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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I posted about a week ago just seeking any tips before I attempt to cecenter my steering wheel. I don't have the M3 wheel so I can't practice moving the spring clips for the air bag release. I tried to get at the clips but I didn't have any idea of what the hell I was doing. I thought that I was moving one but the airbag didn't get moved up at all. I gave up for fear that I would damage something. Any suggestions besides having the dealer do it next time I bring it in? Maybe that is the best solution.. -Cliff
 

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hockey-holic
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It's not too difficult. I replaced the plastic "two prong" part of the steering wheel with the aluminum part which also required removing the airbag.

The key is to get a fairly large standard screw driver blade that can fit through the access holes and push towards the center of the steering column. Feel you way around with out gouging. It took me a few minutes to get the right feel of what the spring clips felt like. Once you get it, you will see the airbag move a bit.

Once you get the airbag to move, pull out the side you are working on, hold the airbag, and go to the other side and do the same thing. Repeat the process until you get the airbag out. (push in the clips, pull out that side of the airbag....) Or get another pair of hands and two screw drivers and have someone pull out the airbag while simultaneously pushing in the spring clips.

If you're in the San Jose area, I'd be glad to lend a hand sometime.

Bob
 

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A few things:

-When you say "re-center" your steering wheel, what are you referring to? Is your steering wheel off-center now? If so, the right way to fix it is to have an alignment that sets the front and rear toe evenly and to spec. Of course, you could accomplish this by moving the steering wheel, but its really not the best way to go about it.

-If you're getting an M3 wheel and are considering installing it yourself, there are good instructions on www.bmw330ci.com. The spring clips are the same on the M3 wheel as they are on the 3 spoke sport wheel. You insert a long screwdriver into the holes on the back of the wheel and push a metal clip inwards-- if you do this successfully the airbag hub will pop out on that side. WHen you do both sides, you'll be able to pull the airbag out, and disconnect the wires. Remember to disconnect the battery first. Anyway, BMW330ci.com has better installation instructions. Its actually not that hard to install the sport and M3 wheels- but make sure you have a 16mm socket and a torque wrench so that you can tighten the steering wheel bolt properly.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
Bob, good instructions. I will take another crack at it. The screw driver I was using was long but also very thin with a small thin head so maybe that is part of the problem. I actually live in NY so I can't take you up on the offer. But, that was most kind of you. Thanks, V


Robg, yes, the wheel is off center right now. When the car came from the factory, the wheel was off. So, I brought it to the dealer and said that I need an alignment. They did the alignment but it still was off center. So, then, I brought it back to them and said recenter the wheel since the car is not pulling to one side, the alighnement seems fine. They recenter the wheel but they over compensated and now it's too much turned to the left. First, it was turned to the right, now, it's turned to the left. Do I still need to go get another alignment? I figure that if I loosen the steering bolt and re align the spline marks, and it's still off center, than for sure it needs a 4 wheel alignment. If after I do that and my problem is solved, then I would assume that they just didn't alight the mark on the steering when and the one on the collum. Is that correct to think? Thanks, Cliff
 

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Cliff-

Okay-- you asked for it-- here comes my brain dump on alignments (i've subjected others on the board to this before):
Having been through many alignments (long story), I can safely say that your dealer screwed up. They moved the steering wheel to compensate, which is an imperfect method because the splines don't allow for that fine a "granularity" of adjustment. I think you should probably check that the steering wheel is indeed aligned on its centering mark (which i'm betting its not), and then take it back. Here are some of the reasons why the steering wheel can be off center after an alignment:
The basic cause for the wheel being off center is that the toe angles are not even on each side.
-Sometimes, dealer techs don't even bother to set the toe evenly, they just set the toe so that the "Total toe" is within spec. For example a total toe of .22 (which is in spec) could be achieved by setting one side to .06 and the other to .15. The result would be that the steering is crooked. Check your alignment printout for this.
-The other thing that can go wrong is that they don't bother properly centering the steering wheel and locking it in place before doing the alignment. Obviously, the steering will be off center in this scenario as well. If they set the toe evenly, the steering wheel will have to be in the same off-center position ot go straight
-Another issue is improper calibration or setup of the alignment rack. Most alignment racks need to be calibrated using a certain procedure. Also, when the alignment is done, the car needs to be brought to a specific ride height using weights. BMW writes their specs for a known point in the suspension travel-- if they don't use weights to bring the car into the "normally loaded position", the alignment isn't true.
-A less likely (but possible) problem is that the dealer only does a 2 wheel alignment. If the rear toe is uneven, it creates a "thrust angle" to one side or another. In a full 4 wheel alignment, the rear toe is first set evenly to minimize this thrust angle, and then the front toe is adjusted evenly. IN a "thrust angle" alignemnt, the rear toe is not adjusted, but it is measured and the front toe is set to compensate for the "thrust angle" in the rear-- and if done right, your steering willl be straight. If the alignement sensors are only placed on the front wheels, the rear thrust angle isn't taken into account, so if the rear toe is at all uneven the steering will need to be off center to compensate.

Its always possible to sort of mask the effects of uneven toe by bumping the steering wheel over-- but its really not the "right" or most precise thing to do. And actually you don't even need an alignment rack to correct the problem. You could even adjust the tie rods yourself-- if the steering is off center to the right, that means that there is more toe-in on the right-- so you could adjust it by turning the right tie rod to lengthen it, and turning the left tie rod an equal amount to shorten it. Using trial and error, the steering can be centerd in usually about 3 tries at most. This was the old fashioned way of centering the steering wheel prior to the advent of these computerized racks-- but it seems like it might actually work better than poorly calibrated computers. If your feeling like a "shade tree mechanic", you might give this a shot-- but I don't exactly condone it.

Anyway, you shouldn't need to do that. Correct the steering wheel so that its on its centering mark, and take it back to have the toe adjusted properly-- and that a real 4 wheel alignmetn is done w/ the right weights. You might try requesting that a more senior tech work on it. I've found that often dealers put there most junior people on alignments because its perceived to be an "idiot proof" job since the computer "does all the work". In my case, I ended up going to 3 dealerships and going through about 6 aligments before my steering wheel was straight. You may just want to go to a different dealer-- try to find one with a Beissbarth alignment rack--they're the best and that's what BMW AG uses-- but not many dealers have them. Sorry to scare you with all of this-- its really not that hard and I don't know why so many dealers can't get it right. And don't let them give you the "its tjust he road crown story" either! :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
humm

robg.. wow, you belong behind the podium! Ok, here's the deal. i don't feel comfortable to adjust anything myself as far as tie rods and stuff. I will just go back to the dealer when I have an oil change and request this machanic that I know who is supposed to be very good. I will talk to him directly and ask him to do a 4 wheel alignment with the weights and all that stuff. Now, for the wheel centerness, if it is centered exactly according to the marks, then it's definatly the alignment. If they didn't center the wheel so they can aviod the alignment procedure, I will be pissed.:mad: To tell you the truth, I tried to get at the air bag yesterday and I still can't get the feekin thing out!! I followed the firections exactly from 330ci. The problem is, when I put the screw driver in at about 2:30 I feel a spring and I can move the screw driver back and forth alittle. The airbag moves alitttle but I don't think how it's being described. It doesn't move up. When I stick it in there, am I pushing the spring back toward the steering collum or and I pushing it forward towrd me in the drivers seat? I really think that if i had an extra wheel to practice on, it would orient me because I am doing this without vision and only tactile feel. Thanks for the oration. I just got my education. -Cliff

p.s., What's the "inner side" of the clip spring that they are talking about on 330ci? I don't quite understand that part.
 

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Ah, too bad you're not local. Anyhow, the push should be towards the steering column and not towards the driver. If you get the spring right (as I recall, you only need about 1/4-1/2" of movement), the airbag will only move a bit. Don't expect it to "pop" out. You have to pull on the airbag (towards the driver) the same side out that you're pushing on. Do the same for the other side. Eventually, the airbag should be free of the springs to take out fully.

Good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I got it!

I was interpreting the directions incorrectly. I finally took the airbag out. BUT, I found out the torque wrench I bought isn't strong enough. It's in Inch-LBS and also has Newton Meters on the other side. I did a conversion and 59 Foot LBS comes out to something like 708 Inch-LBS. My torque wrench doesn't go up to that. So, I have to go back to Sears and exchange it for one in the correct metric.
p.s. THANKS TO ALL WHO HELPED ME WITH THIS!!! I appreciate the persistent tips. -Cliff

go here and you can see the conversion.

http://www.onlineconversion.com/torque.htm
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
thanks..

robg, thanks for the help. I eventually got the air bag out and loosened the bolt also. I checked the wheel marker and column marker and they were exactly lined up. So, it is most certainly an alignmnet issue with the tie rods and all that stuff that you mentioned in your "BMW 101" class lecture a few responses up. I will have the dear adjust it when I bring it in for my next oil change. Thanks again for the friendliness. :D -Cliff
 
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