3-Spoke Euro Wheel Install
Standard equipment on the US market BMW e36 M3 is a 4-spoke steering wheel with airbag. Aesthetically the wheel is mediocre presenting not a full colour but only an embossed logo on the airbag in contrast to the m colour stitching.
e36 Steering Wheel Options
Substituting a non-airbag wheel seems like a bad idea for a car that’s also a daily driver. But airbag equipped options are limited. Aside from the slip ring and OBC controls the e36 and e39 Sport wheels are identical. While I considered that wheel a good upgrade for our wagon I don’t find the thumb rests beneficial. Steering wheel options are:
- Standard 4-Spoke Wheel
- Sport 3-Spoke Wheel
- Euro 3-Spoke Wheel
Above: BMW e36 M3 Standard 4 Spoke Steering Wheel with Airbag.
Above: BMW e36 Sport 3 Spoke Steering Wheel with Airbag.
Above: BMW e36 Euro Sport 3 Spoke Steering Wheel with Airbag.
Sourcing Euro Wheel and Parts
I ordered my Euro wheel from eBay user Tainik who is well known in the BMW community. I decided on non-perferated leather without thumb rests. Alcantara is popular but does not resist wear so I opted for plain leather. The airbag arrived from England about a month after I paid for the order and the wheel arrived a week later. The wheel’s diameter is a little larger than I prefer but is such an improvement both functionally and aesthetically that compromise is easy. The quality of Tainik’s work is excellent.
To fit the wheel a steering wheel bracket is required which is part number 32311162088. This is the bracket that holds the signal and wiper stalks. The only other things I required were some wire, shrink wrap and tools.
I followed the install instructions from Bimmerforums.The instructions there are complete enough but here are my point form notes from the install:
- I needed to remove all the screws from the steering column trim cover before I could remove those pieces. The instructions make it sound like you can remove one and then the other.
- The steering column trim covers separated for me by pulling the sides of the bottom piece out while pulling down (while simultaneously balancing the wheel in my lap). You can see the fasteners once the wheel is off which helps you understand what you’re trying to unclip. There are probably other ways.
- When removing the top steering column cover you really will think you’re going to break it, or be unable to put it back. I don’t know how it’s possible but it doesn’t break and it does go back in.
- Removing the old steering column bracket required putting pressure on the top clips (there is a pair of clips like teeth on either side of the bracket) with a screw driver. I could not remove the bracket with simple downward pressure. Two sets of hands would help here.
- Installing the new steering column bracket was impossible no matter how much force I used. Eventually my force broke one of the clips (or teeth) and I was able to get the bracket seated. Even with a broken clip the bracket felt secure and I was decided to proceed with the install.
- Try to salvage the horn button connector instead of using Radio Shack connectors. Looks more OEM.
- The longest part of the job was soldering the wire and connector for the horn button.
Above: Underside of the steering column.
Above: Part of the clip that fastens the steering column covers.
Above: The new bracket, not yet seated.
Above: The wheel after splicing the horn button connector.