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P1 Volvos came with a variety of different styling packages, but the most well known is the "R-design" trim. Unlike the actual R models, the Volvo 850R and Volvo S60R for example, or the recent R-design Polestar cars, "R-design" was simply a trim package for the P1 cars with no increase in engine performance. Therefore, it is relatively easy for a P1 Volvo owner to add the R-design parts to their basic trim car. The following is a guide for upgrading to an R-design steering wheel.

This guide may also be used for installation of the cruise control and volume control buttons.

While all P1 Volvos came pre-wired for these button accessories, they will require a dealer's activation to function.

Please note that swapping steering wheels involves removing and replacing the airbag. When tampering with an airbag, work at your own risk. While it is unlikely for the airbag to deploy, improper re-installation may result in an SRS warning message which only a dealer can reset after proper inspection. If you are apprehensive about upgrading your steering wheel, I recommend having a dealership or professional shop install the part.

Necessary Tools:

  • Small flat head screw driver
  • 15mm socket wrench with extension
  • 8mm or 10mm wrench for disconnecting your battery leads

Steering Wheel Replacement:

2004-2008 P1 Volvos came equipped with a steering column lock, a small mechanism that prevents the wheel from being rotated when the car is off. Due to problems with this lock, Volvo removed the system for 2009-2013 models. If you have a 2009 or newer car, you may skip to step 2. If you have a 2004-2008 model, insert your key into the ignition. You will hear the steering lock disengage and the wheel should be free to rotate. Do not start the vehicle, simply leave the key in the ignition.

With the car's wheels pointing straight and the steering wheel free to turn, disconnect your negative battery lead.

Release the lever to tilt the steering wheel. Pull the wheel as far outward and downward as it will go.

Rotate the wheel 90° clockwise (to the right).

On the back of the wheel, locate a small hole. Insert your flat head screw driver into this hole and pry upwards.

Prying upwards will release this pin which holds the airbag in place.

As you can see, the back of the airbag has two prongs which slide into those holes. Releasing the pins allows the head of those prongs to pop out.


With one side released, rotate the wheel counterclockwise (to the left). Repeat step 5 to release the other side of the air bag.

Once both sides are disconnected, straighten the steering wheel, making sure your wheels are also point straight. The airbag should be loose, but before taking it completely off, disconnect the electrical leads. The connectors are different colors and have different shaped sockets to avoid confusion during re-installation.

With the airbag removed, disconnect the green electrical wiring clip.

Using the 15mm socket wrench, loosen the center bolt to remove the steering wheel.

If you are transferring your button controls to the new steering wheel, simply pry them off of the wheel and disconnect the small wiring plug on the back. Follow this procedure in reverse order when installing the button controls on the new wheel.

With the new wheel ready for install, position it in the same orientation as the old wheel when it was removed. The hex-nut-base makes it easy to reinstall the wheel in the proper direction. If it is not straight, it will clearly be off by 60° increments.

Tighten down the center bolt to 20ftlbs or as tight as you can get it without stripping the nut. Then reconnect the green electrical connector and airbag leads.

With the airbag leads connected, simply push the airbag back into position. You will hear and feel it pop into place as the prongs pass over the release pins.

Reconnect your battery and start the car. Test your horn and steering control buttons to confirm that they all still function properly. You can now enjoy the sporty grip of your R-design steering wheel!

You can check out the Volvo 3 Spoke Steering Wheel right here at FCP Euro.

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Written by :
Michael Hallock

Michael lives in Dahlonega, GA where he works full time as manager of an accounts receivable department. Despite a bachelors in New Media Arts, his true passion is in modifying and maintaining the cars that he and his wife own; Volvo for life. Many in the Volvo community might recognize his screen name, MyNameIdeasWereTaken.

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