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Steering Wheels & Column Parts

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Steering Wheels & Column Parts

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What is the steering wheel and where is it located?

Your steering wheel is the wheel that mounts to the steering column and allows you to turn and point your vehicle in different directions. It can be a literal lifesaver in steering wheels with airbags or a great communicator in ones with horns. Many automobiles come with amenities designed to keep drivers hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. Some of these amenities include cruise control, volume, and telephone controls, and, in some cases, paddle shifters. As you can see, overtime the steering wheel has evolved from a simple steering component to a quality mechanism capable of performing integral functions of driver safety and comfort.

How do I know if my steering wheel parts need to be replaced?

There are a few signs that can point to a broken steering wheel. You may have to replace the entire wheel itself, the symptoms of which are fairly obvious but also rare (like a chunk of the rim missing), but usually the entire wheel needs to be replaced for aesthetic reasons.  Typically made of carbon fiber, sometimes with padding,, the wheel may be cracked or faded to a point that it becomes too much of an eye sore or crumbles bit by bit into brittle pieces.

Apart from the wheel itself, components inside the wheel can malfunction, too. This is much more common and usually pertains to the airbag clock spring and the horn. You can't pass an inspection without either, so it's imperative that they be replaced in a timely fashion. If your horn has muffled volume or does not sound the same (or doesn't sound like anything at all), then you might need a replacement. Faults in the airbag system are indicated by the airbag warning light, and certain switches on the wheel may or may not work either. These are signs that part of the wheel or inside components like the airbag clock spring need to be replaced.

Can I replace the steering wheel parts myself?

The repair can vary depending on the type of wheel you have. The first step is to disconnect the negative battery cable.  The battery relay cable may also need to be removed. Next, remove the cover plugs and/or screws that secure the airbag to the steering wheel. Then, lift up and separate the airbag assembly. Disconnect the horn and airbag module wiring harnesses. Place the airbag assembly away from any electrical components to prevent unexpected deployment.

Remove the steering wheel retaining nut and washer. Before removing the wheel, make note of the steering wheel's placement relative to the splines on the column shaft. To prevent damage to the bearings, it's recommend that you remove the steering wheel with a two-jaw puller.

To reinstall, align the steering wheel in the correct position on the steering column. Tighten the retaining nut to the steering wheel following your vehicle's recommended torque specifications. Connect the wiring harnesses to the airbag and insert the airbag into the steering wheel. Then tighten the screws on the back. Reconnect the battery and turn the ignition on. If necessary, reset the airbag light.

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