Moving Cruise Control to the Stalk

This is one of those mods that only makes sense once you’ve driven a stripped-out track car a great distance on the highway. You NEED cruise control. In your track car. Stay with me here.

This was going to be the year I finally got a trailer. But the opportunity to buy this M3 came along, so all of my money for the trailer went into this car. For now, it’s still street legal and I have to be able to drive it to the track and back. So to keep out of jail, I need cruise control. The problem is that the buttons for that were on the sport steering wheel which I replaced with Sparco wheel and quick release. I was able to salvage and adapt the clock spring so I still have a working horn button. That also means the wiring that controls the cruise control is still there.

The beauty of the design of BMWs of this era is that many parts are interchangeable. In this case, I’m going to grab a cruise control stalk off of an E85/E86 Z4. It plugs right into the clock spring housing and all you have to do is jump some wires and modify the housing.

Disconnect your battery and wait 15 minutes for the ABG module to power down (if you still have airbags.) Remove the steering wheel and the steering column housing. Remove the lower housing by pressing the center of the two pins and pry the lower half away from the top half of the column cover. Remove the screw from the top of the housing but you don’t have to remove it from the column, just slide it up to get access to the clock spring set screws.

You’ll need a suitable CC stalk (part number 61316940989) and plug 61138380696. My plug came with four wires already installed. You will need to connect three of the wires. At the bottom of the clock spring, remove the ten pin connector and look at the end of it. The pins are numbered on each row of the connector. Then look at the side of the four pin plug referenced above for the pin numbers . Connect the wire from pin 10 to pin 4 (power); pin 8 to pin 2 (cruise control); and pin 7 to pin 1 (ground).

Plug the stalk into the housing and then plug the 10 pin connector back into the clock spring. Plug the four pin connector you just wired to the stalk and reattach the clock spring housing to the steering column. Replace your steering wheel and airbag if you have one. Reconnect the battery and you’re ready to test the system.

  • Pressing the steering column lever upwards (on): Cruise-control system on
  • Pressing the steering column lever upwards or downwards (off): Cruise-control system off.
  • Pressing the steering column button at the side (I/O): Activates resumption of cruise-control system. The vehicle accelerates or decelerates exclusively from non-controlled operation to the driving speed last set and maintains this speed.
  • Pressing the steering column lever briefly backwards (+): Sets the road speed. If the cruise-control function is activated, the current vehicle speed is kept constant.
  • Pressing and holding the steering column lever backwards (+): Increases the road speed. The vehicle accelerates for the period the switch is actuated up to its maximum speed.
  • Pressing the steering column lever briefly forwards or holding pressed (-): Brakes the road speed. The cruise-control system is deactivated for the period the switch is actuated. However, it is not possible for the driving speed to drop below the minimum set speed.

If it all works as planned, then you just need to modify the lower column housing to fit around the new stalk. The lower cover is part of the crash protections for your knees. Inside the cover is a metal plate and some expanded polystyrene foam. After you measure and cut the outside to make room for the stalk, you’ll also need to remove a little on the bottom of the cover to make room for the mechanicals of the stalk. Measure twice and cut once.

M3 Steering Wheel Refresh

If your leather steering wheel is shiny or slightly sticky, you need a good cleaning. If it is also a bit faded, that can be refreshed as well. See this post for detailed instructions.

Visit Colourlock.com and buy a Leather Fresh kit for your vehicle. They color match most OEM leather. You’ll want to also get a scrub brush and a sanding pad. If your steering wheel is in really bad condition, also get some leather cleaning spirit. All in, you might spend about $100, but compared to a new steering wheel, that’s a bargain.

Start by masking off the trim. (If you’re black trim is also in bad shape, consider recovering it with 3M film.) You won’t make a huge mess, but you do want to cover the instrument cluster and your lap. Wear gloves. The chemicals are not harsh, but they will dry out hour skin.

Mask

Start by using the cleaner and the brush. You’ll want to clean the entire steering wheel a couple of times. Keep cleaning until you don’t get any discoloration on the towel you use to wipe it off. If the wheel is in really bad condition, use the leather cleaning spirit as well (in a well ventilated area.) Once dry, lightly sand the entire wheel, paying special attention not to sand the stitching or sand too much. You just want to rough up the surface and knock down any imperfections. If you wheel has been refinished before, take special care not to sand too much, especially if it is a heated wheel. When finished, clean again with the leather cleaning spirit. Let dry.

Refreshed Matt FinishLeather Fresh is a leather dye that dries quickly to a matt finish. Work a small area at a time and dab it on with the sponge, don’t paint it on. Use a heat gun on low or a hair dryer on high to dry the dye. It can be handled as soon as it is dry, but wait 24 hours before applying any protectant. You’ll want to apply 2-3 light coats over the entire wheel and more where it was heavily faded. Give yourself about an hour for the entire project.

Removing BMW E46 M3 Rear Headrests

M3 rear headrest

Ever set out on a task that should be easy and you quickly find out it isn’t? This was one of those. For most BMW headrests up until about 2008 you just had to pull straight up to remove them from the seat backs. At least that’s how it always worked on the front head rests.

Things got more complicated with the facelift E90 seats as they contained a charge that moved the headrest forward in a collision. For those head rests, you have to remove the back of the seat and unplug the wire before you can pull it free. So when I’m working on this 2004 M3, I’m thinking, easy-peasy, I’ll just pull up, no worries.

Then when that didn’t work, I turn to the trusty interwebs for sage advice and I’m told not to pull straight up, but cup your hands together on one side, and pull diagonally, one side at a time (which does work oddly enough.) But I got to thinking there had to be a more logical reason why this was so difficult.

Remove the two circled clips.

And if you lift the covering on the rear parcel shelf you can see it. There are actually two clips holding each head rest. The two hand method just twisted them to spring them free. Easier is to just reach in with long needle nose pliers and pull them free. Then the head rests just pull out, easy-peasy. You’re welcome inter webs.