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Like many others, I wanted to install a heated steering wheel on my wife’s 2011 Buick Enclave. But, my various searches about the process were lacking in detail. So, having completed the install on my own I thought I’d make this post to help others.

The heated steering wheel was introduced with the 2015 Enclaves. There are three main ingredients to putting a heated steering wheel in a pre-2015 Enclave. First is the steering wheel itself, which includes the integral heater, control box, and switch. Also needed is a “SIR Coil” (Supplemental Inflatable Restraint Coil), which is the round device fitted between the wheel and steering column. Sometimes known as a ‘clockspring’, the SIR Coil on later vehicles has an extra pair of wires just for the heated wheel. It allows all the buttons, horn, and airbag to work even as the wheel turns 'round and 'round. Finally, a source of relatively high-amperage 12-volt power to heat the wheel. More on that later.

Steering wheels are commonly available on eBay. But trying to find a heated wheel, from the right year, in the right color, can take some time. The idea is to find a wheel from a 2015-2017 Buick Enclave, as those were the years that had the heated wheel option yet still cosmetically matched earlier Enclaves (2018 Enclaves have a new interior design). Prices are typically $150-$250.

The SIR Coil is usually sourced directly from GM. Cost is about $160.

So now we're up to $300 - $400+ in parts. Installation is extra. That can buy an awful lot of mittens.

However, the best source I found was LKQOnline.com (LKQOnline). It’s a website that searches hundreds of salvage yards across the United States. Through this site I was able to find an entire steering column, everything from firewall to steering wheel, for only $100! Shipping was an additional $50 due to the size and weight. However, you might get lucky and find a column in a nearby salvage yard and save the shipping. Even still, the overall cost was well under sourcing the parts individually. Better yet, I received every part needed and I could see exactly how the wheel and wiring was installed at the factory.

Next Post - finding a perfect match

Here’s a tip when searching the LKQOnline.com site to find what you need. You can enter year/make/model. However, the search results are everything that will mechanically fit. So, searching on “Enclave” means you’ll get hits on “Acadia” and “Traverse” as well. And you can’t restrict the range of years. We only want 2015-2017, but since steering columns from earlier years will fit they will appear in the search results, too. This is normal – salvage yards are all about mechanical interchangeability. For them, knowing that, say, a particular transmission fits multiple vehicles helps a repair shop get a customer back on the road faster.

But for our purposes, we are concerned about cosmetics and exact matches. So one way to restrict searches to only newer Enclaves is to sort by mileage and search on low-mileage wrecks. Presumably, a newer car will have fewer miles before crashing and ending up in a junkyard.

So, search on 2015 Buick Enclave, Interior, Dashboard, Steering Column, then try filtering for low mileage. You’ll still get Acadias and Traverses, but the overall number of hits will be manageable. Now it’s just a matter of clicking on each link to see the details. In particular you want the color code to match your current vehicle. Run the VIN through various on-line VIN checkers to see if it has the heated wheel option, then order away!

Next post - parts arrive, work begins

Here’s what you’ll get – A steering wheel without the airbag. This is normal – junkyards sell airbags separately, or they’ve been deployed in the accident and are not useable. Either way we’ll be reusing the airbag from the old steering wheel so we don’t need it.

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You’ll also get the steering column itself. This will have the SIR Coil, and the wiring harness. The left side is where the steering wheel went, and the right side is the firewall end. The black/pink wire is the harness just for the heated steering wheel, after unthreading it from the main bundle.

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Preliminary steps – park the Enclave with the wheels (and steering wheel) pointed straight ahead. Then disconnect the battery, or at least remove the airbag and horn fuses from the underhood relay center.

Begin disassembly by removing the airbag. Remember to first pull the airbag and horn fuses just to make absolutely certain neither won’t blow during this step. While both are loud, the latter is just annoying, the former expensive. Using a round metal rod, such as a 5/32” allen wrench, probe this hole in the back of the steering wheel (yellow arrow). You want to push a spring-loaded wire out of the way to release the airbag assembly. It helps to pull up on the airbag slightly while doing this. Do this on both sides. Look at the new steering wheel to get an idea of where and what to push.

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Unplug the two airbag wires. Like all airbag connectors these plugs have CPA (Connector Position Assurance). Basically it’s a locking tab that can only be seated if the plug is correctly plugged in and it prevents the plug from being pulled out. Lift the CPA tab, but don’t remove it, then squeeze the tabs on the plug itself to remove it from the airbag. The picture shows the two airbag plugs. The yellow arrow points to the CPA tab in the raised, unlocked position. Compare it to the other connector to see the difference. With the CPA raised you can then squeeze the tabs on the connector itself to disconnect from the airbag. Set the airbag aside for now, it will be reinstalled on the new steering wheel later.

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Next, unplug the steering wheel controls (radio, phone, cruise control, etc.). This is a single connector. Just squeeze the locking tab (yellow arrow) and pull the connector straight out.

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Next, remove the steering wheel by unscrewing the bolt in the center (blue arrow). This uses an internal T50 Torx socket. This bolt is secured with Loctite (a special 'glue' for nuts and bolts), making it very difficult to remove. The steering wheel should be held firmly while turning the wrench (don’t depend on just the steering wheel lock, lest you break it). You may have to use an impact gun to remove this bolt. Once the bolt is removed the steering wheel lifts straight off.

Now use a small Torx screwdriver to remove the (four) screws holding the steering wheel covers. The top will then snap off, followed by the left and right bottom pieces. When done the result will look like this:

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Next, remove the old SIR Coil. There are three connectors, two at top, one at the bottom. The top left is a standard connector – squeeze the tab to unlock (yellow arrow), then pull to remove. The top right is an airbag connector (all airbag connectors are yellow or orange). Like all airbag connectors, it has a CPA tab. Pull the orange CPA tab out (orange arrow). It’s in quite firmly so you have to pull a bit harder than you might expect. Then you can squeeze the locking tab to remove the airbag connector itself. Then remove the four Phillips screws (green arrows) and pull the SIR Coil straight off the steering shaft.

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Flip the SIR coil over and remove the bottom connector by inserting a thin shim or pick as shown (yellow arrow), then pull the connector out. Set the old SIR coil aside, you won't need it again.

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At this point we're at maximum disassembly (but not quite halfway done). It's time to install new parts. As the old saying goes, "assembly is reverse of removal". Now, find the new SIR coil that came with the "new" steering column. Before putting it on the steering wheel you need to 'center' the SIR coil.

See the yellow dot visible in the clear plastic window (yellow arrow)?

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That’s important – the SIR Coil cannot turn infinitely ‘round and ‘round. It can only turn as far as the steering wheel itself. If it’s not centered then it will break the first time you turn the wheel hard over. So BEFORE you put the SIR coil on the steering column, rotate the SIR Coil until the yellow dot is visible, THEN install it on the shaft, plug in the three connectors from the previous step (two at the top, one at the bottom) and secure it with the four phillips screws removed earlier.

(I know - the picture shows the SIR coil installed already - I forgot to take a picture before putting it on the column. Just make sure you see the yellow in the window BEFORE you put it on the column).

Attached to the SIR Coil is the power feed for the heated steering wheel. It includes a 7.5 amp fuse and fuseholder, wrapped in foam (yellow arrow). This foam-wrapped section tucks up under the keyswitch, as shown in the picture.

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The rest of this wire will follow the steering column down to the footwell. Follow the existing wiring harness, taping it in place as necessary. You don’t want any dangling wires to get snagged as the steering column tilts and telescopes.

At this point you can reattach the steering wheel covers. The result should look like this:

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The two wires at the top are for the airbag. The bottom, red/black wires is the new circuit for the heated steering wheel.

Next, reinstall the steering wheel. The shaft is keyed so it only fits one way. Feed the wires from the SIR Coil up through the gaps behind the wheel as shown, then plug them in (yellow arrows).

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The heated wheel plug is tucked up between the plastic cover and metal frame of the wheel (yellow arrow). The bolt holding the steering wheel should have some fresh Loctite applied to the threads, then tightened to 37 ft-lbs, or 50 N-M.

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Now plug in the two connectors for the airbag. They’re color coded, so match the color of the plug with the hole in the back of the airbag. They each snap in place, then the CPA (“locking”) tab is pushed home.


Then, install the airbag by simply snapping it in place and pushed firmly like you're honking the horn. Finally, reinstall the Horn and Airbag fuses and/or reconnect the battery.

This completes the mechanical assembly of the heated steering wheel. At this point the Enclave is back the way it was before, the only difference is now it has an extra button on the steering wheel (but that button won't work yet). If everything is installed correctly you should be able to start and drive the Enclave with no error lights on the dash (assuming, of course, there were no error lights or codes before you started). If there are any error codes or lights, go back and double-check all of the electrical connections.

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The next task is to supply power to the heated steering wheel. Like any electrical heater, it needs a good amount of current. It’s fused for 7.5 amps so we’ll assume it needs something close to that. Luckily there are plenty of big power feeds running around under the dashboard to tap into.

However, the problem is that it has to be switched/ignition power. Most of the power leads are live all the time. This allows for things like unlocking doors, moving seats, and playing the radio even if the car is off and the key is out. If we used one of these sources for the heated steering wheel it means it wouldn’t shut off automatically when the engine is turned off (ask me how I know...). If one forgot to turn off the heated wheel it would keep running, all night long, draining the battery.

There are very few switched power leads in the Enclave that are beefy enough to handle 7.5 amps of current. By my count, only four – one for the engine computer, one for the transmission computer, one for the airbags, and one for the rear-view camera. The first three I wouldn’t want to touch for fear the extra current draw may cause a spurious problem in any of those systems. The rear-view camera is a good ‘optional’ system to tap in to, except its wiring is nowhere near the steering column.

The switched power leads that are close to the steering column are thin wires that are really just designed to signal the various computers when the Enclave is running. They’re not big enough to actually power anything. So the solution is to use a relay. A relay allows a small current to switch a much larger one. It’s much like the keyswitch - its thin wires can trigger the starter relay with its big, fat, battery cables.

How to complete the wiring portion of the heated steering wheel to be continued tomorrow.

The only switched power leads that are close to the steering column are thin wires that are really just designed to signal the various computers when the Enclave is running. They’re not big enough to heat the steering wheel. So the solution is to use a relay. A relay allows a small current to switch a much larger one. It’s much like the keyswitch that starts the car - its thin wires can trigger the starter relay that connects the big, fat, battery cables to the starter itself.

Luckily there's a switched power lead close by ("Ignition Power"), and room enough to install a relay. The Body Control Module (BCM) is located above the driver's footwell and has the necessary "Ignition Power" signal. The theory is to use a standard Bosch relay and connect it in the following way:
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That was the theory. Here's how it's done in practice. If you haven't already, remove the black cover above the pedals in the driver's footwell. It's retained by three plastic rivets (yellow arrows):
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The rivets lock in place with a center pin. Pulling the center pin out unlocks the rivet and allows the entire rivet assembly to be pulled out. This picture shows the plastic rivets in locked and unlocked configuration. Note that the center pin stays with the rivet. It does not need to be pulled out completely to unlock the rivet. If you happen to pull too hard and the pin comes free, it's not a problem. Just snap the pin back in place when reinstalling the rivet.

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Looking up behind the instrument panel you'll find the Body Control Module (BCM). The yellow arrow points to the black connector on the BCM. Pin 21 of this connector is a pink wire that carries the "Ignition Voltage" signal. Remove the connector by squeezing the locking tab pointed to by the yellow arrow, the pulling the connector down.

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I used a pin to unlock the Pin 21 terminal and remove the wire from the connector. I then stripped the insulation, soldered a wire (white) to the bare spot, then sealed it with adhesive-lined heat-shrink tubing before reinserting the pin back into the connector body:

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Admittedly, a bit of overkill. An inline crimp-style tap would probably work just as well and be much easier to install. The main goal is to attach a wire to the pink one that can later be connected to a relay. Once you have that extra wire hooked up, reconnect the black connector to the BCM by pushing it back in place until it snaps.

Next, find the Trailer Brake connector. It is located above the “dead pedal” (footrest), behind the parking brake above the driver’s footwell. This picture is looking straight up from the driver's footwell. The gray connector (yellow arrow) is Trailer Brake connector. It has beefy power and ground feeds for running trailer brakes and is an ideal source of power to heat the steering wheel.

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We want to tap into the Power (+12 volts) and Ground terminals in the connector:
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The Ground wire is a Black wire, and Power is the Red & Black wire.

The terminals inside the Trailer Brake connector and the Bosch relay are standard 1/4" male spade terminals. So all that's needed to complete the wiring are some 1/4" female spade terminals, a Bosch relay, and some wire. Crimp it together to make it look like this picture, plugging the terminals in as shown in the previous schematic diagram:

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There are two wires coming from the heated steering wheel - Black and Pink. The black wire is the ground wire, and the pink wire is for power. Neither are visible in the above picture as they're too short. I connected a brown wire to the wheel's black (ground) wire, and an orange wire to the pink (power) wire. All of the connections are made in the following way:
  • The brown wire (wheel ground - Black) connects to Pin 1 of the grey Trailer Brake connector.
  • A white wire is siamesed to the brown wire at Pin 1 of the Trailer Brake connector. The other end connects to Pin 85 on the Bosch relay.
  • The orange wire (wheel power - Pink) connects to Pin 87 of the Bosch Relay.
  • The other white wire comes from the Pink wire on the Body Control Module (BCM) connector. This connects to Pin 86 on the Bosch Relay
  • Finally, Pin 6 of the Trailer Brake connector connects to Pin 30 of the Bosch relay.
(Why these colors? It's what I had in my toolbox. The actual colors don't matter, of course, so long as you keep track of which color you use goes where).

At this point the heater button should work. Start the Enclave and try it out as a test. The wheel heats up very quickly, within a minute. It has a thermostat that maintains a temp of 90-degrees Fahrenheit. If it does not work (and/or you blow a fuse), double-check the wiring.

If it works, use electrical tape to cover up the relay and tuck it up out of the way. Then reinstall the footwell cover. When putting the footwell cover back in place, make sure the hook goes into the slot on the side of the center console (yellow arrow):
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Then rest the forward edge of the cover on the two supports (yellow arrows), raise it in place and secure with the three plastic rivets:
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You’re all done!

Turn on the Enclave, press the magic button and feel the heat!

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The steering wheel heat will only operate while the Enclave is turned on. Press the button and within a minute the leather-wrapped portions steering wheel will heat up to 90 degrees F (the wooden part does not have heating elements). The wheel has a thermostat that maintains that temperature. Press the button again to turn the heat off, or turn off the Enclave. However, unlike the heated seats, the heated steering wheel will not turn on with the remote start. My wife reports that it’s not a problem as the heated steering wheel heats up so fast anyway.
 

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Hope it works for you, the wife is very lucky to have such a considerate and handy mechanic around. Let us know how you make out.
I just used my Heated wheel today and really appreciated it.
My only gripe is that it gets too hot after 10 minutes or so, toggling it on and off works but I would rather have an automatic temperature control. I was thinking of a timing relay, On delay/Off delay but I really don't wish to do too many modifications.
 

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Very cool thread. When I get done with my kitchen remodel I might start looking around for the parts to do this. Once you're done if you don't mind I'll clean this thread up so all your posts are together at the top.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Very cool thread. ... Once you're done if you don't mind I'll clean this thread up so all your posts are together at the top.
Feel free to edit it as you see fit. I think I covered all the bases. I installed this two years ago but only now got around to posting it. If you have any questions or unclear portions let me know and I'll add what I can.

On a side note, this was a Christmas present for my wife. Realizing that I was essentially giving her a used car part for Christmas, I cleaned it up, oiled the leather, and dressed it up a bit in the box:
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(My buddy's wife suggested putting a gift card for a local day spa underneath as backup).

Anyway, she seemed happy with it. I installed it a few days later and she was REALLY happy with it. On cold mornings here in Connecticut it's almost a necessity!
 

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Easiest answer yet, ya don't.....
 

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Merged all the build posts into the first post and stickied the thread to the top of the sub forum. Would love to see more how to's like this.
 
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