If there is one part on any vehicle that looks the same in each and every way, it is the steering wheel. Because of this, you may wonder if all steering wheels are universal, meaning any steering wheel can fit any vehicle.
Rather than stay perplexed about this question, I’ve got the facts you need to know!
Are Steering Wheels Interchangeable?
In most types of vehicles, steering wheels are interchangeable. This is especially true of older vehicles since these vehicles usually do not have steering wheels that contain airbags, and thus are much easier to install.
When steering wheels are made, most are done so to be what is known as “universal fit” steering wheels, allowing them to be used in virtually any type of vehicle.
However, for some vehicles that are extremely customized, such as certain luxury vehicles as well as racing vehicles, “vehicle-specific” steering wheels need to be used that are manufactured specifically for certain makes, models, and years.
Should you select an aftermarket steering wheel, you need to remember that even though it is designed to be a universal fit for any vehicle, you will probably need to purchase an adapter, often known as a boss kit or wheel hub adapter.
When doing so, you won’t need to worry much about the brand of adapter you select, since any of them seem to be of similar quality and work well for installation.
Are Steering Wheels a Universal Size?
No matter the type of vehicle, you will find the vast majority of steering wheels are in fact within the same size range. Whether it’s a compact car or a large truck, most steering wheels are between 14.5-17.5 inches in diameter, with a grip circumference that goes from 2.75-4.25 inches.
Since the sizes of all steering wheels are within a certain range, switching them out of almost any vehicle is a straightforward process that can be done in a minimal amount of time and with only a few tools.
When looking at aftermarket steering wheels, you may be curious as to whether it is okay for you to install a steering wheel on your car that does not contain an airbag. In this situation, it will depend upon the type of car you own.
If your car is one that did not come with an original steering wheel that contained an airbag, which in most cases is cars manufactured before the early 1990s, you can legally change your current steering wheel to an aftermarket type without penalty.
Are All Steering Wheels the Same?
While they all look pretty much alike and obviously perform the same function of letting you maneuver your vehicle on the road, all steering wheels are not exactly the same.
For starters, some contain airbags and others don’t. In cars that were made at least three decades ago or earlier, no airbags were present in their original steering wheels.
Thus, when they need to be replaced, you are allowed to install a steering wheel that resembles the original wheel as much as possible without putting yourself at risk of breaking the law.
Along with this, steering wheels differ in their diameter, though not by very much. Most aftermarket steering wheels measure in diameter from just over 14 inches to almost 18 inches, with their grips ranging in circumference from just below three inches to almost five inches.
Finally, some steering wheels are specifically made for certain makes, models, and years of vehicles. However, this tends to apply only to certain foreign vehicles, customized vehicles such as racing cars, and luxury vehicles that require extremely specific parts and services.
Do All Steering Wheels Have the Same Bolt Pattern?
Once you start taking a closer look at aftermarket steering wheels, one thing that will jump out at you is that most do not have the same bolt pattern. In fact, various companies have different bolt patterns, which is why you usually need to purchase an adapter kit to successfully complete the job.
For example, a quick-release steering wheel often has a much more distinctive bolt pattern than other types of aftermarket steering wheels, which results in it requiring a more complex adaptation to the vehicle.
If your vehicle has a quick-release steering wheel and you want to install a new one, it’s best if you purchase a top-of-the-line replacement, since this will likely have the quick release and adapter contained in one unit.
As to the question of are all quick-release steering wheels universal, it’s kind of a tricky answer. Yes, any quick-release steering wheel will fit your vehicle. However, this is only if your vehicle is outfitted with a short hub adapter.
The quick-release itself is not a hub, so this has to be installed at the same time as the short hub adapter.
Can You Put a New Steering Wheel in an Old Car?
If you have an older car whose steering wheel has seen better days, you can indeed put a new steering wheel in an old car. However, it can be an interesting project, so plan on giving yourself plenty of time to make sure it’s done correctly.
To begin with, you will need to make sure the steering wheel will fit properly on the spline. If it does not, you’ll need to purchase and install an adapter with your aftermarket steering wheel.
Once this part is completed, you’ll then turn your attention to the controls on the steering wheel and the airbag, if it has one. Using a slip ring, you will need to put your electrical wiring skills to the test to correctly wire up the controls and airbag to make sure they work properly when you are on the road.
If you don’t do this correctly, you are in for some unpleasant surprises once you hit the road. If for any reason you aren’t sure about how to do the wiring, take your car to your mechanic and let them do it for you.
How Much Does it Cost to Replace My Car’s Steering Wheel?
As far as vehicle projects go, replacing the steering wheel is usually not very expensive, especially if you have enough automobile mechanical knowledge to do the job yourself.
By the time you purchase the steering wheel itself and any adapters you may need, the total cost is most often between $75-$100.
If you take your car to an auto mechanic to have the steering wheel replaced, parts and labor will total between $100-$200, which is a small price to pay to know your steering wheel has been installed and wired correctly.
Are There Any Laws About Aftermarket Steering Wheels?
If you are concerned about replacing your older car’s steering wheel with one that does not contain an airbag, the law is for the most part on your side.
Technically, there are no laws that prohibit you from switching out your steering wheel, even to one that does not contain an airbag. However, should you be pulled over by police, it is possible they could choose to issue you a ticket for removing an airbag from your vehicle.
If your vehicle is older and can be verified to have been manufactured in the pre-airbag era, police will not be allowed to issue you a ticket.
Once you put a new steering wheel in your vehicle, it will not only give you greater control while driving but also give your car the look and feel of the best sports car on the highway.