Are steering wheels universal?

I’d like to replace my '06 Matrix steering wheel. Can I find something at the junk yard and expect it to fit? Do I have to find a Toyota piece?

While I imagine there is a measure of interchangeability, I can’t tell you what other manufacturer’s will fit on your spindle. I’d hate to see you get something with a really close spline pattern partway on and bitch up the spindle.

To determine what will interchange, perhaps you could go to an auto parts store and see what aftermarket replacement wheels have the same replacement number.

Not even close.
The variables include:
[li]Diameter of the shaft[/li][li]Number of splines[/li][li]Fitting of the airbag[/li][/ul]
Needless to say a Toyota airbag won’t fit onto a Nissan steering wheel. For that matter, a Highlander steering wheel might not be interchangeable with one from a Prius.

To echo what Rick said (and I’m surprised that he didn’t point this out), fumbling around with an airbag equipped steering wheel is not a job for an untrained professional. Not even close.

You can however, buy “accents” that you can put on your wheel which won’t interfere with the operation of the airbag and will change the look (to some extent). Many autoparts store carry them, as do several online retailers like JC Whitney.

Red Green used a collapsible stainless steel vegetable steamer for a steering wheel. Unfortunately I can’t find this on youtube. I did, however, find some pointers on improving performance via bigger exhausts.

As I stated in the other thread you started about this, it is illegal to modify anything that has to do with the supplemental restraint system in your vehicle, including changing the steering wheel. To do so would likely void all warranties and create a lot more problems when it comes time to trade in or sell the vehicle to someone else.

I remember a cop once talking about the most outrageous defective vehicles he’s ticketed. One bloke had no steering wheel at all, and was steering using a pair of multigrips locked on to the shaft.

Chuck it away and get an electric one: C5 by wire
SAAB trialled a joystick but never got anywhere with it

Darryl Starbird’s Predicta show car (one of the loveliest custom cars ever built, in my opinion) had a steering lever mounted between the seats. It was apparently pretty driveable, though today it sits in dignified retirement in Starbird’s museum.

Thanks. Now I’ll have the Batman theme stuck in my head all day.

Oh, I don’t know. Ten-plus years ago I bought a Miata, and within a few days I realized I hated the (airbag-laden) steering wheel. It just wasn’t comfortable. With the help of some detailed instructions from a Miata-owners Web site, I switched it out with a very nice Momo sport wheel (with no airbag). I used it happily for the next eight years, and stored the stock wheel in a closet.


Or maybe not. I sold the Miata a couple of years ago. I told the buyer (a police officer) about the mods I had done, including the steering wheel, and offered to let him keep the new Momo wheel, or I would reinstall the stock wheel. He opted for the latter. I reversed the removal process, no problem, and handed over the car in its original state. To date, I have not heard that the new owner died when the airbag failed.

My point is that although airbags are potentially dangerous, it’s not like handling a jar full of nitroglycerin. Treat them with a little respect, follow directions, and you’ll be fine. If, as racer72 claims, it is illegal to “tamper” with them, well I guess I can’t officially recommend breaking the law, but, not knowing that, I did it, lived to tell the tale, and sold the car afterward without lying or even misleading the buyer. So there.

Yeah, and the charge powering the airbag is about the same as a shotgun shell, you screw it up and you can take your head off. It’s not like fixing the brakes where you can test things out, or can downshift the car to slow down if there’s a problem. You screw up, and if you’re lucky, the airbag won’t fire while in an accident, if you’re not lucky, you can get yourself killed with no warning.

NHSTA regs on deactivating an airbag.

The short answer is, unless you file the proper paperwork, it’s illegal.

Which is meaningless, because statistically speaking, the odds of any individual being in a fatal wreck are pretty low.

So because one person got away with it, it’s not a big deal? :dubious:

Wasn’t thinking about SRS when typing my earlier response. A vehicle modified in that manner wouldn’t pass inspection in PA.

Lighten up, Tuckerfan. There are lots of things people do that are mildly risky, but for which the risks can be managed. I pointed out how, fully knowing and understanding the risks, I chose to remove and do without a safety device in my car for a certain period of time. I treated the airbag with respect, and handled it knowledgeably and carefully. Lots of people have done the same without incident.

Guess what: I have occasionally ridden a motorcycle without a helmet and driven a car without buckling my seatbelts. Do I recommend either practice as a standard procedure? Absolutely not. But as you point out, the chances of an accident occurring on any single occasion are small, and sometimes risky behaviors are fun or worth the risk. (BTW, my comment about the buyer of my Miata not dying yet was tongue in cheek.)

I decided that the improved feel of the sport wheel was worth the risk of removing the airbag. Also, once I removed the airbag from the Miata, I always used the seatbelts when driving that car.

You say an airbag has the force of a shotgun shell. Do you recommend not allowing people to handle shotgun shells? I assume not. They are dangerous, but not unreasonably so if handled properly. And like shotgun shells, airbags typically do not explode for no reason. When removing and reinstalling the airbag, I disconnected the battery to avoid a short accidentally setting it off. Once it was removed I stored it in a remote closet, where it wouldn’t do any damage if it somehow did go off.

And so if you do file the paperwork, it’s permitted!

I have an on-off switch for the airbags in my track car because when I’m on the track I always use 6-point harnesses that render the airbag pointless. So I turn them off while at the track so that an incident doesn’t cost me thousands to replace them, in addition to whatever else has to be repaired. I filed the papers and got permission. It was a formality.

Anyway, in a free society people should have the right to make informed decisions about their activities and the risks they entail. Just because things are risky doesn’t mean they must be prohibited, or that others should decide for us what is an acceptable level of risk.

And lot’s more folks have decided that it’s not worth the risk. The problem with airbag tampering is that there’s no warning of a problem. It’s not the kind of situation where you screw up and something will tell you that you’ve made a potentially fatal mistake.

And in those instances, you putting only yourself at risk. Airbag tampering puts anyone who get’s behind the wheel of that car at riks. A risk which they may not be aware of.


I don’t recommend people handling shotgun shells in an unapproved manner.

My point, exactly.

But they can explode when mishandled.

IIRC, some airbags are able to fire even with the battery disconnected (they’ve got capacitors which store the electric charge), which means that simply unhooking the battery isn’t enough to ensure that it won’t go off.

And if you’ll notice, they do not allow you to do it just because you “don’t like the look of the steering wheel,” so your case would still be involation of the law.

Yeah, but if you don’t do it, the fines can be big bucks (not to mention potential lawsuits if someone else is operating the car and is injured).

I’m all for a “free society,” but one should be well aware of the risks involved, and when things go wrong, folks shouldn’t run screaming to the government for help. I can’t help but note that many of the pro-free market deregulation folks are presently begging the government for bailouts because they screwed up in the mortgage securities market. Seems to me that if you want to be free from regulation, you shouldn’t expect the government to bail you out when you screw up.

You’re also forgetting that Cardinal might live in a state which has vehicle inspections, and removing the airbag would undoubtly cause the car to fail inspection. So, what’s he supposed to do? Reinstall the airbag before he takes the car in for inspection and then put the one he likes back on? If he’s got to run the car through inspection every year, and has to keep swapping steering wheels out, he increases his chances of something going wrong. Ever have the steering wheel come off in your hands while you’re driving? I have. Damned near shit myself while I struggled to get it back on the shaft and get the car safely off the road. I was lucky in that it happened to me when I was on a road with little traffic and was only doing about 20 MPH at the time, I’d hate to think of what would have happened had I been on interstate doing something like 70 MPH.

Not true (in the US at least). Per the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, the manufaturer would have to prove the non-OEM part directly caused the problem that’s under warranty coverage to deny warranty work. For example, if you had an aftermarket high-flow exhaust system (also an often illegal modification) and you bring your car in with a burned exhaust valve, the dealer can deny coverage because they can reasonably claim that was a likely contributing factor, but they can’t point to the steering wheel and say “that wheel is illegal so we’re not going to cover your exhaust valve.”

Of course, in the case of the steering wheel, it could still void a number of the warranties, if the wheel (either the original or replacement) had controls for things like the radio, cruise control, lights, paddle shifters, etc., etc., etc. mounted on it as many of them do, these days.

Tuckerfan, since the OP has not been back to comment on the thread since starting it, and since I suspect we’re way beyond what he/she was considering, anyway, I’ll resist posting another point-by-point rebuttal of your last post. I don’t think we’re that far apart, anyway. We just have slightly different risk thresholds.

I’ll only confess to being rather puzzled by this:

Although this is, AFAICT, completely off-topic, I agree with you completely. If you imagine that I’m a (hypocritical) right-wing free-enterprise hardliner, you couldn’t be more wrong. I’m one of the most liberal people I know (which probably puts me somewhere in the middle of the road on this board).

The NHSTA rule only applies to manufacturers and dealers. You can do anything you want to your car that’s not specifically illegal, and deactivating the airbag is not so, unless you’re a manufacturer or dealer doing so in the course of your business.

::: Sigh:::
I leave you guys alone to play for a couple of days and look at this mess.
::: shakes head:::
OK, let’s clear up a few things.
As I understand it, you can disconnect your own airbag. (not something I would recommend BTW) no legal ramifications.
You bring you car to me as a repair facility and ask me to do it = Bozo No-No. Fines of up to $10,000/day. (same with seat belts, head rests, etc)
You come to my shop with a permission slip from NHTSA = NO problem (except)

If you are later in an accident you can sue if the airbag did not go off (even though you requested it be disconnected. Makes no sense, but this was the reason given that Volvo does not allow a dealer to do an authorized disconnection. Rather Volvo sends out a corporate employee to do the job.

Cite? In every system I am familiar with, the system is inert after no more than 30 seconds after key off. If the systems were live 24/7 getting bumped in a parking lot would result in a blown bag. They aren’t and it doesn’t.

One last point. As was mentioned upthread, handling airbags is not in the same category as handling Nitro. Once the key is off and the battery is disconnected, they are fairly safe to handle. I mean if you drop one, it isn’t an issue. I don’t think I would sit around a camp fire throwing airbags in for shits and giggles, but in normal handling, the risk factor is not up there with juggling nitro, or lit dynamite.