blog & pics

Update: new steering wheel (+ DIY)

The waiting is finally over and yesterday the new wheel arrived. Thicker, smaller, slick and more beautiful.

Of course the shipment contained also the airbag, all packed in two separate boxes. Right in the afternoon I went for the job of changing the wheel. With my neighbor helping me to loosen the main wheel bolt, we managed to finish the swap within 30 minutes. Mind you, the biggest time consuming part was just the bolt.

Based on the BMW service manuals, the bolt should have a tightening torque of 62,5 Nm. (46 ft lb), which wasn’t my case yesterday. The bolt was tightened as hell and it took us 20 minutes of solid fight to get it off. Big lever was an advantage.

The DIY is very simple and straightforward, so let’s summarize quickly…

Tools needed:

  • Torx 27
  • 10mm + 16mm socket + ratchet (or longer lever)
  • Torque wrench capable of 62-63 Nm. settings

The process (15-20 minutes):

  • Disconnect the battery. Loosen the 10mm bolt from the terminal and make sure there is no unexpected contact.
  • Loosen two torx screws holding the airbag on the original wheel. They are accessible from the rear of the steering wheel. If you have a ratchet with extension, there is no need to turn the wheel.
  • Lift the airbag and disconnect all wires. Disconnect also the wheel wires from the connectors in the top section.
  • Use the 16mm socket together with a lever long enough to loosen the main bolt. Get someone to hold the wheel for you, as the bolt might be really resistant.
  • Once you remove it, you’ll see a indication marks on the wheel and the column. Take off the wheel.
  • Take the new wheel and put it exactly in the same position – use the marks and leading plastic bolts to align perfectly. Connect the wheel multifunction wires (yellow-black + white) to the connectors in the top section.
  • Use the 16mm bolt to secure the wheel in place and tighten it to 62,5-63 Nm, which is the original BMW settings.
  • There are two more wires left, those needs to be connected into the airbag.
  • Align the airbag with the wheel and push it down. There are two locks that will click, once in place. No screws needed here.
  • Connect the battery back and verify with the ignition ON, that the airbag light goes off and that the buttons on the steering wheel work.
  • Don’t forget to tighten the 10mm bolt on battery terminal.

As said before, the DIY is fairly simple. If you have the right car with the right steering column (for E39 in general, not particularly M5). Thanks to all the updates the E39 had been through, it’s sometimes hard to get the combination right. However if you don’t know or don’t have the info, everything can be done with a bit of coding and electrical work.


Quickshot #4


Quickshot #5


  1. Bart

    Hello, what month producation is your M5? Mine is 01.1999 and i read that is not so easy to change steering wheel because of a wrong airbag

  2. M5E39

    Hi – it’s February 1999. Changing the wheel depends on the steering column. If the sensor ring is on the steering column, you can change it. If not, then it’s more complicated.
    Although my M5 is 2/99, it has already 3/99 steering column, so it was easy to change the wheel.

  3. James

    Thanks for the guide!

    Was useful even for non-M5 cars.

    I changed my 2002 530i SE H wheel for a E46 sports wheel. The trim matched my interior wood loom trim.

    Interestingly that I had 16mm size nut on the steering wheel and a T30 torx holding the bag.

    Car feels better to drive now!

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