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Replace old steering wheel

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Replace old steering wheel

Post by gs223 » Sun Oct 15, 2017 10:48 am

Recently I acquired an X3 3.0i SE 2004, with 100K miles on the clock but in generally good condition. The most tired item in the cabin was the steering wheel, which was worn smooth, with the paint on the plastic panel retaining its radio and cruise buttons flaking off.

A quick web search turned up several after-market steering wheels suppliers on eBay, and I went with one called speedautot, from Germany, who do refurbished ones with an M-style lower flattened frame. In their offering, the left and right parts of the wheel (the hand holds) are finished in perforated leather, and the upper and lower parts are available in either leather or alcantara; the plastic retaining panel is covered in a new carbon fibre wrap. Both variants appear to be available with or without control buttons, the latter being slightly cheaper and perfectly fine in this case as they are straightforward to relocate from the old steering wheel.

Tools I needed:
- 10mm spanner
- Good-size screwdriver (any type head)
- Small flat-head screwdriver
- 16mm 1/2" drive socket with extension bar and handle
- Long Torx 10 driver (not a Torx bit)

The steering wheel exchange procedure is very well shown in the video at so take some time to watch it carefully. There were a couple of subtleties which arose when I did it, and I'll point these out in the summary below which is provided for convenience.

- Open the tailgate, disconnect the -ve terminal of the battery, ensuring it can't accidentally reconnect. Don't close the tailgate as it is a bit of a pain to reopen without electric power
- Wait a couple of minutes for the airbag capacitor to discharge
- Ensure the steering wheel is in a centred position with the wheels pointing straight ahead
- Use the big screwdriver to release the airbag retaining clips on each side, and gently pull out the airbag
- Use the small flat-head screwdriver to pop up the retaining clip on the top of each airbag connector and unplug them to release the airbag
- Carefully unplug the two electrical connectors at the top inside of the steering wheel
- Using the 1/2" drive socket release the centre bolt retaining the steering wheel; note my bolt was 16mm whereas in the video it says 17mm
- It's best not to have the steering lock engaged when undoing the centre bolt, just hold the wheel firmly with the other hand
- Take both old and new steering wheels to a convenient working area
- Working from the back and using the T10 driver, release the old steering wheel controls and retaining panel (five screws)
- Using the T10 driver, release the steering wheel controls from the old retaining panel (two screws either side)
- Mount the the steering wheel controls on the new retaining panel (see pic below for where to do this as it is possible to do it wrong)
- Mount the retaining panel and controls in the new steering wheel and re-fasten from the back
- Mount the steering wheel back, observing that there is a small nick on the the spline head which should match up with a similar mark on the wheel to ensure correct alignment
- Reinsert the two electrical connectors at the inner top of the steering wheel
- Refasten the steering wheel bolt very firmly (65Nm torque)
- Reconnect the two airbag connectors and re-install the airbag by pushing it in firmly on either side, ensuring all wiring is tidy
- Reconnect the battery, and start the car
- Turn the steering wheel to full left lock, then full right lock: this is needed to recalibrate the 4x4 xDrive system I believe
- Fully lower, and then raise, every electric window: this is needed to reinstate one-click window operation
- Verify the steering wheel radio control still works (if applicable)
- Verify the steering wheel cruise control still works (if applicable)

Enjoy your new steering wheel! I found mine a real pleasure, with a much more secure grip, pic below.

P.S. This change will almost certainly count as a "non-standard modification" on your car insurance and may well be chargeable - best to check beforehand...


Last edited by gs223 on Tue Oct 17, 2017 8:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
X3 2004 3.0i SE

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Re: Replace old steering wheel

Post by graemeX5 » Tue Oct 17, 2017 7:44 am


That is a good write up and nice mod with a great effect to the look of the car  :)
Now: E70 X5 in Blue, 3 Minis Cooper S R53, JCW R56 & Cooper S Roadster R59 :drive:

Prev: Abarth 595C & 500C, E53 X5 4.4i, E88 135i M Sport, Audi TT Mk1 V6, 3 Smarts, 8 Vauxhalls, 4 Fords, 2 Triumphs, 1 Mini & Bikes

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Re: Replace old steering wheel

Post by X5Sport » Tue Oct 17, 2017 6:19 pm

Very nice.  I wanted the ‘Sport’ wheel in my X6 but as it has a heated wheel, that isn’t allowed  :(
:ant: Never anthropomorphise computers. They hate that.

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