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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hi all.

This is the story of how, as a massive car-tech noob, I got my SMG steering wheel and I retrofit it to my car.

So I bought my first E46 almost 5 months ago now and I'm still in love. The one main thing I wanted to change was the steering wheel. I had seen on the forum that people had swapped out their old wheels for SMG wheels with the gear paddles. Being an F1 fanatic, the idea of paddles, plus a nicer, thicker wheel was an attractive one. So I started my search. For a couple of months I looked on eBay every day hoping a cheaper nice looking wheel would show up. The good ones ranged from $750 to $1,500. A lot of money for a second hand wheel. I realised that there a few guys around the world (England and Poland and Latvia) that are refurbishing old wheels with re-wraps that can look pretty amazing. I decided it would be worth the money in the end, so I bought one from England. I wasn't stoked with the carbon fibre look on the bottom panel, but figured I could replace it. The guy ended up stuffing up my order anyway and refunded the money. So I went back to looking. I then found a guy in Poland who would custom make my wheel with the look I was after and the price was good for what I was getting. I bought one and he made it and posted it. It then disappeared in transit. I had tracked it out of Poland (he sent it with full tracking) but it never showed up in Sydney. Another refund (which was pretty good of the guy considering he was down a wheel). But then it miraculously arrived two months later (it seems Aussie customs had misplaced it). It looked awesome with great craftsmanship on the re-wrap. I payed for the wheel again. Stoked...finally!

Then comes the next issue - putting it on.

While I as waiting for it to arrive I watched and read every "How To" video on retrofitting an SMG wheel to a non-SMG car I could find (see links below). It looked doable, but with my non-technical background I didn't trust myself to do the job. I went to my local BMW dealership just to get a quote (I would never have paid for them to do it as they charge $270 per hour labour). They had never done one and were very interested in the idea, but said they couldn't do it because the part number on the wheel did not match my car. Ridiculous. They pointed me to Southern BM. The guys there were willing to give it a crack, but again, they had never done it and said they'd have to quote high because of the unknowns. He suggested I try it myself and if I got stuck to give him a call.

My choices were pay tons of money (which I don't have) to SouthernBM, or some other willing mechanic, or give it a crack myself (which scared the **** out of me because I didn't want to stuff up my very nice E46). I love driving, but always got my mates to fix my cars when I was younger because I'm useless at mechanical stuff.

I decided to give it a crack. Back to the forums and Youtube to re-read and re-watch everything a few times over.

First the wiring - I found a guy who had posted an OEM parts list and photos of his wiring loom with a vague diagram of how it was supposed to go together (I will post all of the links I used at the bottom). In the end I took my best guess at what the digram was telling me to do and just hoped I had fluked it and it would work. The good thing about this loom was that it meant I didn't have to cut any of the original wires in the car - so the retrofit can be reversed again by just unplugging the new loom. The wiring cost me $80 from BMW. In hindsight I would have just bought the OEM connectors from BMW and bought the wire and wire ends at somewhere like Jaycar as it would have saved a few bucks.

I also needed to replace the clock spring behind the steering wheel, as mine was missing a two wire connector on the front and back for the SMG paddles (The SMG Clock Spring is part number 61318379091 for my '06). You can buy them new from BMW for around 300. I found a second hand one in Sydney and had it shipped to Melbourne for $55.

I now had the wheel, the clock spring and the wires. Time to attack my car.

I disconnected the battery (after 15 minutes of trying to get the cover off) and waited 10 minutes to make sure the power had dissipated in the car (or you risk setting off your airbag light). Then as I started pulling up the boot on the gearstick I realised I may have bitten off more than I can chew. There seemed to be wires and connecters everywhere. Slight panic, but there was no turning back. I disconnected them, pulled out some screws and lifted it all up. I had no idea how I was going to get the wires through to the steering wheel, as there was no obvious gap. More panic. I turned to the wheel and began trying to take out the airbag. So far nothing was as easy as the Youtube videos said it would be and the Airbag was no exception. I finally got it out. I struggled with the steering column cover as it felt like it was about to break, but it finally popped open. Changing the clock spring was the first easy part. I swapped everything around and started looking for a way to get the wires through. I panicked once again when I realised I may have to remove the ashtray and radio consoles - which I started to do but stopped because I now knew I was definitely going to stuff something up. I took one last look and realised there was a small hole in the bottom of the steering column and I could feed the wires down the side of the centre console up to that hole. I fed it through and managed to find a way to the back of the clock spring. It was literally 1 inch too short! An easy but annoying fix, I just spliced the wires and added a few more inches.

Once I had it plugged in I had to work backwards and put the car back together. Everything went smoothly until the airbag. It went in very crooked. It took me ages to get it back out, try it again and get it back out. At this point I assumed the steering wheel was dodgy and I was about to swap out the insides with my old wheel, when I realised one of the airbag wires might be in the way. I moved them over and it went in straight! (I already had my airbag replaced via the recall, so it looks as new as the wheel). The only way to test if everything worked was to start the car. I hooked up the battery and started her up.

Quick test of the other bits...No wipers...I would worry about this later.

I started the car and put it in gear, then clicked over to sport mode for steptronic. At this point I was positive that it was not going to work and I had messed up the wiring. I pulled a paddle...Bam...M1. It worked!

Time for a test drive.

All I can say is, if you're thinking about doing this DO IT!!! It completely changes the drivability of the car (which was already impressive) and it's sooo much more fun and it even makes the car feel more powerful. So after a few months of searching, mucking around, stress and panic, I got an awesome M3 SMG steering wheel into my 325ci Sport.

The wipers were an easy one minute fix. I just hadn't plugged the switch back in properly.

I hope you enjoyed my story. If you made it this far you're probably thinking of doing this yourself. Good luck!

Here are links to the main posts and videos I used. I won't post a full "how to" as these guys have already done all that, but you can figure it out like I did from these resources.

I'm also happy to answer any questions.

EDIT: Since I finish the job yesterday I've realised that when in sport mode, this mod allows you to pull both paddles to get back to auto. Then just tap one paddle to get back to paddle changing. Very handy when coming across some traffic. This is different from the double pull mod in normal drive mode. That's a project for another day.

The steering wheel came from: http://www.gs-vintageparts.com/
They also have wheels on eBay, but he gives you a discount if you go direct. The guy was remarkably helpful when my wheel got lost in the post.

DIY Wiring Loom and parts list: http://forum.e46fanatics.com/showthread.php?t=895897
Instead of the soldering and shrink wrap that this guy does, I used wire joining clips from Jaycar - waaaay easier and quicker. ($5 for a bag that had just what I needed)
https://www.jaycar.com.au/crimp-wire-connectors-2-3-wire-pk-8/p/HP1214

Install guide: http://www.bmw330ci.net/projects/m3wheel.php

Videos

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-k88BPuqp0
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=efd9ViczlmI
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfZ8Gb36p98
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3Nd5p625aA


There may have been more, but these give a good start. (Don't completely follow the one that tells you to cut wires, you don't have to - see DIY Wiring Loom above).

Some photos of my experience:























 
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