2010-2012 S197 Mustang Base Steering Wheel Upgrade
Author: Curtis Bender
The problem: The cheap, cheesy, plastic steering wheel that comes as standard equipment on the 2010-2012 Ford Mustang.
The fix: The Premium Leather wrapped steering wheel from the 2005-2009 Ford Mustang.
There have been other previous discussions and articles for this particular upgrade but I achieved this conversion by a slightly different process. I acquired the premium wheel from an ebay source and it was relatively cheap. I went with the 2005-2009 wheel over the more recently popular 2010-2012 premium wheel for the lesser cost and no need to have the audio control module reprogrammed by the dealer, which is another added cost.
The 2005-2009 premium wheel is the same basic wheel as the base steering wheel using the same cruise control switches but with a leather wrapped rim and bright aluminum color spoke covers. The only issue with using the 2005-2009 wheel on the 2010-2012 cars is that the harness plug that plugs into the steering column receptacle is completely different between the earlier wheel and later column. Others have swapped the switches and harness from the later wheel to the earlier one but the switches are a real bear to get out of the wheel. I on the other hand found an easier and much less breakage prone solution.
What I found was that the harness also plugs into the end of the switches. And while the column end of the plug is different from early to late, the switch end of the harness is the same. So all you have to do is swap the harness instead of possibly breaking the switches trying to remove them.
Here you can see that the switch ends are the same.
The first step in the steering wheel swap is to take the negative battery cable loose from the battery, then turn on the headlight switch to make sure all energy that could possibly trigger the air bag has been discharged.
The next step is to prep the premium leather wheel for install on your car. What you do is disassemble the horn spring plate from the center of the wheel, being careful as you remove the torx screws, holding down the plate to relieve the spring pressure as you take them out. This will give you access to be able to remove the switch harness from the switches.
To remove the harness plugs from the switches you will use a very small screwdriver slipping it under the plugs prying up gently to release the tab on the plug as you pull it out. There is also a ground wire that has to be removed from the steering wheel using a torx wrench.
Next you will need to start the process of removing the wheel from the car. On either side of the steering wheel base are round plastic plugs, using a small screwdriver, pry these plugs out. Inside the holes under these plugs are the retaining bolts for the air bag.
Using a 8mm socket and extension on a ratchet, unscrew the air bag retaining bolts. Don’t worry if the bolts drop inside the wheel, you can fish them out after removing the air bag. Pull the air bag straight out from the wheel, be aware that there are two cables plugged into the back of the air bag. Once the bag is loose from the wheel, squeeze the sides of the air bag plugs and pull them loose from the air bag and then set it aside.
Now using the same process as used above on the leather wheel, remove the horn spring plate and then the harness from the switches and steering wheel. You do not have to unplug the harness from the column as it will just slip through the hole in the bottom of the steering wheel when you remove it. Next using a 24mm socket and ratchet, loosen and remove the bolt in the center of the wheel, the wheel will then easily slip off the column and as you remove it guide the cruise control switch harness through the hole in the base of the wheel.
Now comes the good part, installing your new leather steering wheel. Basically just reversing the removal procedure, being careful when slipping the new wheel on to keep the column plug lined up with the hole in the wheel as you do. And when you finish the install, don’t forget to hook the battery back up and turn the headlight switch off.
And the finished product looks like this:
Tools needed for this swap:
extensions and ratchets
small flat blade screwdriver
T30 torx wrench
T15 torx wrench