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Thread: BMW E36 MF Steering Wheel Retrofit

  1. #1
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    BMW E36 MF Steering Wheel Retrofit

    The 3 series BMW E36 replaced the E30 in 1990 before it was in turn replaced by the E46 in 2000.

    The E46 brought to the 3 series the MF Steering wheel buttons that the 5 and 7 Series already had.

    It also brought a much improved iBus which allowed communication between many electronic devices.

    The E36 at best had a very simple iBus which enabled communication between the Radio and a CD Player.

    So, the plan, replace the current E36 non-MF steering wheel with a similar E46 MF steering wheel.


    The current standard E36 Sports Steering Wheel.





    And now the one I want to replace it, a MF Steering Wheel from an Early E46.






    So, they look the same on the outside, except for the buttons, so it should be an easy swap right?



    However, lets look at the underside, just to make sure.


    E36





    E46



    Now the centre fitment where the cogs are looks the same size and number, however the fitment for the slip ring looks different.

    Let's confrim that by looking at the respective slip rings (aka clock springs)


    E36





    E46



    Yep, they are definitely different.

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    Modification starts.

    A bit of cutting and a bit of filling with metal based filler gets us a shape similar to a E36 base on our donor E46 steering wheel.

    Unfortunately I don't have pictures of the steps to get to this point, but basically I made a plaster mould of the E36 base, trimmed the E46 where necessary, put the metal filler in the mould and then pressed the E46 steering wheel base into it. Then broke the plaster mould and was left with what you see.




    At this point the project was put on hold for quite a while as I was having difficulty getting the extra connections from the E46 through the E36 slip ring.

    It was then brought to my attention by KennyKen that the E39 actually had a similar slipring to the E36 but also had the MF connections.

    An E39 slip ring was duly obtained and sure enough, the fitting is the same and it does have the extra connectors required.




    Here's the E39 slip ring, complete with the 3 extra wires going through it that do the iBus and cruise control. The Ground for the iBus is common with the horn, so the third wire takes +12v to the switches.





    Now the connectors at the steering coloumn end are the same as the E36, so should just plug in. I have obtained some extra pins to go in the longer connector for the iBus and 12v, these will be extended to the back of the car where the PC is.




    however the connectors inside the steering wheel don't altogether match up, the iBus, 12v, GND are cruise do actually match up as they have the same end connector which plugs into the switch boards. However the airbag and horn on the E46 have a 4 way plug, whereas on the E36 the airbag was a two way and the horn had a spade and loop connector.





    A quick bit of soldering and some heat shrink and we now have a male connector for the Airbag and horn.


    <Insert picture here when available>


    Here is the Slip ring connected to the back of the steering wheel.




    And this is how it will look with the airbag in place





    Now to fit it into the car.

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    OK, installing it into the car.

    Well first we need to get the old one out.






    First thing to do is disconnect the battery and leave for at least 30 mins, this is required to ensure the Airbag doesn't accidently go off.


    Once the 30 mins has passed we start by removing the airbag.

    NB it is also recommended that you have the front wheels straight when doing all this.

    The airbag is connected by two torx screws at the back of the steering wheel, they are Torx 30, I recommend getting a right angle Torx 30 to undo this with.


    Once undone the airbag should just lift out and there will be two connectors to remove.





    To remove the steering wheel you will then need to remove the bolt in the middle, this can be done with a 16mm (or was it 17mm) wrench and a bit of effort.


    Before removing the steering wheel look at the notch on the inner column (this is the centering notch) mark the steering wheel column where that notch is.




    Next there are two connectors from the slip ring that need to be undone from the steering coloumn





    Once undone the steering wheel should just lift off.


    I can drive my car with no steering wheel (well I can't but hey?)








    Next, fitting the new one.

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    Time to put the new one on.

    This should basically be the reverse of the removal of the old one.

    Slide the steering wheel on, making sure the notch lines up with the mark you previously made on the column. (you did make a mark on the column, didn't you?)





    Connect the two slip ring connectors, and the one airbag connector and then slide the airbag on






    Voila!


    Now you can reconnect the Battery connections and hope that there is no airbag warning light.


    Next stage, connecting the iBus connections to the iBus interface and subsequently the PC.

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    F.a.q.

    Q. Why did you use one of the early E46 steering wheels and not one of the later ones, or an ///M one?

    A
    . The later steering wheels have a two stage airbag, whereas the E36 and early E46 ones only have a single stage airbag. Also I quite like having an E36 wheel but with buttons.

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    Very cool. Do you have the Reslers interface or did you make your own?
    (my MFL mod here)

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    Looks good, glad I'm not the only one doing this sort of thing.

    Yes, I have the Reslers interface, and have tested it indoors with the wheel using iBusAnalyser.

    I have also tested it with RoadRunner using the iBussRR plugin.

    Next step is to connect it in the car. The wires have been run to where the PC is, but the PC has been out since beginning of August to get the PSU reflashed.

    I have just put the PC back in so will try and connect the Steering wheel to it over the next few days.



    *edit oh yeah at some point I will see if I can use the Cruise Control buttons as extra inputs for the PC. (But lets get the main ones working first )

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enforcer View Post
    Q. Why did you use one of the early E46 steering wheels and not one of the later ones, or an ///M one?

    A
    . The later steering wheels have a two stage airbag, whereas the E36 and early E46 ones only have a single stage airbag. Also I quite like having an E36 wheel but with buttons.
    I've done this in my E36 M3. I installed the E46 M3 steering wheel .. it literally transformed the car .. and the thickness of the wheel is crazy !

    I did it the same way However, the airbag will not work cause the E46 is double stage!

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