Because Subarus are like Legos, you can generally swap quite a few parts back and forth between models without too much trouble. In this case, I will be swapping a JDM Impreza wheel into my 1996 Outback Sport wagon. It's a nice touch, matches the factory Momo shift knob, and is about 100% less worn out than my stock wheel with 280k miles of use on it. You will need a T30 Torx bit, a 10mm socket, a 17mm socket, and a small flat blade screwdriver to get the job done. If you should have any questions or comments, feel free to email me.
You first need to use the 10mm socket to remove your negative battery cable- you do not want any power going to the airbag while working. Disconnect the negative terminal and then push the brake pedal and horn several times; this will ensure there is no residual power in the electrical system. Next, loosen (they probably will not come all the way out) the two Torx fittings holding the airbag in. There is one on each side of the airbag.
With the Torx fittings loosened, the airbag can be popped out. It will still be connected to the electrical system, so do not yank too hard. The connector for the airbag is a special double-locking connector. This connector is capable of telling the airbag system if it is locked positively or not, and will set off the airbag warning light (and disable the entire system) should it not be connected properly. You need to be gentle with this connector, as breaking it will ruin your day. To undo it, push the green button in on the left, and using a small flat blade screwdriver push down on the locking tab on the top right. This will allow the green button to pop all the way out to the left. Next, push down on the large lock tab on the right and pull to the left on the left side of the connector. The right side will stay affixed and the left side will come free. The airbag module is now free and can be set aside.
Next, disconnect this white connector at the top of the airbag module cavity- it connects your horn and (if equipped) your cruise control switch to the body electrical system.
Next, disconnect the horn wire, shown here- just give it a gentle tug.
Now, you are ready to undo the main 17mm nut holding on the steering wheel. Make 100% sure your wheels are straight and the steering wheel is straight before continuing- it will make putting it back on straight much easier.
Next, loosen (but do not remove entirely) the main nut. You will need to do a great deal of wiggling and pulling to get it off, and leaving the nut on prevents you from smacking yourself in the face with the steering wheel when it finally lets go. That also ruins your day! Once loose, put your feet on the floor by the pedals and pull with your legs and arms while wiggling the wheel back and forth. It is on there very well, but it will eventually come loose. Once loose, remove the main nut, make note of the order of the fasteners for reassembly (nut, lock washer, then flat washer), and pull the wheel off completely.
Next, if your vehicle has cruise control, you will most likely need to swap the control stalk over. Loosen these two T30 Torx fittings, and the whole bracket and stalk will come out. You may need to push out a knockout on the new wheel, the knockout may already been gone, or you may need to trim a hole with a Dremel in the new wheel for fitment- it all depends on the wheel you have. Reinstall the switch in the new wheel in the reverse order of removal from the old wheel.
At this point, you should be ready to install the new wheel. It is absolutely critical that the two yellow arrows line up on the roll connector body and the moving portion before proceeding. Failure to do so will make your turn signal cancellers work at the improper time and (more importantly) can result in pulling the ribbon carrying your turn signal, horn, cruise, and airbag circuits clean out of the roll connector. They are rather expensive, and breaking it is another great way to ruin your day.
This is where having the steering wheel totally straight before removal comes into play- it makes it very easy to line up the new wheel and push it on. Do not worry too much about seating it all the way- when you reinstall the flat washer, lock washer, and then the main nut, it will all pull into place when the nut is tightened. Reconnect the horn wire, the cruise connector if needed, and then clip in your airbag, taking care to double lock it as explained earlier. Next, push in your airbag module and tighten down the T30 fasteners on the sides, reconnect the battery, and test the horn. If the horn works, turn on the key and make sure the "airbag" light goes out after several seconds, and test your cruise control.
The finished project in my 1996 Outback Sport.