Carbon Fiber Steering Wheel Upgrade & Install on 5th Gen 4Runner
Steering Wheel Installation, Review, and Overview on 5th Gen 4Runner – How to Remove your Steering Wheel and Airbag
The factory steering wheel can start showing signs of wear and tear over time. At just over 50k miles, my wheel started peeling, and this seems to be a common thread among 5th Gen owners.
If you want to keep your cabin looking new or you’re just looking for an upgrade, there are plenty of options for customization in this department.
To start, there are companies like Vivid Racing that make aftermarket upgrades with many options. Some of those options include carbon fiber, matte carbon, leather, aluminum, wood grain, Alcantara (suede), and others.
Regardless of which option you decide to purchase, you can literally customize every inch of the steering wheel. From the top to the sides, and the material type to the 12 o’clock ring, you can design your own custom wheel that matches your exact design style. These options from Vivid Racing are around $800 to well over $1000 depending on the feature requests you have.
I noticed this Vivid wheel about 6 months ago and definitely wanted one but at that price, I couldn’t justify the purchase. I don’t know about you but $800-$1000 is pretty steep for an interior mod.
Car Trim Home
Fast forward and the company Car Trim Home, launched its version of the wheel and it looked to be the same exact design, for half the price, sitting at $450.
I also noticed a mention of china tags on a Vivid Racing wheel so I figured both the Vivid Racing wheels and the Car Trim Home wheels were made in China, but I am not 100% sure. Even if both wheels are made in China, different factories play a big role in production quality so to each their own in the decision making process.
Take a look at the Car Trim Home option:
- Carbon Fiber Wheel (Pictured Here): Check Price
Let’s jump in and see what it’s all about.
First Impressions & Review
At first glance, this steering wheel is impressive.
It’s larger in diameter and feels great in your hands. It feels very experience and high-quality, like something you would find in a luxury European car. As it should for right around $400.
I thought it had some stitching flaws on the edges but that that turned out to be covered up by the steering wheel control plastics. Both the carbon fiber and stitching elements were on par with what you would expect given the price point.
This is a serious WOW upgrade. It blows the factory wheel out of the water and gets better once you actually start driving with it.
Faux Carbon Fiber
The faux carbon fiber appeared to be uniform all the way around. The finish on the outside of the carbon fiber is smooth to the touch and feels very sturdy in your hand.
The red stitching (where it counts) was in a uniform matching criss-cross pattern throughout the wheel. We are not talking incredibly tight hand sewen weaves that are perfectly matched here but the stitching looks really good for what the steering wheel is worth.
The Perforated leather feels very tight against the wheel. There are no loose or dead spots in the material. It’s tight and firm all the way through. The actual perforation pattern is even throughout all the way to the edge where it meets the carbon fiber.
Steering Wheel Install & Replacement on 4Runner
The install is pretty straight forward but please read this entire install before attempting your install.
With some basic garage tools you can swap in a new steering wheel in under an hour. Just follow along with our step by step guide to see how you should approach this install. Whether you buy your wheel from Car Trim Home, Vivid Racing, or any other retailer this install should work for you.
Tips before starting the install:
- Park completely straight before starting the install
- Mark your steering wheel against the column before removing the wheel
- Be cautious of the clockspring
The first and most important step is to park straight, and if possible do this mod on even ground. Even if you think your truck is straight, back up and pull in STRAIGHT again. Make sure your steering wheel is aligned as straight as possible.
You will need to rotate the wheel left and then right to remove the two screws holding the plastics in place (see below). You can do this with your truck on or off (power steering does make it easier, though). Once you remove the two screws, return the steering wheel to center position and shut the truck off.
Remove console cover screws
Disconnect battery after you remove the two screws holding the steering wheel cover plastics in place. Power steering will help you access these points. The rest of the install can be done without power.
Remove column covers (top and bottom)
There are both top and bottom covers on the steering column. Pull the bottom one down and out, and lift the top one up, out of the way. You can loosen your steering column adjustment lever in order to get the bottom cover off.
Remove wheel cover caps (left and right)
The tab to pop loose on the cover caps is directly in the middle on both sides (pictured) so insert your pry tool here. Remove the cruise control plastic cover on the passenger side and the other cover on the driver’s side.
Loosen T25 Tox Screws (left and right)
On both sides of the airbag, you have two Torx screws. These screws hold the airbag onto the steering wheel. Once these Torx are loose, you can pull the airbag out.
Pull Out Airbag
Pull the airbag straight out but be gentle with the wires that are connected to the airbag.
Disconnect Airbag Ground
The ground has a small tab that holds it into place. Depress the small tab, it will release the pressure and slide right off.
Disconnect Cruise Control and Steering Wheel Control Clips
Using a trim tool or small screwdriver, depress the two white clips and slide them out.
Disconnect Wires Connected to Airbag
Using a very small screwdriver, remove the clips up from the back of the airbag. Slide a small screwdriver underneath the locking clip and then tilt the screwdriver up. This should pop up the locking clip. Once this clip is up, you can pull the harness clip straight out.
Set Airbag aside
You can set the airbag down with the Toyota logo up. Just in case the airbags go off randomly, the bag will pop up and not throw your airbag housing straight at your face.
Loosen 19m steering column nut
Loosen the 19mm steering column nut, but do not remove it. Loosen the nut about 4-5 turns or enough room for the steering wheel to pull away from the steering column free to slide on the splines, but not come off completely.
If you take the nut off and pull the wheel too aggressively, you risk catching the wheel on the airbag wiring harness. By doing this you may accidentally pull off the clockspring cover resulting in a damaged clockspring.
See more below on the clockspring.
Mark Steering Colum Alignment with Wheel
Take a sharpie and make a mark on the steering column and then another on the steering wheel, just try not to let your 5-year-old daughter bump into you while you are doing it.
This helps you reinstall the steering on the exact center spline it came off. If you fail to mark the correct alignment, you may end up re-installing the steering wheel multiple times in order to find the exact center mark on the steering column. Ask me how I know. I ended up re-marking my column with a black sharpie to get the exact spline mark.
If you are one spline to the left or one to the right, you will feel it, and see it when driving.
A clockspring is a set multicore ribbon-like cables that are wound up in a circular housing. These ribbons/cables carry electronic signals from the steering column to your steering wheel for your audio/infotainment controls and cruise control. The cables are designed to rotate/spool left and right inside this housing as you turn your steering wheel.
The clockspring cover is very loose and can come off easily which may result in unspooled cables. These are very difficult to re-spool once out of the housing, depending on how far the cables are pulled out. If the cover comes off and the spool comes out, you may need to replace your clockspring and steering wheel sensor. Furthermore, if you rotate your clockspring to the left or right (off-center) and then reinstall your wheel this will result in failure upon driving. Do not rotate the clockspring, leave it in the center position as you found it when you removed your wheel.
A new clockspring will set you back about $400+ (OE). You can find off-brands for $50 from China, but I wouldn’t recommend going this route with such an important part. Or, you can go to a Toyota recycling yard and pull one off another 4Runner for around $175-$300 with the steering wheel sensor.
You can tape the clockspring to the column for good measure if you don’t want to accidentally rotate the cables or pop the cover off.
Pulling the Steering Wheel off the Column
You can purchase a steering wheel puller or use your hands. I used the hand method after watching this YouTube video, but I am not opposed to buying a puller as they aren’t very expensive.
With two hands, grab the steering wheel tight and pull. You can do this from left to right and/or top to bottom, whatever gives you the best grip. Try not to wiggle the wheel too much, but a slight wiggle may help you get the wheel off.
The only thing I would add to this video link above is leaving the nut on the column to have the wheel free to slide on the splines before you fully pull the wheel off.
This is just a safety measure and is not “needed” but may give you some peace of mind instead of yanking the wheel off and a clockspring cover with it.
Remove Wheel Parts
Position both wheels next to each other and take a mental note of each part. Start removing all the screws connecting the plastics and electronics onto the wheel. Set all the parts off to the side.
Remove Top Bracket and Electronic Controls
Remove the screws connecting the cruise control lever in place and set it to the side. By pulling up on the underside of the wheel control covers, they will pop right off.
Remove Plastic Backing Plate
The last item you will remove is the backing plate that the steering wheel sits on. The two Torx screws are in fixed housings. All of these parts are a straight swap over to the new carbon fiber wheel.
Re-Install Wheel Controls
Once you have the guts removed from the factory wheel, reinstall everything on the new wheel. Re-install your controls, cruise control lever, spacer bracket, and backplate.
Start with the backplate first, then move to the electronics.
Your new wheel is now ready to re-install.
Here is where marking your center alignment comes in. Reinstall the wheel back onto the column according to the marks you made earlier.
- Connect ground wire
- Connect two airbag clips
- Connect two white control clips
Tuck the control clip wires under the L hook on the bracket provided (pictured above). Once these wires are tucked out of the way, you can place the airbag onto the wheel. Proceed to tighten your Torx and reinstall your plastic cover caps.
Before tightening everything down, test drive your 4Runner to make sure you have correctly installed the wheel onto the column.
Lastly, reinstall your wheel column covers and tighten the last two screws into place.
This is an awesome upgrade that you will feel and see on a daily basis and is well worth the cost. If your wheel is starting to show serious signs of wear and tear, this carbon fiber option will keep your cabin looking new for years to come.
Where to buy?
- Carbon Fiber Wheel (Pictured Here): Check Price
The price is relatively affordable compared to other options on the market and the install is really simple given you don’t rip out your clockspring.
The faux carbon fiber portion does get hot on very hot days but nothing that burns your hands or hurts to touch.