Steering Wheel Removal & Replacement (WJ)


Steering wheel shot and a cover isn't going to cut it? Swap your old wheel for a new one!

OK, a little honesty here. This is the second time I've attempted this. The first time failed miserably when every off the shelf gear and bearing puller available was ineffective. I even attempted to get the special service tool from Mopar. Glad I couldn't score one - it would have been a waste of money.

After my first failed attempt, I searched a number of sites to find out where I went wrong. Well, I really didn't go wrong anywhere - the steering wheel is just a bear to get off. A big THANK YOU to "sblaineZJ" who gave me another idea to get it off in this thread.. The idea? Drill the existing steering wheel aluminum so a steering wheel puller that uses bolts instead of jaws could be used. Excellent idea!

So here's the writeup...

My wheel was all worn, lumpy and just plain nasty. When I bought the Jeep 4 years ago the wheel was pretty nasty already and it just got worse with time. Here's the subject:

Worn Wheel
First thing to do is pull the airbag. Before you do this, you should remove the negative battery terminal. To remove the air bag, there are two 8mm bolts that must be removed from the back of the upper steering wheel arms. These are in the wheel at about a 45 degree angle from the steering column (take a look). Once you realize this, you won't be fighting them.

Screws to remove
With the bolts out, the airbag can be pulled from the wheel after unhooking the two wires. The white molex has a trigger that needs to be released before it will pull apart. The yellow cable pulls straight out. Set the airbag aside until reassembly time.

Airbag Module
Here's what you see after the airbag is out. Now remove the center nut that locks the wheel in place. It takes a 7/8" socket.

Airbag Removed
Now the messy stuff... Time to drill! I held my puller up to the center nut and lined up where I'd drill. Start small with the drill bit as it has a tendency to walk around a little (I think because the aluminum is different thicknesses behind the front flange. Be careful not to drill into the clockspring directly behind the wheel framework. What will help is putting tape around the drill bit at the desired depth to stop at (hold bit with fingers slightly above the clockspring and get a distance to mark with tape).

Drilling for Puller
Thread the side bolts through the puller and thread them into the steering wheel metal. (I had forgotten to remove the nut in this pic had to take it back apart). I used the fine thread bolts that came with my puller which worked well.

Puller in Place
Thread the center puller bolt in, but before you go to town, unplug the black wire from the steering wheel cruise and radio buttons from the clockspring. Now you are ready to pull the wheel!

Preparing to Pull Wheel Off
Here it is with the wheel off...

Wheel Removed
Now that the wheel is off, you can strip your cruise and radio buttons. This only takes the removal of the two silver philips screws shown. The back piece holds the wiring and is removed by pushing the two plastic clips near the center off of the arms

Old Wheel on the Bench
Here's what you are left with:

Cruise buttons removed
And here's the back piece and related wiring/buttons awaint install into the new wheel.

Back Shroud and Radio Controls removed
Here's the new wheel. Mine came with a new back trim piece which I chose to not use. I didn't see the benefit of messing with all the wiring and switches if I didn't have to. So, the new back cover was removed.

Rear Shroud and Buttons
Reassemble the steering wheel in the reverse order that you removed it. I found it a tight fit where the cruise buttons met the leather wheel, but just work it to get the buttons seated and screw them down. Looks nice back together...

Rear Shroud and Buttons Back
Back on it goes. The sheering shaft and the steering wheel mount are keyed - meaning there's only one way it goes back on, so don't worry about getting your wheels perfectly straight prior to pulling the old wheel. Looks good finished - the color is closer than the pictures indicate.

New Wheel
There you have it!

The wheel is a taper fit on the splined stud that it fits over. To get the wheel on, you need to use a little force to get it started, but when you crank down the nut, that's what seats it down the whole way. That nut really isn't holding it on - the press fit that it provides when tightened down is.

NOTE:  Some folks are lucky enough to be able to use a two arm gear or bearing puller to get the wheel off - I wasn't so lucky. Every armed puller I used was either too big to fit between the wheel and the clock spring, or the arms were too weak and slipped off the wheel. This drill and tap method works for the easy ones as well as the tough ones.  The Jeep FSM recommends the jaw type puller method, however they specify a special Jeep Service Tool (which you can't buy - I tried)

Gallery: Steering Wheel R&R (WJ)

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