Can I install an aftermarket steering wheel, legally?

Steering wheel without any aftermarket modifications

With the abundance of car modification options that are available today, and their relative affordability (depending on what you’re looking at!), it can get pretty tempting to start making personalised upgrades to your vehicle.

When it comes to vehicle performance and safety, cosmetic alterations are generally harmless and aren’t anything to worry about. When engines are modified and parts are replaced, however, lines can be crossed. And yes, we’re talking legal lines.

Aftermarket steering wheels

There are valid reasons to replace a steering wheel, like if its broken or damaged. If this is the case, replacing the old steering wheel with a like-for-like replacement is the easiest way to go, and you won’t run into any trouble.

A modification occurs when you remove an original steering wheel and replace it with a new, aftermarket one. Whether or not the alteration passes rules depends on a few factors.

If you want to change your steering wheel because you prefer a different colour, arrangement, or material, you can do so. It may be more difficult than you think to stay on the right side of the law.

You must confirm that the new steering wheel conforms with the applicable certification (see below). Removable or quick-release steering wheels are not permitted under New Zealand law and should be seen only on the racetrack!

Do I need certification if I’m replacing my SRS airbag steering wheel with a sports steering wheel?

You can’t remove an air bag from a vehicle unless it is at least 14 years old. At the point the vehicle reaches 14 years old it is allowed, however the vehicle must be LVV Certified.

Can a vehicle be certified that is constantly sitting on the bump stops?

All low volume vehicles must be fitted with purpose-designed bump-stops that are positioned to provide sufficient clearance from any suspension components so as to allow suspension travel suitable for the safe operation of the vehicle when fully laden.

All about airbags

If your vehicle is equipped with an airbag as standard equipment, the new steering wheel should be equipped with one as well. By the same token, and somewhat interestingly, you can’t install a substitute steering wheel with an airbag if it didn’t come with one as standard equipment.

When a crash test is performed on a vehicle, it is based on the standard safety features – vehicles with airbags have different standards than vehicles without them – and the design of steering columns and steering wheels can alter depending on whether or not airbags are fitted.

The simple answer

At times, it may appear like the laws and regulations go too far. We totally get it! But, there are, nevertheless, some very good reasons why they are strictly enforced. Namely, your safety and the safety of the people you’re sharing the road with.

If you’re considering adding an aftermarket steering wheel, proceed with caution. Seek out a certified professional to instal the replacement and do all necessary checks to ensure that the steering wheel complies with regulatory requirements and manufacturer and LVV compliance.