The full leather version of these wheels are about to go the way of the Dodo (only 2 wheels left in MINI USA's hands as of 3/18/2010 and no plans to make any more), but here is the install guide!
There is a review of the wheel (the half leather, half alacantera version) at MotoringFile: http://www.motoringfile.com/2006/08/09/mf-review-jcw-alcantara-steering-wheel/
MINI has an official dealer install guide, but it's AWFUL! It has one good diagram in it (which I shamelessly copy and paste, below), but the rest is crap and the leave out a bunch of steps! You can find it here: http://bridger.us/mini/files/steering_airbag.pdf
1. Get your wheel from the dealership ($440 after tax with my 10% local club discount... Thanks MINI of Dallas). Pull it out of the box in the dealership parking lot to enjoy the thickness of the wheel and the nicer quality leather.
2. When you get home, get your tools out. You will need:
- An X-acto knife
- a 16mm socket with a 4" extension
- a T-25 torx screwdriver
- a T-20 torx screwdriver
3. Disconnect the negative cable at the battery (a 10mm socket will do the trick). You will be disconnecting the airbag and you don't want any sparks to trigger a deployment!
4. Center the wheel so that the front tires point straight ahead and the wheel is upright. Now pull out the X-acto knife and get cutting! To remove the center air-bag cover, you have to poke 2 x-shaped slits in the old wheel cover. Don't worry... they are fairly well hidden and will reseal nicely... you will be able to re-use the wheel if you choose. In fact, you might already have these little slits cut for you and you haven't even noticed!
You can feel 2 little dimples at about 2 o'clock and 10 o'clock on the wheel. In the pic, you can see me cutting one of the slits.
5. Use the t-25 torx screwdriver (marked as #2) as shown in the MINI instructions... you are pushing a spring (marked as #1) inwards to release the center airbag. Press the spring in on both sides and wiggle the airbag loose. It doesn't HAVE to be a T-25 torx... really, any long thin device will do, but the T-25 was the perfect length, the right size, didn't have a bulb at the end (like a flared flat-head screwdriver might) and was fairly flat tipped, so it didn't slide off of the spring wire.
6. Detach the 2 connections on the underside of the airbag. One is black and the other is green (note that the socket that they go into are color coded as well, so you don't mix 'em up later). Pry the locking clip up (as I'm doing with my X-acto knife) and then pull each connector free. Put the airbag in a safe place (backseat) for now.
7. Get out your 16mm socket and 4" adaptor (and an appropriate ratchet handle) and remove that big center bolt.
8. Disconnect the 2 electrical connections for the on-wheel radio and cruise control (you may not have these features)
9. Remove the 3 t-20 screws from the back of the wheel that hold the controls and the bottom center spoke cover.
10. Note how the wires are routed in the old wheel from the two control panels. Now, with a bit of wiggling, use your fingers to pull the 2 side control panels and the lower center cover off of your old wheel. Reinstall them on the new wheel and secure with the t-20 screws.
11. The white ring spins very easily. Rotate it so that the connectors are at the top and that the post I'm pointing to is at the very bottom.
12. Push the new wheel onto the gnarled hub. You will notice that the hub has a mark at 6 o'clock and so does your new wheel... If you can't figure it out on your own, you need to make sure that those marks line up.
13. Reinstall the bolt from step #7. How tight? I'm sure that MINI has an official torque. I made it good and snug, but didn't go crazy trying to muscle it tight.
14. Reinstall the 2 electrical connectors from step #8. They just click back into place and they have tabs on 'em so you can't install 'em upside down.
15. Get your airbag and reconnect the 2 points from step #6. Push them down to connect and then lock by pressing the slider down and into place.
16. Press the airbag into place. No need to compress the springs... just line it up and press it home.
17. Find that 10mm socket and reconnect the battery.
18. Start the car. Test the horn and the steering wheel controls to ensure that they function.
19. Enjoy your new steering wheel! The leather on mine was quite dry, but some Zaino leather conditioner (or any other quality leather conditioner will do) fixed that quickly.