BMW Heated Steering Wheel Retrofit Complete Pictorial DIY!
BMW 2006 X3 Heated Wheel Retrofitted onto a 330i E46 Sedan Complete Pictorial DIY
PART A: Introduction
Before I begin I must thank my friends SNA77, whom this project would not literally be possible and whom I know would be doing something like this right now if he still owned his E46.
Also I must thank Xi_ter who completed this DIY years ago and provided everything I know now and write in this DIY about tapping power from the fuse box.
This DIY was a lot easier than I anticipated. The E46 Steering Wheel and Slip Ring plug and play design makes the swap over to the X3 Heated Wheel fairly easy. With only a T30 Torx Screw Driver and Slim Ratchet to remove the airbag and a 5/8" socket on a long handle ratchet to remove the wheel you can swap the wheel out with in 30 minutes. And the Slip Ring is attached by 4 smaller Torx Screws. This part should take about another 30 minutes to a hour.
You MUST UNPLUG your battery before removing the airbag (so as to not set off the air bag and/or the airbag warning lamp during the DIY).
Again I was lucky to come across an complete X3 heated wheel that was no longer needed by it's former owner. Previous DIYs used Steering Wheels from early years E38 and E39. At this time, I highly recommend just getting an 2002+ X3 or X5 heated wheel. Those earlier E38 and E39 wheels had single stage airbags and bulb lit icons on the steering wheel buttons that don't get powered well and appear dim and off color in the E46 or newer BMWs that use LED lit icons on the steering wheel buttons. So getting an X3 or X5 wheel is a safe bet. Also you can get a complete X3 / X5 heated wheel on eBay within the $150 to $300 range.
This picture here shows the two types of X3 / X5 steering wheel. For this DIY you will need the wheel with the heated wheel icon and two wavy arrows pointing up on the button pod below the Cruise Control buttons. The other one with the circle of arrows icon for the AC recirculation and will not work in this retrofit.
I also lucked out with my Slip Ring acquisition. The Slip Rings do not have any set part numbering to differentiate them by function and according to the BMW P/N manifest all slip rings from the 1995 E38 7 series thru the current X3 models seem to have one shared part number regardless of if the slip ring is for Regular, SMG or Heated Steering Wheels. My best bet was just asking around for the slip ring from a heated steering wheel until I found found. It took me about 2 weeks to get the slip ring after I got the wheel and that delay was mainly due to the lack of specific parts number for the slip rings.
A great BMW Parts seller on eBay "Scubaa1" aka Scuba Steve hooked me up with the slip ring from a 2001 7 series for only $35 w/ free shipping and it arrived quickly and in mint condition. I totally recommend seeking him out for BMW parts as I will also use him in the future over those Junk Yard sellers that charge you Dealership prices for dirty used parts.
These are intro pictures of the wheel and it's parts as well as two more videos explaining all the elements of this retrofit.
Two videos introducing everything you need to know about the heated steering wheel and slip ring that BMW uses.
PART B: Removing Steering Wheel
This part is fairly easy and straight forward. For sport wheels with the round or triangular air bags the placement of the air bag bolts may be different.
JUST REMEMBER THAT YOUR BATTERY MUST BE COMPLETELY UNPLUGGED BEFORE TAKING THE AIRBAG OFF!!!!
PART C: Installing New Heated Steering Wheel Slip Ring and Heated Wheel
PART D: Adding Power/Ground to Heated Wheel and Finishing Touches
Comparing the LED brightness and hue between the E46 and heated X3 wheel. There is a slight difference
and I can't quite nail it down but it is hardly noticable.
The LED lets you know when the wheel heater is on and off.
I like this indicator because it reminds you to turn it off if you no longer need it whiles driving.
Congrads! Now go enjoy your new steering wheel!
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