Wrenching in a custom steering wheel used to be a piece of cake. You would just remove the face plate, disconnect the horn, torque off a single bolt, and reverse it all with the new wheel. You’d have it finished before you could list your favorite kinds of cake. But that’s not the cake case anymore. Today, steering wheels are loaded down with controls for infotainment systems, toggles for cruise, and, most importantly, airbags. And while you
don’t have the woes of an F1 driver, this job is a bit more complicated than it was 20 years ago. But don’t lose focus, here. Eyes on the cake.
Thankfully, the good guys at Grant came up with an easy way for you to keep your airbag without having to subject themselves to the slings and arrows of our stringent federal safety standards: transferring the existing airbag over to the aftermarket wheel. And since you can move all the switches in the same way, you can leave your electrical tape in the drawer next to the zip-ties and hose clamps.
First, a quick word on the airbag. It’s a bomb. Literally. Airbags use explosives to inflate themselves at speeds of around 150 mph. The best martial artists in the world can throw punches in excess of 25 mph. Ask yourself if you’d like to eat one of those knuckle sandwiches, except six times faster, and be careful with the airbag. If you’ve ever had the
displeasure of an airbag saving your life, you’ll know what we mean.
On that note, disconnect the battery and give the system a second to discharge. Now you can mess with the bomb in your steering wheel. Following the included instructions, remove the airbag (usually held on with a set of screws), and disconnect the wiring. Automakers go to great lengths to annoy us by complicating these plugs, so be patient when you’re pulling on things. Since that airbag is a bomb, once you remove it, always place it face up, and always carry it facing away from your fragile human frame.
Next, disconnect the wheel mounted controls for the cruise control, volume adjust, and hot chocolate dispenser. Don’t worry about labeling plugs, because they should be specifically keyed for their own functions.
Before you go nuts with the wrench, make sure your tires are facing forward and your steering wheel is level. Replaying the entire job might be good practice, but you won’t want to do it when you’re done. Remember: cake. Now you can remove the bolt. We’re not suggesting you use a tire iron of the same size, but it has been done successfully in a pinch.
Off comes the old, boring stock wheel. For this, depending on your vehicle, you may need the creatively named wheel-puller, but your local auto parts store will loan you one for a few bucks collateral if you don’t have one in your “obscure tools” drawer.
Next, remove the switches from your stock wheel and snap them into the new one. Follow the included vehicle specific directions for this, and be careful- you’re dealing with plastic.
Finally, pretend you’re taking a right-hand-drive car through the Mickey Dee’s drive through and reverse the whole process with the new wheel. And in case we haven’t stressed it enough, your airbag is a bomb. Don’t reconnect your battery until you’ve finished everything else.
There you have it. You’ve installed an awesome new performance steering wheel, you’ve kept your explosive-yet-lifesaving airbag and your hot chocolate toggle, and it didn’t
take you seven hours.
That means it’s time for cake. Enjoy.