There are certain items that we use every time we drive our vehicles, and often these parts are simply taken for granted instead of appreciated. A vehicle's steering wheel is one of those pieces, and so long as the one in your car operates correctly, it probably goes unnoticed. The steering wheel is more important than you think, however, as it is the direct link between the driver and the vehicle's steering system. Optimum driver control greatly depends on not only placement, but the design of the steering wheel as well as the materials the wheel is made of. Further, most modern vehicles have control switches for the radio, cruise control, the navigation system, and more located on the steering wheel, enhancing driver convenience. The most important safety factor of a late-model Mopar's steering wheel is undoubtedly the airbag, which may also scare some enthusiasts away from tackling a job like changing the steering wheel themselves. Fortunately, Grant is offering a new line of airbag steering wheels that are a definite improvement over the factory wheel, and are easy to install as well.
We've been enjoying our '09 Dodge Challenger R/T for some time now, and while we've modified our vehicle's exterior, engine, suspension, and drivetrain, the car's interior has remained relatively untouched. Chrysler did a great job of designing the interiors of their new LX and LY line of vehicles, which are very comfortable and user-friendly. Additionally, the seats in our R/T model offer nearly infinite adjustability as well as side-bolstering for support while cornering and driving aggressively. And while we have upgraded our older Mopars with more modern parts like seats, harnesses, and steering wheels, we didn't consider upgrading the steering wheel for our late-model Dodge until we saw Grant's new "Revolution" product line at a recent trade show.
Knowing what a pain it is to even change the turn-signal switch in a classic Mopar's steering column, we initially made the incorrect assumption that swapping the steering wheel in a late-model car would be even more difficult. Knowing most owners would share our same fear, Grant went to great lengths designing this line of modern steering wheels to not only be ergonomically superior to the factory wheel, but to be easy to install as well. After reading their instructions we were convinced we could accomplish the task without blowing the airbag and causing injury, so we ordered their black steering wheel with gray leather inserts to match the gray inserts of our factory black leather seats.
Through experience we've learned that it's often better to read the instructions before diving into a job like this, so we opened our package from Grant and admired the new steering wheel, while educating ourselves with the included literature. The Grant instructions are clear and concise, and begin with the step of disconnecting the battery of the vehicle for a minimum of five minutes prior to beginning the swap to prevent accidental airbag deployment. During deployment, the airbag is filled rapidly with a very high pressure gas, usually from a small cylinder inside the airbag unit (or under the dash on older vehicles). To allow the gas to pass rapidly into the bag, the cylinder is opened by a pyrotechnic squib, which uses stored battery energy for ignition. By removing the negative battery cable the batteries circuit is broken, and the airbag squibs slowly lose their stored energy.
By design, the airbag shouldn't deploy simply by removing and reinstalling it, even if the battery remains connected. Because airbags are expensive and dangerous, however, we followed the instructions precisely, waiting 30 minutes or so after disconnecting the car's battery before starting the procedure to swap the wheel. As we proceeded, we were surprised at how easy it was to remove the airbag from the steering wheel after simply disconnecting the electrical terminals. Removing the factory steering wheel was simple as well, once the extremely tight retaining bolt was loosened. The LX and LY Mopars don't require any type of special tool to pull the steering wheel like older models, and the electronics simply unplug from a main harness and are left on the wheel.
1a We thought the stock steering...
1a We thought the stock steering wheel in our ’09 Challenger R/T was nice..
1b ...Until we got a look...
1b ...Until we got a look at the new late-model offerings from Grant.
2 After leaving the battery...
2 After leaving the battery unhooked for almost 20 minutes, we could get started. Removing the airbag is the first step to removing the factory steering wheel and should be performed while wearing safety glasses, just in case. By removing the two fasteners with a 10mm socket, the airbag can be detached from the stock steering wheel. Be sure the steering wheel is centered so the new wheel can be clocked the same.