Can I legally install an aftermarket steering wheel?
Updated 15 Apr 2021
A car is one of the biggest purchases we’ll ever make. And since we pay so much for them it’s little wonder that many of us like to personalise our purchases with a few modifications.
Aesthetic modifications are generally harmless and no cause for concern when it comes to vehicle performance and safety. However, when engines are modified and parts changed, then lines can be crossed.
Vehicles must reach a certain standard of safety in Australia and there are regulations in place to ensure Australian design rules (ADR) and vehicle safety standards are not breached. The ADR are national standards for vehicle safety, anti-theft and emissions and they cover all vehicles including new, second-hand or imported vehicles.
While it may seem the rules are there to stop you from having fun with your car, they are there to protect everybody.
Switching steering wheels
There may be legitimate reasons for replacing a steering wheel, like if it's faulty or damaged. If this is the case, a like-for-like steering wheel replacing the old one will mean there is no need for concern. Removing an original steering wheel and replacing it with a different, aftermarket one is a modification, and whether the modification passes the regulations or not will depend on a few things.
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In the event you change a steering wheel because you feel more comfortable with one of a different colour, configuration or material. Staying on the right side of the law may be a little harder than you think. You will need to ensure the replacement steering wheel complies with the relevant ADR. The steering wheel cannot be smaller than 330mm in diameter and if the original had a recessed or padded hub the replacement steering wheel needs to be of a similar design. Removable or quick-release steering wheels are not legal and should only be seen on the racetrack.
For vehicles manufactured after 1970, the steering wheel needs to be certified to ADR 10 standards. If the vehicle is manufactured after June 1995 the steering wheel needs to be certified to ADR 69 (full frontal impact occupant protection) vehicle standards. In this situation, the steering wheel will need to be certified by the vehicle manufacturer to ensure it is suitable for that particular vehicle.
Regardless of which ADR you are required to meet, you should always check to confirm the steering wheel is acceptable for your vehicle.
If your vehicle comes with an airbag as standard fitment then the new steering wheel should also have an airbag. If it didn’t come with an airbag as standard fitment, then you won’t be able to install a replacement steering wheel with one. When a crash test is carried out on a vehicle it is based on the safety features that come as standard - vehicles with airbags have different rules than vehicles without them - and the design of steering columns and steering wheels can be different based on whether airbags are installed or not.
Is an aftermarket steering wheel legal?
It may seem like the rules and regulations go too far sometimes. However, there are some genuinely sensible reasons why they are rigorously enforced.
If you are thinking about installing an aftermarket steering wheel, be sensible. Seek out a qualified professional to install the replacement and do all the proper checks to ensure the steering wheel meets regulatory requirements and abides by manufacturer and ADR compliance.
Rachel spent her early adult life around cars, motorsport and hands-on with her own cars. This interest moved into various careers within the Automotive industry. Joined with her passion for writing, Rachel loves putting the two together to share her experience, so we can all become AutoGuru’s.