sensor
  • Clock spring (electrical contact at base of steering wheel for components listed above)

Steering column components include:

  • Steering column switch cluster (includes turn signal switch, wiper-washer switch, headlight beam switch, cruise control switch, on-board computer (BC) switch (if equipped)
  • Steering column adjuster switch
  • Steering wheel heater switch (if equipped)

Repairs or replacement of most of these components requires that you remove the airbag and steering wheel first. When you remove the driver airbag, it is important you disconnect the battery and wait at least 10 minutes for the system to power down. Once the airbag is removed, store it in a safe place facing up. Do not connect the vehicle battery while the airbag is removed. Fault codes will be set if you do so. If you do not have the ability to clear fault codes, you will be stuck with a warning lamp until you can have it cleared. 

The steering wheel multi-function switches, the clock spring and the steering angle sensor can be replaced once the driver airbag and steering wheel are removed. The steering wheel also has to be removed to replace the steering column switch cluster and the upper steering column trim panels.

To avoid marring the trim if you need to pry anything, work with a plastic prying tool or wrap a screwdriver tip with masking tape before prying out trim panels, switches or electrical accessories.

Keep in mind that when your car was serviced before, parts may have been replaced with different size fasteners used in the replacement. The sizes of the nuts and bolts we give may be different from what you have, so be prepared with different size sockets and wrenches. 

Protect your eyes, hands and body from fluids, dust and debris while working on your vehicle. If you're working with the electrical system, disconnect the battery before beginning. Always catch fluids in appropriate containers and properly dispose of any fluid waste. Recycle parts, packaging and fluids when possible. Do not work on your vehicle if you feel the task is beyond your ability. 

Vehicle models change and evolve, as they grow older, so the vehicle shown in our illustrations may vary slightly from yours. If something seems different, let us know and share your info to help other users. Do you have questions or want to add to the article? Leave a comment below. When leaving a comment, please leave your vehicle information.

Make sure your steering wheel is centered and the front wheels are pointing straight ahead.

Disconnect the negative battery cable. See our tech article on battery replacing and reconnecting notes.

Working at the side of your steering wheel, insert a T27 Torx through small the hole (green arrow) and loosen the airbag fastener.
Figure 1

Working at the side of your steering wheel, insert a T27 Torx through small the hole (green arrow) and loosen the airbag fastener. Repeat this for the opposite side fastener as well. If you have a Sport steering wheel, the spring is in a different spot. You will have to insert the Torx driver on a 45 degree angle toward center of steering wheel to release it. Once you feel the spring, just press further toward center of steering wheel, the airbag should release.

Lift the airbag off the steering wheel to expose the electrical connectors.
Figure 2

Lift the airbag off the steering wheel to expose the electrical connectors. Remove the airbag connector using a small flat head screwdriver (green arrow). Then pull the horn connector straight off (yellow arrow). Store your airbag in a safe place, with trim panel facing up.

Loosen the lower steering column trim Phillips head screw (green arrow).
Figure 3

Loosen the lower steering column trim Phillips head screw (green arrow). Then pull the screw and expanding anchor out of the trim panel. Then pull the trim panel straight down to remove.

Using a breaker bar with a 16mm socket, remove steering wheel center bolt.
Figure 4

Using a breaker bar with a 16mm socket, remove steering wheel center bolt. While loosening, hold the steering wheel still and slowly break bolt free.

The steering wheel center is marked by BMW at the factory (green arrow).
Figure 5

The steering wheel center is marked by BMW at the factory (green arrow). If there is no corresponding mark on the steering column, like on my vehicle. You will have to make your own. This will help with getting the steering wheel back into the same position.

Use a punch and mark the position of the steering wheel with the steering column.
Figure 6

Use a punch and mark the position of the steering wheel with the steering column. Check that these marks are aligned before removing steering wheel. If they are not aligned, make your own marks so you get wheel back in same position it was in.

Working at the bottom of the steering column, rotate the steering wheel electrical connector mount (green arrow) 45 degrees counterclockwise and pull it down.
Figure 7

Working at the bottom of the steering column, rotate the steering wheel electrical connector mount (green arrow) 45 degrees counterclockwise and pull it down.

Unplug the electrical connectors (green arrows).
Figure 8

Unplug the electrical connectors (green arrows). The airbag connector has a locking tab you will have to squeeze. The horn connecter just pulls apart. Lift steering wheel off steering column shaft.

To replace the clock spring, start by lifting the white plastic cover off the steering wheel.
Figure 9

To replace the clock spring, start by lifting the white plastic cover off the steering wheel.

Then remove the T10 Torx screw for the clock spring ground.
Figure 10

Then remove the T10 Torx screw for the clock spring ground. (green arrow).

Flip the steering wheel over, remove the three T10 Torx clock spring screws (green arrows).
Figure 11

Flip the steering wheel over, remove the three T10 Torx clock spring screws (green arrows).

Lift the clock spring off the steering wheel while guiding the wires through the opening.
Figure 12

Lift the clock spring off the steering wheel while guiding the wires through the opening. When installing the new clock spring, install it to steering wheel, tighten screws. Then remove the centering screw if equipped. Connect g round wire and install white plastic cover. The remaining steps for installing are reverse of removal instructions. Once airbag is installed, reconnect battery and clear fault codes.

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Comments and Suggestions:
Mori Comments: What holds the steering wheel up, there is a locking arm but does not engage or hold the steering wheel up
December 16, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The tilt mechanism. It is a locking latch. - Nick at Pelican Parts  

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Page last updated: Fri 12/9/2016 02:06:54 AM