DIY: Installing BMW M Performance Steering Wheel on a M3

My DIY article for installing a carbon fiber spoiler on my E92 M3 appeared to be well received, so I thought I would do the same with installing a BMW M Performance alcantara DCT steering wheel. As with the carbon fiber spoiler, there are tons of threads on the forums, but most have dead image links. I want to show you how I did it and what my pain points were.

Obtaining the steering wheel and your tools

I am an OEM guy. Not because I want to have the most expensive product, but because I want quality. There are plenty of steering wheels online for a third the price of a BMW M Performance steering wheel, but OEM is the route I go.

Same as with my OEM carbon fiber spoiler, I ordered my OEM BMW M Performance DCT steering wheel from ECS Tuning.

 

To do the work you will need the following tools:

  • 10mm socket
  • 16mm socket
  • Socket wrench with extensions
  • Torx and flat head screwdrivers
  • Thick screwdriver (or pen if you are me)

Disconnect and wait

So you have the steering wheel and your tools and you want to jump right into it, but you have to wait. First you need to disconnect your battery. I am the type of person who always said “I don’t do electricity and airbags” and you have to do both with a steering wheel removal and install. The last thing you want is for an airbag to blow up in your face. Especially, if your airbag is recalled and can kill you like mine, but I am waiting for the dealer to have the parts, so here I am.

Go to your trunk, on the right sidewall, you will find a little latch. Twist the latch and you will be able to remove a big chunk of the trunk sidewall revealing the battery below.

Use your 10mm socket and extension, because it is hard to get to, and disconnect the negative battery terminal only. Ensure once you disconnect it, it does not slowly bend back and sit on the negative terminal. My battery cables were very hard to flex so when I unhooked it, it stayed where I put it.

After disconnected, wait about 15 minutes. I know people who wait the time it takes them to get from the trunk to the driver’s seat before working steering wheels, but I am paranoid about electricity and airbags remember.

Getting your old steering wheel off

On the back of your steering wheel are two hidden slots. You have to put something thick enough to release the airbag clamps in the hole. The forums will suggest a thick screwdriver, but no matter how many screwdrivers I used in my arsenal it would not unclick the clamps, I could hear them hitting the clamps, flicking off, and not releasing. I got frustrated and pulled a Caswell. I grabbed a Royal Purple click pen I got from a swag bag at a Red Bull Global Rallycross event a year ago and shoved it in there and the right side released. The left side even gave my pen trouble, but after 10 minutes it released as well. I have seen YouTube videos showing how easy it is to release, but it just was not working for me.

Look for the slight indent, insert your screwdriver or pen here.

 

Once you have the airbag unclipped, use a flat head screwdriver and unhook the green and black plugs on the back of the airbag. Set the airbag aside, do not drop it, do not leave it somewhere where you can knock it over.

After you moved the most dangerous part of this experience aside, grab your 16mm socket. You can chose to do it with a socket wrench, but I removed the 16mm bolt holding the steering wheel with my cordless impact on the lowest setting to break it loose then took it off by hand.

Take note of the notch mark on the steering wheel and how it is lined up with the notch mark on the column.

The middle bottom line should line up with a notch on the steering wheel.

Once the bolt is off remove the steering wheel and set it next to your new one, because the comparison looks cool and you have to transfer parts from the old wheel. When you remove the steering wheel, be sure to not touch the clock spring to save you a headache.

From your old wheel you need the front cover that holds the steering wheel buttons as well as your left and right DCT paddles.

To remove the front cover flip your old steering wheel around and unscrew the three screws. The DCT paddles have one screw each. In order to remove the paddles from the front housing you have to find these two plugs.

These plugs were oddly another one of my paint points, I think it is because my beast large hands and I could not get a grip with my fingers. Eventually the plugs gave and I could remove the front cover and paddles from the old steering wheel.

Install the front cover and DCT paddles to your new alcantara steering wheel.

Time to install your new steering wheel

Put your new steering wheel on the steering column, but be sure to line up the notch marks you took note of earlier.

Put the 16mm bolt back on and torque it down to 63 NM (46 ft lb). If you went my route and used an impact to remove, do not use one now.

Plug the two plugs from the steering wheel to the center column and plug the green and black plugs to the airbag. Ensure the hanging plugs are not in the way of where the airbag attaches to the steering wheel and snap it in place.

Enjoy the way it looks and go to the trunk and grab your 10mm socket again and reconnect the battery.

Get in the driver’s seat, duck (hey you never know if it will blow), and start your M3. If no codes or Christmas lights on your dash you are in the clear.

Enjoy your race inspired steering wheel.