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BMW E36 Steering Wheel Replacement
 
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Pelican Technical Article:

BMW E36 Steering Wheel Replacement

Time:

1 hour1 hr

Tab:

$50-$1,000

Talent:

****

Tools:

T25 Torx socket, T30 Torx socket, "Club" steering wheel lock, breaker bar, 16 mm socket, small flathead screwdriver, 13mm wrench, soldering stuff or butt connectors, electrical tape, wire strippers, wire harness connector from the back of the slip ring, 1 1/2 watt 3.3 ohm resistor or 3 1/2 watt 10 ohm resistors (electrical parts are for swapping in a non-airbag equipped wheel for an airbag equipped steering wheel - parts aren't needed, if replacing a non-airbag wheel with another non-airbag wheel)

Applicable Models:

BMW E36 3-Series (1992-99)

Parts Required:

Non-airbag sport steering wheel

Performance Gain:

Gives your BMW a motorsport feel

Complementary Modification:

Put the BMW roundel logo in your new steering wheel
101 Performance Projects for Your BMW 3 Series

This article is one in a series that have been released in conjunction with Wayne's new book, 101 Performance Projects for Your BMW 3 Series. The book contains 272 pages of full color projects detailing everything from performance mods to timing the camshafts. With more than 650+ full-color glossy photos accompanying extensive step-by-step procedures, this book is required reading in any 3 Series owner's collection. The book was released in August 2006, and is available for ordering now. See The Official Book Website for more details.

Adding an aftermarket steering wheel is one of the most exciting and rewarding projects you can perform on your BMW. There are a wide variety of wheels to choose from, and letÂ's face itÂ--the stock BMW wheel is not too exciting. Even the stock M3 wheels are a little dull.

All later-model BMWs came from the factory equipped with driverÂ's side air bags. Air bags are important pieces of safety equipment, and I fully recommend keeping them in place. That said, you cannot install an aftermarket steering wheel and also keep your air bag in place. With this in mind, I recommend you install an aftermarket wheel only if your car originally didn'Â't come with an air bag (like the older E30 cars), or if youÂ're converting your car into a club racer or weekend track car. If you choose to install an aftermarket steering wheel in your street car, be forewarned: Air bags are probably the best protection you will have in a crash. Also, state and local regulations may restrict what you can do with your air bag. For the purpose of this project, IÂ'll assume that the aftermarket wheel is going to be installed on a track car.

First, disconnect the battery and wait at least 15 minutes. 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 15 minutes after the battery has been disconnected.

Next, remove the lower plastic cover under the steering wheel and disconnect the bright orange air bag connector. Then, remove the air bag from the steering wheel by disconnecting the two Torx screws that attach it to the front of the wheel (see insets, Photo 3). The air bag should be loose from the wheel. Disconnect the small harness, remove it, and place it aside.

Next, remove the wheel itself. If you donÂ't own an impact wrench, hereÂ's a neat trick for removing the steering wheel: First, take one of those obnoxiously large, red steering wheel locks and clamp it onto the steering wheel. The long handle on the lock provides a significant amount of leverage on the wheel. Then, insert a deep socket onto the nut. Compressing together the steering wheel lock handle and the long handle attached to the socket will enable you to loosen up the steering wheel nut. Under no circumstances should you ever turn the steering wheel all the way to the end of the rack and use the end stop to hold the wheel while you remove the nut. The steering wheel has a lot of leverage, and you can easily damage your rack and pinion if you apply too much torque to the wheel.

Once you have the nut off of the wheel, simply pull the wheel off the steering column. If the wheel is stuck on the splines and doesn'Â't want to come off, take a rubber mallet and gently tap the rear of the wheel until it begins to move. Install the new 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.

If you would like to see more technical articles like this one, please continue to support Pelican Parts with all your parts needs. If you like what you see here, then please visit our online BMW catalog and help support the collection and creating of new and informative technical articles like this one. Your continued support directly affects the expansion and existence of this site and technical articles like this one. As always, if you have any questions or comments about this helpful article, please drop us a line.

Figure
Figure 1

This is one of my favorite aftermarket steering wheels from MOMO. The Jet wheel comes with a standard MOMO horn button. Also available is a small hubcap sticker from the older 3 Series cars that fits perfectly on the center horn button, giving it that performance OEM look (part number 36-13-1-181-082).

Figure
Figure 2

After you remove the lower plastic cover, you can see the collection of wires underneath. Unplug and unclip the neon orange air bag connector prior to removing the steering wheel. If you remove the air bag, you need to trick the air bag computer into thinking that itÂ's still connected. Place a 3.3-ohm resistor across the two terminals of the connector to indicate to the computer that the air bag is still in place, instead of triggering the air bag lamp. This should allow the system to continue to properly control and operate the passengerÂ's side air bag.

Figure
Figure 3

Removal of the steering wheel itself is pretty easy. Remove the two screws on either side (blue and green arrows) of the steering wheel with a T-25 Torx driver. These screws are somewhat hidden from view and have tiny access holes in the back side of the steering wheel. With the two screws loosened, the air bag should pop out of the center of the wheel. Disconnect the wire harness for the air bag (red arrow shows the connector; purple shows where it plugs into the air bag), and place it aside.

Figure
Figure 4

I developed this trick for removing steering wheels: Lock the wheel with a steering wheel locking device such as Â"The Club.Â" DonÂ't allow the steering wheel to lock against the mechanism in the lock cylinder, and donÂ't let it bottom out against the steering rack. Using a breaker bar and The Club in this fashion, you can easily remove the steering center nut.

Figure
Figure 5

Although you lose the safety of the air bag, the new steering wheel really spices up the interior of the car and gives your BMW that motorsport feel.

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Comments and Suggestions:
Jamlen Comments: I figured out how to get the horn on E36 M3 to work with a Momo hub part number 2008! Here it is: 1 the hub comes with two wires to connect to the horn button - a green/yellow which is the ground, and a black which is the hot wire for the horn; 2 the slip ring on the hub is a smaller diameter than the OE slip ring and as a result, the spring loaded copper contact in the steering column DOES NOT make contact with the new slip ring when the hub is inserted on the shaft; I made an L-shaped copper piece from thick copper wire that I inserted into the copper contact connector so that it would contact the new slip ring when bend inward. I was forced to do this since the copper piece broke when I tried to bend it inward. 4 BINGO, I now have a horn!!
December 1, 2016
Jamlen Comments: The MOMO part number for the hub adapter is 2008 for the 1997 BMW M3 and it has a slip ring wattached to it. I hooked up the two wires in the hub to the MOMO horn button...green/yellow to ground and black to other tab. Still no horn. The old steering wheel had a brown/blue wire coming from beneath the steering column which I had to disconnect, which seemed like the power and ground for the horn to the old slip ring. What needs to be done with that connector since it is not hooked up to anything?
November 28, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Ok, I don't work with aftermarket item like Momo wheels much, the part number didn't stand out to me.

The wire for the horn will need to be grounded to work. One wire to ground, one to the horn wire. You can test this by toggling the wire to ground using an incandescent test light, the horn should sound.

- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Jamlen Comments: I purchased Momo Jet steering wheel for 1997 M3. I have a Momo 2008 hub that came with a silver slip ring. 1 Where do I connect the yellow/green wire that is in the hub? 2 Which wire connects to the slip ring? 3 How do I get the horn to work? Thanks for your help.
November 23, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: 2008 hub, for a 2008 BMW model? I don't follow.

The horn wire from the stock wheel should attach to it. I don;t have the MOMO install instructions or wiring for your model to be 100% sure. - Nick at Pelican Parts
 
BMW E12 M535i Comments: I have a Momo steering wheel for my BMW E12 M535i actually its the Alpina steering wheel, but its made by Momo, so it utilizes the same horn button.
However - I bought the small BMW hubcap sticker you recommended, since I want BMW logos on my car.
But how did you make it so that the sticker sits properly on there, while at the same time making sure the horn button still works after you stick the hubcap sticker on there?
As far as I can see holding both parts in my hands - if you just stick it on there, it effectively prevents the horn-button to move, as it actually gets stuck on the small ring surrounding the horn-button that moves.
September 26, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Possible you have the wrong sticker, If it doesn't fit, there is now way to trim or jam it in without trouble with the horn. Give The Pelican Parts parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. They can figure out what part or repair kit you need.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Stay Comments: Hello,i bougth a e46 steering wheel and i want to put it in my 92 e36, my dont have airbag but for the moment i want to conect the horn thats my big problem for the moment because my dont have the conections like the steering wheel.thanks need some advise
June 17, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You'll need the correct wiring harness and clock spring to get it to work.

Give The Pelican Parts parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. They can figure out what part or repair kit you need.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Emil Comments: What about the horn cables?I'm installing a 3spoke BMW sport steering wheel and don't know how to adapt the new horn 2cable design
January 30, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You will need a wiring diagram, then run new wires tot he steering wheel contact spring. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
ET81476 Comments: I am totally confused: BMW E36 - slip ring behind makes the grinding noise - clock spring it is called.
I do not see a spring in the slip ring-is there a spring in the wheel or slip ring at all?
December 8, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: It isn't an actual spring, it is called that because it use to be a single coil of wire, that resembled a spring. it is now a plastic round sensor with a ribbon of cable inside. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Gary R Comments: Hi Wayne, I have a 92 E30 318i Vert, does this model need the same resistance to trick the airbag sensor as indicated in the write up? 1 5 watt 3.3ohm, or 3 1/2 watt 10ohm
October 7, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I don't have that info. I opened a post in our forums. A Pelican community member may be able to answer your question. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Sozo Comments: Do the three thin bots that hold the slip ring/click spring in place need to be removed when installing the momo hub p/n 2011? Thanks.
October 27, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I have not done that installation. I would check with MOMO. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
2 sticks Wayne Comments: Hi, can an e36 3 spoke steering wheel with airbag be fitted to an older e36 without an airbag? Was told by the owner it wouldn't fit. Cheers
September 24, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: E36 should fit to E36 fine. Not sure what E36 didn't have an airbag though. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
dantheman Comments: Hi, I will be replacing steering wheel tomorrow with omp one, I have a 1994 bmw e36 vin jb02822 which I don't believe has passanger airbag, so is it still adviseable to use resistor, or can I dissconnect completely which is preferred as will be used for drifting. Thanks in advance
September 15, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: If you remove the driver airbag, you will have a fault code. I can't comment on disabling the SRS system, as I don't have any experience doing that. I opened a post in our forums. A Pelican community member may be able to answer your question.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
bmw e36 Comments: So i can still do it without the clock spring I don't care if my horn doesn't work????
July 2, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: No, I would advise against that. The horn is a safety device and the vehicle will not pass inspection. If you have any further questions, contact the steering wheel manufacturer. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
bmw e36 Comments: Yes thats my cuestion because he doesn't mention nothing about removing the clock spring or putting it back to the car as far as I know the clock spring its for the airbag and since I'm not having an airbag no more I don't know if I need it can you please ask the technicianthank you so much and thank you for your help
July 2, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I asked our parts specialists. You will need the clockspring for the horn to work. Unless you steering wheel came with an adapter. You can check with the steering wheel manufacturer if you have any further questions. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
bmw e36 Comments: But he takes all the steering wheel off and the clock spring comes with a strong will it's all one piece and he takes everything off?????
July 2, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: In step 2, the clockspring is pictured along with the airbag connection. As far as I know, you will need the clockspring for the horn to work. It does show it coming off here: http://www.101projects.com/BMW/Projects/065/images/DSC05904.JPG But no mention of it staying off or going back on. I can ask for some clarification. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
bnw Comments: ????
July 2, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: It looks like the clock spring remained on the vehicle in this tech article. There is no mention of removing it. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
bmw e36 Comments: please help I want to know if do you need the clock spring on the new steering wheel
July 2, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: It looks like the clock spring remained on the vehicle in this tech article. There is no mention of removing it. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
guero e36 Comments: I have a Big cuestion about this did u took off the clock spring and put it back on the car ?? Pless anwser im about to change my steeri g wheel
June 30, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: It looks like the clock spring remained on the vehicle in this tech article. There is no mention of removing it. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
BigD Comments: Hi when you put the resistor on did you cut the connector of and solder the resistor to the wires? Or do you connect it to the 2 pins inside the orange connector?
May 27, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: It looks like the connector is left in place, and the resistor is used to jump the two terminals together. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
mlai5241 Comments: Thanks Nick! Turns out I'm an idiot and found the Torx screws. My original intent was to swap my plastic, airbag steering wheel with a Momo and was able to get the old wheel off with these instructions! But then had a change of heart airbag and put the old one back on. Now I think I put it on too tight and after driving tonight with the heat in, the plastics around the column squeaks from tightness as well. Is that possible? How tight should the wheel be?
May 11, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Squeaking could be the trim cover or the clock spring. Did you remove the steering wheel trim? If so, I would check if it is properly installed. Tightness of the wheel should not make it hit or not hit the trim. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
mlai5241 Comments: I see the holes where the torx screws should be, but it doesnt look like a torx head. The screws look smooth. Am i missing something?
April 13, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: No, they are Torx. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Dean Comments: I'm actually taking the M-tech wheel off my teenage son's E30 and replacing it with the ABS wheel as his mom wants the air bag back on for his safety. How does the horn hook back up? I see where a wire has been pulled through on the M-tech and grounds to the cap but is this a completely independent function? Will the horn work on the ABS without having to worry about the wiring from the M-tech to the ABS wheel? I just want to clarify this before I go out and start the swap.
Thanks in advance
Dean
March 20, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Is the clock spring intact? The horn and airbag wiring should run through it. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Racer75 Comments: Hi guys, i am fitting an aftermarket wheel to a 1990 318i. The car came without airbags but i am having some trouble with the horn. There is no wire coming from the back of the steering wheel and I dont know how to connect it. Thanks in advance.
January 30, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: There absolutely should be a Horn wire that is inside the steering column somewhere. It may have dropped down into the steering column, or it may be stuck somewhere out of sight. The horn works by having a switch in the horn pad ground this wire to the ground. This is what makes the horn honk. I would keep poking around until I find the wire. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
Kevin B Comments: I'm trying to remove the nut that hold the steering wheel but the nut keeps spinning in place. Wheel is loose a little but can't get it off. Any suggestions to remove the nut? I'm installing a momo wheel purschased from you guys. Great service btw
May 18, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Sounds like the nut is stripped, if so you might have to use a nut splitter to get it off.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Michael Comments: What wattage is needed for the 3.3 ohm resistor?

Radio shack has
February 22, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: 5 watt, 3.3 ohms should do it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Dave Comments: What wattage is needed for the 3.3 ohm resistor?
September 9, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: 5 watt, 3.3 ohms, should do it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Nickbmw Comments: hi, fitted new non bmw wheel in my e36 p reg328, but no horn yet as do not know where to connect horn wires that came with new wheel, is it something to do with 2 brown wires.
February 5, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: There should be one signal wire for the horn, and one wire for the ground. The ground wire is typically brown. The signal wire is typically another color other than brown. If you connect these two wires together, then you should get the sound of the horn. It's possible that your horn wasn't working prior to you replacing the wheel, or that you may have accidentally short circuited something in the steering wheel that caused the horn's fuse to blow. I would check the wires, and then I would also check the fuses. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
Max Comments: How did you guys connect the horn? in my car i only have the airbag cables.. no horn cables... what should i do?
January 7, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: If you look carefully at Figure 3 in the article above, you will see a black wire coming out of the air bag mounting frame on the steering column. This connects to the frame and triggers the horn. Your wire has probably dropped out of this hold and is probably stuck somewhere in the steering column. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
EVS911 Comments: How do you wire up the resister...do you have pictures of that...please
December 4, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: There are two wires coming out that are attached to the air bag. Simply put the resistor across these wires in place of the air bag. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
XJohn Comments: Hi! I got a question on the 1990 M3 s14 engine,first I try to remove the lower plastic cover under the steering wheel to replace the turn signal/dimer switch, but doesn't came out easy so I have to remove the steering wheel to get to it or not. please give me any idea how to do it. well very appreciated, Thanks a lot
October 30, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Hi there, the instructions in the article above should be very applicable to your M3. Remove the pad, and then remove the big nut, and the steering wheel should come right off. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
Joe Comments: Do you still need to unplug the battery if you don't have air bags?
June 3, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Nope, but you will probably also trigger the horn repeatedly when removing the wheel, which is loud and annoying. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
Raymond Comments: how can I get cable of 3.3 ohms, as do the installation, which can happen if I install the 3.3-ohm cable
October 2, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You need a resister that's 3.3 ohms, which you can find at any good electronics store. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  

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