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Are Quick Release Steering Wheels Legal?

Are Quick Release Steering Wheels Legal?

Quick-release steering wheels should be familiar to anyone who loves racing. Racecar drivers use them to make it easier to exit their vehicles during pit stops.

They’re able to yank the wheel out whenever they’re stepping out of the car. Then, they’ll slam them in once they’re getting back on the track! But are quick-release steering wheels legal for use in everyday vehicles?

Quick-release steering wheels are not legal in the United States because they do not have an airbag in them. Steering wheel airbags are required for any consumer vehicle built after 1989 and are considered a safety liability not to have one.

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at why quick-release steering wheels are not legal and what other options that you might have for adding aftermarket steering wheels.

States Where Quick Release Steering Wheels Are Legal

Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how much you love racing. You can’t drive with a quick-release steering wheel in most states.

Technically, there isn’t a law against them, though. The pertinent laws regarding whether you’ve got an airbag in the car. Since these don’t, you can’t have them 🙁

There is a way for you to get around this legally, though. Driving a car built before 1990 could be fine. That’s because these cars don’t have an airbag, to begin with. In that case, you could install an aftermarket steering wheel without an airbag.

You’d have to buy a quick-release hub first. Then, you could install the quick-release steering wheel on it.

There aren’t many laws regarding steering wheels in general. You could get one that’s a lot larger. Or, you could get one that’s way smaller.

Either way, you can drive the car legally. You don’t have to stick with the originally-installed steering wheel. You’ve just got to have one that’s got an airbag.

If you’ve got a modern car, you could still get an aftermarket wheel. It’s got to have an airbag, and you’ve got to connect it. If you can do that, you can use anything you want.

Don’t worry about swapping out your steering wheel with one that’s got an airbag. As long as it’s got that, it’s not against the law.

Why Are Quick Release Steering Wheels Illegal?

Quick-release steering wheels aren’t legal because they don’t have an airbag. As we mentioned, there are only a few laws defining what’s a legal steering wheel.

The biggest thing is they’ve got to have a functioning airbag. Cars built without them don’t need one, though. So, you could drive something classic and swap out its wheel.

Quick-release steering wheels could be dangerous. They’re able to come out of the hub without too much effort. As such, you’d be able to remove it while driving. Then, you wouldn’t be able to turn the car.

Since they don’t have an airbag, you can’t put them in your car. That’s the law in all 50 states. The federal government has mandated that all steering wheels must contain airbags.

Airbags are a huge safety feature of all modern steering wheels. Crashing with an airbag is a lot less likely to result in death. Without one, crashing is fatal way more often.

Is It Illegal to Have an Aftermarket Steering Wheel?

Overall, it’s not illegal to get a new steering wheel. 

You could get one that’s a different size. Or, you could get one with electronic controls. They’d let you add new features to your car without breaking the law!

Quick-release steering wheels tend to be illegal, though. That’s because they’re not built with airbags in them. All steering wheels must have airbags to be considered legal.

Anything other than that wouldn’t be a problem most of the time. You could upgrade your car so you could control the audio system. Usually, it’s not too hard to replace the steering wheel, either!

Just purchase an aftermarket part, and hire someone to install it. They’ll charge you by the hour for labor typically. 

As long as you’ve got that, you shouldn’t have an issue. Buying the parts and labor separately could help you to save a little money.

What Type of Steering Wheels Are Legal?

The Department of Highway Safety doesn’t say a whole lot about steering wheels. They’ve really only got one rule regarding them. They’ve got to have fully functional airbags.

However, you don’t have to replace them if you’ve got an older car. Cars built prior to 1990 don’t always have one of them. If that’s the case, you could use whatever you’d like in them. Simply purchase the parts and get someone to help you install them.

There aren’t any laws regarding how large your steering wheel must be.

You could install something that’s half the size of your original wheel. Or, you could swap it out with something that’s double its original size.

You can add steering wheels that have additional electronics in them, too.

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Zach Reed

Hi, I'm the founder of! Having owned a wide variety of vehicles in my life, I was astounded at how hard it can be to find answers to common automotive questions. Rather than sit idly, I decided to create this website to help others!