My 1996 civic had an accident prior to me buying it and because of that, the driver's side airbag had been used. I initially was only going to replace the airbag but after looking around on ebay it appeared that I could also get a new steering wheel with it for almost nothing. I spent $55 shipped and had an almost new airbag and steering wheel to install. I believe this guide will apply to all models of 1996-1999 honda civics.
Most car repairs are simply a matter of removing the old part and installing the new one. This is also known as bolt-on repairs or replacements. The steering wheel and airbag replacement are no different.
Removing the old parts
Start by removing the plastic plates that cover the airbag screws on both sides of the steering wheel. I used a key but a flathead screwdriver might be more suitable. Insert the screwdriver into the indent and it should pry out very easily.
Inside you will find a T-25 torx screw. I didn't have a Torx driver
that large so I made a $10 trip to Home Depot.
Mine was on very tight
and required some force to loosen. Remove the screws from both sides.
The airbag/steering wheel center part should lift right out but will have some wiring attached.
Unclip all wires from the inside of the steering wheel. The big yellow clip requires that you pull down on the spring-loaded yellow sleeve to remove. The smaller clips just need to be pressed in.
There is only one nut holding in the steering wheel. I can't remember the size right now but it is a medium sized nut, I believe 19mm or 21mm in size. I had a large breaker bar that I used to loosen it but it came off without too much trouble.
Tip - I didn't do this part but you may want to. After the bolt is off, mark the alignment of the wheel with a black felt-tipped pen on the bolt head and mark the same spot on the new steering wheel so you'll put the new one back where the old one was.
To remove the steering wheel, PULL HARD. Mine was stuck on well and required a lot of force to get off. I pulled and jiggled it straight out until it popped back at me.
Getting the wiring ribbon cable back in place
The long white ribbon cable is there to facilitate the wheel spinning around in both directions. You will want to keep it at it's default alignment. To do this, make sure you don't spin it around any more, straighten it or pull it out. Just remove the plastic top and wiring that comes out of it from the old steering wheel, being careful not to change the alignment. Re-insert the ribbon cable back into the pocket so that it all lays flush and isn't bent or out of place.
Installing the new steering wheel
Place the new steering wheel onto the center splined bolt and feed the wiring through the hole. Pull all of the wiring through the hole and get ready to line it up.
If you've marked the alignment with a pen, use that to line it up, otherwise eyeball it, put the bolt on, drive around a little, realign, replace, repeat. Once you've got it in the correct alignment, tighten the bolt by holding the steering wheel with one hand and tightening with the other. I don't know the amount of torque required but it should be tight without using strenuous force.
Reconnecting the wiring
Re-clip all the wiring back on the way it was. My model has cruise control but the wiring is really just for cruise control, horn, grounds and the airbag. Reattach everything and there should be no loose wires. Make sure to test the horn to check that it's all connected properly. After driving you will also want to check the cruise control wiring if applicable. The large, yellow airbag connector needs to be pulled back to be connected just like it required for disconnection.
Installing the new airbag
The new airbag should now be wired and ready to screw back into place. Just insert it into the only orientation it works in, push it down tight into the steering wheel and tighten the screws on the sides. The screws should go on very tight to detract from theft or malfunction. Replace the plastic plates on the side which just pop back into place and you are all finished.
Note - Your SRS light will still be on as there may be other parts required to get your SRS/airbag system 100% operational. Even if you have replaced every sensor and airbag, the system will need to be reset which can be done by a Honda dealership. This guide offers no guarantee that the airbag system will work until it has been checked by an authorized facility.