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Project Rolla, Steering Wheel Replacement

I don’t know if the previous owner liked to pick at it, or if they just had a casual chew on it, but the original four-spoke steering wheel was manky, so needed to go.

I managed to source the correct three-spoke “sport” wheel from a facelift AE101 BZ Touring wagon, which is a feat in its self as they seem to wear badly and often have tears in the leather. This wheel is also used on the AE111 Levin/Trueno BZ-R models, and is a plug and play upgrade for the AE112R, airbag and all.

a photo of the dash of an AE101 Corolla showing the steering wheel I purchased

Obvious it’s not in “like new” condition; the donor has over 280,000km on it, but with no holes in the leather it was good enough for now.

When it arrived I gave it a darn good scrubbing with some simple green and a couple of microfibre cloths. This was disgusting as the cloths just turned black straight away. After cleaning, I did a few rounds of conditioning the leather, which has left it much less shiny and feeling a bit softer.

I believe this is the same wheel, with a different airbag, as the European special edition Corolla G6 and G6R models (3 door hatch version of my car with 6 speed manual, bodykit, and various other nice bits).

As a reminder, this is why I’m replacing the standard wheel (other than being a giant bus wheel and not being sporty)

Fitting is pretty easy. First, disconnect the battery and leave the car for about 10 minutes. This is to discharge the system and make sure the airbag is as safe as can be.

Now remove the airbag from the original wheel. This is done with two Torx 30 screws, which are under little removable plastic covers. Pop the covers out and you will see the screws.

A photo of the side of the steering wheel, behind the rim, showing the T30 screw head securing the Airbag

To remove the airbag you need the screws to pop into little clips, I found the easiest way to do this is to pull gently forward on the airbag as you undo the screw.

The front of the steering wheel with the airbag removed. Two arrows are pointing at the two screws that secure the airbag, which are held in plastic clips on either side

Do this for both sides and the airbag should come free. Before yanking the airbag off and biffing it over the neighbours fence (probably don’t do this though, eh), remember to disconnect it. The connector has a white clip on the top that you slide backwards to disengage.

The yellow airbag wiring clip, showing the white locking tab

Now biff the airbag carefully away. Before you can remove the wheel you need to disconnect the spade terminal for the horn. This is just slipped onto the tab. Mine was stuck on quite well, but a couple of jabs with a screwdriver freed it. Its partly removed in this photo.

The inside of the steering wheel, with an arrow pointing at the tab with a spade terminal and blue wire attached

Now using a 19mm impact socket and rattle gun I cracked the nut off. Always leave this on the shaft a few turns when removing the wheel, lest you take a wheel to the face when it suddenly comes free. A few violent pulls on alternating sides of the wheel and it came free with a pop. Remove the nut, and pull the wheel off whilst carefully feeding the wires through.

Fitting of the replacement wheel is the exact opposite of removal. Feed the wires through the wheel, slip it on the spline, spin the nut on. Remember to refit the spade terminal for the horn.

A close up of the inside of the new wheel with airbag removed, showing the spade terminal connected to the wheel.

Tighten the nut to 34NM, connect the airbag up and pop it into the wheel. The screws should be held in their captive clips, so give them a push as you turn them and they should push inwards and start to screw into the airbag. Reconnect the battery, and marvel at the difference a nice wheel makes.

The front interior of the car when I got it, showing the old steering wheel and gross seat cover.
And the dash of the car now, with replacement black three spoke toyota airbag steering wheel

I’ve only taken the car for a quick drive so far, as it doesn’t have a current WOF, but already it feels much nicer to use. I need a wheel alignment though as the wheel is slightly off center, and moving it over a spline just made it off center in the other direction. Typical. That will come after all the suspension work anyway.

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