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Here’s a complete DIY guide for swapping out the stock Element steering wheel for a leather one from a Honda Pilot.

I found my Pilot steering wheel on eBay. I looked at various parts sources on the Internet and concluded that eBay is much cheaper. I got my wheel for $35 plus shipping but since you could pay $150 or more through an Internet dealer anything under $75 seems like a pretty good deal to me.

This is a simple job if you have the right tools and have a modest amount mechanical ability. Do not attempt this mod if you do not have the proper tools. You will need the following…

  • 1/4” drive ratchet and extension
    3/8” drive ratchet and extension
    1/4” drive Torx T30 socket bit (for 2 airbag bolts)
    1/4” drive Torx T40 socket bit (for 4 horn plate bolts)
    3/8” drive 14mm socket (for steering wheel bolt)
    Philips head screwdriver (for various trim pieces)
Once you have the proper tools, make sure you’ll be working in a well lit area. The whole process takes about 30 minutes if you take your time and follow these instructions precisely. Let’s begin.

Step 1: Turn off the horn!

When you remove the two airbag bolts the horn will sound unless you do something about it first. All you have to do is open the hood, find the fuse box on the driver’s side near the battery and squeeze the four tabs together to take the lid off. Once the lid is off, find the 15 amp fuse for the horn and remove it. There is a fuse puller right inside the box for this purpose. See the diagram below…



Step 2: Remove the airbag bolts

Get out your 1/4” drive ratchet and extension and snap on the Torx T30 bit. Take out one bolt on each side of the airbag. Extract the bolts from the holes and put them in a safe place. See the picture below…



Step 3: Remove the airbag

In order to remove the airbag once the bolts are removed carefully pull it towards you until you can reach behind the airbag and disconnect the large yellow wire clip. Set the airbag aside. See the picture below…



Step 4: Take a good look!
Make a mental note, or a drawing, or use the picture below to remember how things are laid out at this point. This is important since you’ll need to put things back exactly this way when done.



Step 5: Prepare to remove the steering wheel

Make sure the wheel is straight. Disconnect the black wire clip on the left and the green wire clip on the right. Get out your 3/8” drive ratchet and extension and snap on the 14mm socket. Remove the center bolt. Put the bolt in a safe place. See the picture below…



Step 6: Remove the steering wheel

Again, be sure wheel is straight. Gently but firmly pull the wheel towards you with a left-to-right rocking motion. As you pull the wheel off be careful not to catch the wire clips on the steering wheel as they pass through the center hole! After removal, let the wires dangle freely. IMPORTANT: Do not touch or spin the white airbag plate on the column! More info on this issue here.
 

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...continued from previous post.

Step 7: Begin swapping over steering wheel components

1. Remove the two plastic side brackets on the front of the steering wheel using your Philips head screw driver. There are two screws for each piece. Set them aside in a safe place.
2. Remove the four gold bolts on the horn plate by using your 1/4” drive ratchet and extension with a Torx T40 bit. Lift plate off with bolts intact being careful to also take the springs with it.
3. Remove the large plastic back trim cover from the steering wheel by removing four Philips head screws. Transfer the back trim cover over to the new steering wheel and secure all four screws. Do not over tighten.
4. Remove the two Philips head screws in the counter weight and transfer to the new steering wheel.
5. Transfer springs, and horn plate with bolts over to the new steering wheel and secure bolts tightly but do not over tighten.
6. Transfer the two plastic side brackets over to the new steering wheel, securing them with 4 Philips head screws. Do not over tighten.

Before:


After:


Step 8: Install the new steering wheel

1. Route the three wires through the rectangular opening underneath the steering wheel bolt hole.
2. Align wheel and white airbag plate so that they are straight and centered with two side posts and push the wheel firmly on to the post. Check for straightness before proceeding. Repeat procedure if necessary if wheel is off center.
3. Replace and secure 14mm steering wheel center bolt.
4. Connect and route all wires exactly as shown in the picture on step 4.
5. Connect airbag wire clip and reinstall airbag with the two Torx T30 bolts from step 2.
6. Reinstall horn fuse as shown in step 1. Test horn. Reinstall fuse puller and secure fuse box lid. Close hood.

Almost done…


Installation is complete!

Here is a picture of the finished project…
 

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Well done! I would only add disconnecting the negative battery cable before doing anything. Sometimes disconnecting the airbag sets an error in the airbage computer, and you'll need a trip to the dealer to reset it.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Taking the negative cable off in place of removing the horn fuse is not a bad idea. As far as the warning light coming on though, I believe this will only happen if you switch the ignition on while the airbag is removed. The internal computer always does a check for the airbag at startup and if it's not there the computer flags it.
 

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Two questions:
How do you like the new wheel?

What are the Pilot people swapping into their vehicles that is making their steering wheels pop up for sale?

(BTW, great tutorial - you are a great asset to the club)
 

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[quote:89d7cbeb21="Slowhand"]What are the Pilot people swapping into their vehicles that is making their steering wheels pop up for sale?[/quote:89d7cbeb21]

Strangely enough, Element steering wheels. ;)
 

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Slowhand said:
Two questions:
How do you like the new wheel?

What are the Pilot people swapping into their vehicles that is making their steering wheels pop up for sale?
On the feel: I love it. It's buttery soft and it has the right thickness.

On the wheel availability - ya know, I have no idea how people are getting their hands on these at such a price - mine was new in the honda parts box so it wasn't a swap-out. Like I've said before, you can spend $150 or better on this from any parts dealer. I can't imagine how much the actual dealer cost is but I can't imagine its less than what I paid!?!

I feel lucky to have gotten my hands on this (no pun intended) for the price that I did. It makes driving my E just a little more enjoyable.

And BTW, thank you for the compliment - remember, the best Element content is right here at elementownersclub.com!
 

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My dealer told me that the leather wheels are the swap outs from the folks that get the wood wheel. Maybe Honda ships the Pilots with the wheel not installed, as the one I got off Ebay was in a Honda box as well.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Oh right, come to think of it there IS a wood steering wheel for the Pilot too. They must be the leftovers from that option.

The box is probably from the wood steering wheel that gets shipped to the dealer.
 

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Just writing to say "Thanks eMass!" for the excellent guide to swapping the steering wheel for the Pilot leather wheel. I went real slow and it took all of 45 minutes. Had a brief worry when I noticed that it was making a light rubbing noise while turning. Thought it was a wire or the SRS cable that was awry. Got home and was about to take the airbag off to examine more closely and noticed that the small rectangular cover on the underside of the back wasn't installed properly. Reinstalled it, and the sound is gone.
I printed your guide and had it at the E with me. Very helpful.

For anyone contemplating doing this, I encourage you to not wait. The leather wheel is exactly the same as the standard steering wheel in every dimension and looks exactly the same installed - except you'll be enjoying fine leather. The leather wheel feels s-o-o-o good.
 

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Wowee! I was thinking the same thing. That quite a difference in price.

Emass, I don't see much of the air bag in the pictures you posted. Can yu speak to how delicately it has to be handled? Does it come out nicely but itself or flop about?
 

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Discussion Starter #15
I just placed it on the passenger side seat. It comes out very easily once the two bolts are out. I handled it pretty delicately just to be safe.

You can see it a little in the picture on step 8.
 

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Hmm, still a little reluctant to play with the air bag by myself. I may look into getting friendly mechanic to do this if I get the new steering wheel.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Hi Iskie,

I appreciate your eye for safety but there really is no way you can set off the airbag without an extremely specific sequence of events that happen within milliseconds involving multiple sensors plus the car needs to be in motion, engine running, etc, etc. :D

Think about it - if the airbag were so sensitive that you had to handle it like a live grenade would they allow every driver to push on it as a horn button? :?

If it's so electrically sensitive that it can't be disconnected without going off, how many honda techs do you think are willing to work on them? :shock:

If you're still concerned, the best way to protect yourself would be to disconnect the battery before you begin. The probability of the airbag popping for no reason at all after that is probably about one in 900 Trillion. :lol:
 

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Looks like a lot of people are interested in doing the swap out, perhaps as a result of this step by step. The price of a Pilot Steering wheel on Ebay has about doubled :(
 
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