Before I begin I must thank my friends SNA77 from bimmerfest, whom this project would not literally be possible and whom I know would be doing something like this right now if he still owned his E46.
Also I must thank Xi_ter on e46fanatics who completed this DIY years ago and provided everything I know now and write in this DIY about tapping power from the fuse box.
This DIY was a lot easier than I anticipated. The E46 Steering Wheel and Slip Ring plug and play design makes the swap over to the X3 Heated Wheel fairly easy. With only a T30 Torx Screw Driver and Slim Ratchet to remove the airbag and a 5/8" socket on a long handle ratchet to remove the wheel you can swap the wheel out with in 30 minutes. And the Slip Ring is attached by 4 smaller Torx Screws. This part should take about another 30 minutes to a hour.
You MUST UNPLUG your battery before removing the airbag (so as to not set off the air bag and/or the airbag warning lamp during the DIY).
Again I was lucky to come across an complete X3 heated wheel that was no longer needed by it's former owner. Previous DIYs used Steering Wheels from early years E38 and E39. At this time, I highly recommend just getting an 2002+ X3 or X5 heated wheel. Those earlier E38 and E39 wheels had single stage airbags and bulb lit icons on the steering wheel buttons that don't get powered well and appear dim and off color in the E46 or newer BMWs that use LED lit icons on the steering wheel buttons. So getting an X3 or X5 wheel is a safe bet. Also you can get a complete X3 / X5 heated wheel on eBay within the $150 to $300 range.
This picture here shows the two types of X3 / X5 steering wheel. For this DIY you will need the wheel with the heated wheel icon and two wavy arrows pointing up on the button pod below the Cruise Control buttons. The other one with the circle of arrows icon for the AC recirculation and will not work in this retrofit.
I also lucked out with my Slip Ring acquisition. The Slip Rings do not have any set part numbering and according to the BMW P/N manifest all slip rings from the 1995 E38 7 series thru the current X3 models seem to have 1 shared part number regardless of if the slip ring is for SMG or Heated Steering Wheels. My best bet was just asking around for the slip ring from a heated steering wheel until I found found. It took me about 2 weeks to get the slip ring after I got the wheel and that delay was mainly due to the lack of specific parts number for the slip rings.
A great seller on eBay "Scubaa1" aka Scuba Steve hooked me up with the slip ring from a 2001 7 series for only $35 w/ free shipping and it arrived quickly and in mint condition. I totally recommend seeking him out for BMW parts as I will also use him in the future over those Junk Yard sellers out of CA that charge you Dealership prices for dirty used parts.
These are intro pictures of the wheel and it's parts as well as two more videos explaining all the elements of this retrofit.
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