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240SX's Steering Wheel Swap
If you are in a giving mood  

Probably one of the more intimidating processes is swapping out the factory steering wheel.  The steering wheel houses the airbag, the horn and cruise control, if equipped.  In almost every case, I've seen individuals abandon each function.  Through a little planning, trial and error, and a bit of research, I came up with a solution that allows for the use of the horn and the cruise control.  In this case, and in most, the airbag is being eliminated.  This process is specific to the S14 however, it may be applicable for other Nissans.  The wheel being installed is a Momo Fighter Wheel with a Momo hub.

Disclaimer:  The airbag should only be removed for off road or racing purposes only. 

Tools Necessary:

  • socket set
  • wire cutters
  • wire crimper
  • soldering iron
  • hand drill and drill set
  • 1/4" wide brass strip (purchased at local hobby shop)
  • T-50 security tamper proof Torx bit
Note:  T-50 security tamper proof Torx bit can be purchased from McMaster-Carr  
T50 tamper-resistant L-key
item #55525A34
Cost: $4.02

You may want to disconnect the battery and wait about 15-30 minutes before you start this process.  You risk having the airbag deploy and cause serious injury if you don't disconnect the battery.  I would start by disconnecting the airbag computer which is located under the rear seat.  I chose to remove the entire airbag system, both the one located on the passenger side and the drivers side.  It is possible to leave the other bag in place, but it will not operate if one is missing.  Given that, I will start with the removal of the dash, passenger side airbag and the airbag/horn/cruise control harness.  

Dash removal:

This process is much easier that it sounds.  Start by removing the climate control console, radio console and center console.  Behind the radio, you'll find two extra screws in the dash.  Remove them.   Remove the glove box and then remove the 3 screws that hold down the metal frame.  Remove the knee bolster under the steering wheel.  Remove the metal plate (4 bolts) that is under the steering wheel.  Once that is out of the way, remove the two large bolts that hold the steering column in place.  Once the column drops, remove the instrument cluster bezel then the instrument cluster.  Take a moment to remove the Airbag light.  You'll thank yourself later.  Once the cluster is out, remove the single screw that you see behind it.  

Almost there!  Next, use a blade screwdriver and carefully remove the thin windshield vent on the top of the dash.  Once that's out, remove the two screws that you find there.  On each side of the dash, there is a vent that feeds the doors.  Remove the vents and remove the screw that you find behind each.  On the passenger side, there is one more screw near the kick panel.  Remove the door sills and the kick panels.  At this point, the dash is free as a bird.  Carefully lift and pull away.  

Once you are under the dash, remove the 4 tamper proof torx bolts that hold down the passenger side airbag.  Pull it out and set it aside.  (If you are not using the factory stereo amplifiers, you can take a second to remove them now)

By now, you should have realized that the airbag harness is wrapped in yellow tape and conduit.  Remove the entire harness from the passenger side bag, to the steering wheel and back to the computer under the rear seat.  To get at the computer, remove the rear seat, the metal cover and then remove the tamper proof torx bolts.   The harness joins the interior harness near the passenger side of the radio near the floor.   Once the harness is out, set it aside.  You'll need to modify this harness for the cruise control.

Once you've pulled the harness, you can reinstall the dash, but leave out the radio and other misc pieces.  You'll need the access to the harness plug that's there.

Steering wheel removal:

 If you don't plan to remove the passenger side airbag, you can start here.  Start by removing the plastic cover on the left hand side of the wheel, and then remove the cruise control cap (if equipped) or plastic cover on the right side.  Remove the tamper proof torx bolts form each side.

Once you get the airbag out of the way, Remove the large bolt in the center of the wheel

After you remove the nut, you can "wiggle" the steering wheel off.  Disconnect the harness and set the wheel aside.  You will need to remove the "spiral" piece.  This is essentially the device that allows the harness to pass through to the wheel and allow the wheel to turn.  It will not fit between the column and the aftermarket steering wheel hub.  Once that is out of the way, you will discover a blue ring.  This ring is the device that cancels the turn signal.  You will have to modify the Momo hub to maintain the turn signal cancel function.  

Here's a shot of the "spiral" piece along with the hacked airbag harness.  I'll get to that in a bit.

"spiral" left over wires and the cruise harness

Here's a shot of the blue ring:

Turn signal cancel ring

The first thing that needs to be done, is center the new wheel.  This can be a bit tricky and ends up being a trial and error process.  At least, that's the way it worked out for me.  My Momo wheel came with an extra set of screws that I used to mount the wheel (without the horn cover) to the hub.  Eyeball the alignment the best that you can and hand tighten the nut.  If you can, take the car out and check your alignment.  

Temporary For alignment purposes

Once you get it right, carefully mark the hub and the center of the steering column.  I made three marks which seemed to be more helpful.  You'll need to have the wheel aligned before you take care of the turn signal cancel.  This is important for the proper operation of the turn signal cancel.  Mark the top of the hub and pull the wheel back off.  Remove the blue ring and take note that the 3 pegs are not equally spaced.  The bottom pegs are closer together than the top peg. 

For S14's, break off the tabs on the Momo hub.  The tabs are necessary for S13's.  Carefully line up the top peg with the mark you made on the hub and then center the ring on the hub.  Mark the location of each peg.  Using a drill bit that is slightly larger than the peg, drill a hole next to each mark that you made (see pic below).  It is important that this piece is centered.  Test fit the blue ring and make sure that it can lay flush to the back of the hub.  Once that is done, pop the blue ring back onto the column.

Holes Drilled for Turn Signal Cancel ring Shot of the turn signal cancle ring with repsect to the hub

Momo only makes a hub for the S13.  That is where the two pegs come in to play as well as the metal slip ring.  The metal slip ring is used for the horn on S13's and with the modification that I made, for S14's as well.  Originally, I removed the slip ring in favor of loop of wires.  DO NOT use a loop of wires

Wiring the horn:

My original attempt at wiring the horn was an utter failure.  I apologize for anyone that had the same problems that I did using my instructions.  However, I've come up with a solution that is fool proof.  Using the metal slip ring provided with the hub, I was able to properly wire the horn.

I picked up a strip of 1/4" brass from my local hobby shop and bent it for proper contact with the slip ring.

After I bent the tab into the shape that I wanted, I determined where to mount the metal tab and marked where the hole will be drilled.

You may notice in the picture, that the metal tab lays over one of the factory "spiral cable" mounting holes.  I chose to use this hole to mount the tab.

Once I drilled the holes, I test fit the tab.

I was originally going to use two screws and drill into the steering column, but I discovered that using one screw was more than enough.  It also saved me a potentially damaging hole in the steering column.  You will also notice, that I bent the tab over the top of the column.  This will allow the wire a path behind the wheel and keep it away from moving parts.

Once I was satisfied with fit, I soldered a wire long enough to meet the cruise harness (more on that soon)

With the wire soldered and crimped, I attached the tab to the steering column using one of the original "spiral cable" screws.  I also used a star washer to make sure that it will not move.

Here are a few shots from the side showing the alignment.

Finally, a few shots from the front.

With the tab and wiring finished, you can move on to wiring the hub.

I chose to hardwire the horn button to the hub.  I drilled a small hole and attached a piece of wire using a ring connector.   I passed this out through the middle of the hub (same place the other wire should be hanging out of now).   Once all the wiring is in place, set the hub back on the column, tighten the main nut and get ready to attach the wheel. 

Wire grounded to hub  Hard wired horn button

Set the wheel on the hub and attach one wire to the middle tab on the horn button and solder the other wire to the metal loop on the side.   Place the horn button and cover on the wheel and use the supplied screws to attach the wheel.

Finished wheel installation

At this point, you still won't have a horn, but I'm getting to that.

Finally, the cruise control:

You'll need to dig up the harness that you set aside earlier.  I went through the trouble of stripping all of the tape and conduit.  I discovered that if you don't use the airbags, you can cut the harness down to  three wires.  A Green/White wire, Green/Yellow wire, and Green/Orange wire.

Modified Airbag/Cruise control harness

If you decide to use the buttons that are attached to the wheel, you'll need to extract the harness from the wheel.  For temporary use, I setup the harness to use the factory buttons.  If you look at the diagram, you'll see the color combinations that you'll need.  I removed the harness from the back of the "spiral" and spliced it into the harness that attaches to the buttons.  

Button harness to "spiral" harness

Red -> Brown
Blue -> Green
Yellow -> Blue

 The other red wire, that is on the opposite end from the other three will attach to the horn wire that you set earlier (see, I told you I would get to it).

Now, if you are adventurous, you can setup your own buttons. You'll need to go and pick up a few parts.  Nothing big.  I decided to use Radio Shack's 275-644 push buttons and a pair of diodes.  The FSM provides a really good circuit diagram for the cruise buttons:

FSM cruise control button wiring diagram

Using the FSM diagram, I came up with this diagram:

"hand" drawn diagram

Finally a "cruise for dummies" diagram provided by Bill Courtney

With this, you can start to wire the buttons.  Use your own discretion on where you want to mount the buttons.  I chose the steering column cover for the simple reason that they can easily be reached through the spokes.  I'll let the pictures do the talking from here.

buttons from the front buttons from the top buttons from behind Button wiring close up of harness and button wiring Completed Cruise Control Harness New Cruise Buttons Button Wiring Cruise wiring through the column Slick isn't it? Couldn't be much more descrete! Yep, that's my leg in the picture  Ignore the dirty floormat!

Basically, when you build your own cruise buttons, you need to try and "emulate" the original unit.  The two green wires are essentially the two red wires that came out of the factory harness.  One for the horn wire and the other goes into the factory harness.  The colors that I chose were random.

If you don't have cruise control, all you will need to use is the Green/White wire.

To wrap it up, connect all of the harness plugs to the respective homes, button up any loose pieces and enjoy your fully functional aftermarket steering wheel.  Plus, you can tell everyone that you have a 3-stage NOS setup....just tell them the bottles are empty!

As always, I'm more than happy to offer help.  Email me with any questions or comments regarding this write-up.