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Busted-sounding 318is Steering Wheel - Help! With video!

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    Busted-sounding 318is Steering Wheel - Help! With video!

    I'm hoping you all can help me figure out what's going on here.... I just replaced the dash in my 318is (shameless build thread plug), and in my initial test drives, something is definitely wrong with the steering wheel. It occasionally (definitely not every time) makes a loud clicking/popping sound when I turn the wheel, which sounds like something plastic breaking. Sometimes the wheel also catches or sticks, and requires an extra force to dislodge it while turning (scary). Happily, the car cooperated while I was filming and I got a good video of the problem:

    Note that you can see where the wheel sticks and I have to pop it free in the middle of the turn. I pulled the wheel off again last night and couldn't figure out the problem. The horn contact is broken, and the little copper rod that goes into it seems to be missing. I'm not sure if that's what is rattling around, but I looked pretty hard and couldn't find it hiding inside the wheel or anything. I read somewhere that this can happen if the wheel nut is loose, but I torqued it to 58 ft-lbs, so I don't think that's the problem either.

    Any ideas on what could be causing this, or what else I could test? Should I drive around with the airbag removed and see if I can see the problem inside the wheel?

    I think you'll need to remove the steering wheel and post photos of the back of the steering wheel, the steering hub, the steering shaft (and spacer) sticking out of the dash, and the front of the steering wheel with airbag off. It'll make it much easier to diagnose. In the meantime...

    Despite having my airbag steering wheel off numerous times, I can't remember if the factory spacer/washer goes in front of or behind the steering wheel on airbag cars. I believe it goes behind the steering wheel. I'd make sure that the spacer is in place as it could've gotten misplaced during the dash swap. If it's not in place your steering wheel may not be seated correctly.

    There's a small, white, spring loaded plastic nub that sticks out of the steering column. It's airbag related. I'd make sure that isn't binding on something.

    The copper horn ring on the back of the steering wheel has a large black plastic piece sticking out of it. I believe it's the turn signal canceling piece. Check that and make sure it's secured properly.

    Check the airbag wiring going through the steering wheel to the airbag.

    Check the steering wheel lock and make sure it goes up and down correctly (and all the way) based on if the key is inserted and turned. You made sure to have the key in place to remove AND install the steering wheel, correct? The wheel needs to get passed the lock to sit properly.

    Lastly, the airbag whels have a large flat plastic piece with something inside (flat, thin, white wiring?). You can see it on the back of the hub of the steering wheel. That rotates freely. I'm not sure if that needs to be in a specific position when reinstalling the steering wheel, but I assume it does. Moving that piece around with the wheel off the car will make a similar noise to what I heard in the video.


      Mike, this is awesome info, thank you! I will disassemble the wheel again this weekend and post pics of everything. It's probably something stupid that is just out of place. Having never owned one of these cars before, I'm sure I put something back together wrong.


        did you drop the column at all? or take it out? having it bind up mid-turn could be something to do with the rack coupler, unlikely timing though. Did the turn-signal cancellation tab get broken off the back of the wheel and maybe it fell into the hub?
        "In God we trust. All others must bring data." -W. E. Deming

        /// 1987 325is /// Project Thread
        Past: 87 is, 88ix, 88 i, 87 ic, 89 ix, 17 others.


          Guys, thanks again for the suggestions. Sorry it took a while for me to get back to this.

          It turns out the issue was a bit simpler. While I was pulling the wheel apart to diagnose the problem, this guy fell out:

          Which is part of the horn contact. It must have popped out of its mount when I was reinstalling the wheel last time. I put it back together sans horn contact and no more issues at all!


            I wouldn't have guessed that. I think I guessed all the other possibilities though. :)


              Originally posted by View Post
              I wouldn't have guessed that. I think I guessed all the other possibilities though. :)
              Indeed. A little bit of a facepalm moment when I found that....