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98+ S-series dash and steering wheel removal

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by:Nubuilder

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The entire process took me 3 1/2 hours to complete.

I apologize in advance for no pictures (all I have is a before and after).

First off, everything comes apart pretty easily (or at least I thought so).

Organization is key!!!
I used a cardboard box to put all the screws in and then labeled them as to where they went. I think this will save a lot of time and headaches later when everything goes back in.

Tools

10mm wrench
10mm ratcheting wrench (highly recommended!!!)

1/4 inch ratchet
3" extension
6" extension
7mm deep well
10mm deep well

3/8 inch ratchet
6" extension
10mm deep well

(used for steering wheel removal with the tool from AutoZone)
1/2 inch ratchet
3" extension
13mm
16mm
21mm
breaker bar (just a little bit easier

#2 philips screwdriver bit/socket
-a regular screwdriver will not work since you need this for the speaker grills up next to the windshield
various flat blade screwdrivers (about 3 or 4 of them)
utility knife

I think that's it.

There really weren't any specialty tools needed other than the steering wheel puller. Everything else can be found in just about any good tool set.

The very first thing you should do is disconnect the battery!!! This is to allow the electrical system to discharge and avoid setting off the airbags accidentally.

Dash

Speakers
First we’ll remove the speakers on top of the dash. This will help later in the passenger airbag removal. The speaker grills are held in by 2 #2 philips screws. Try not to strip the heads of them. Attached to the passenger side grill it the AHL sensor. Just give it a 1/4 turn and it will pop out and then you can unplug it from the wiring harness and put it back in the grill so you don’t lose it. Now remove the speakers (if you have them; most should, I don’t since I have an extended cab S10 with no 3rd door so there are 4x10” speakers in the rear pillars). Unplug the speaker from the harness and set them aside.

Lower Kick Panels
I started by removing the lower kick panels (the black ones) since they need to come off to get at other screws. I started with the passenger side one (the smallest one). Then I unscrewed the middle one (just below the radio). If you have two cigarette outlets below on this center piece, they are plugged in with a simple connection that is just above them. Then unscrew the OBD II port from the driver's side panel. Once that is unscrewd, remove the driver's side lower kick panel. All these panels are installed overlapping each other so don't be surprised if you have to wiggle or change the order in which you remove them.

Driver’s Knee Board
Next, you'll need to remove the knee board below the steering wheel. This also holds the park brake release handle. Behind the handle, you'll see the black plastic that protects the release cable. At the end of this you'll see a metal bracket/lever. Just use your fingers to pull it towards you (towards the rear of the vehicle; it isn’t that hard at all to pull; keep this in mind if the release handle ever breaks!) and then use your other hand to unhook the cord. Now you can go ahead and remove the 4 screws that hold the panel itself in place.

Floor Courtesy Lights
Now is the time to unbolt these. There are 2 lights, one on each side, and they are both held in by a single screw.

Dash Trim Bezel
With the driver’s knee board out of the way, you can now remove the dash trim bezel (goes from the headlight switch to the other side of the radio/climate controls). This is held in with 3 screws (2 on the bottom and 1 just above the instrument cluster. Then this panel will just pop out (its held in with a few metal clips). Don't pull too far as there will be wires attached/plugged into it. You'll need to unplug the headlight switch (two plugs), the 4x4 buttons, passenger airbag on/off switch, rear wiper switch (as applicable). Now you should be able to remove it. Tilting the steering wheel all the way down helps.

Cluster, Radio, Climate Controls
Alright, with that out of the way, you can unbolt the instrument cluster (4 screws) and then unplug it (the plug is at the top). Then unbolt the radio (2 screws) and then unplug the antenna and the wiring harness from it (1 big plug). Next up is the climate controls which is held in by 2 screws and then you have to hold 4 clips together, 2 on each side, just above and below the screws. This little bugger has 6 plugs on the back of it. For the fan speed switch, you have to squeeze 2 clips together (top and bottom) and then unplug it. The temperature knob is just a single clip on the top, squeeze and unplug. The position selector is a bit trickier. First there is one small plug on the left side. Then there is a big plug that has four large vacuum tubes connected to it. This is held on by 3 clips. Use a small flat screwdriver to unclip these. DO NOT PULL! You will break something unless you unclip all 3. Then there's a long gray plug across the bottom in the center. Just unplug this (no clips). Finally there's a small connector just below the position selector (this may or may not actually lead to something; my S10 doesn't have the rear defrost, but the Blazer that I took this out of did; GM must have just included the wiring regardless).

Glove Box
Now it’s time for the glove box. I left the glove box latched for this part. There are 3 screws that bolt the hinge to the dash itself. Remove these and then unlatch the glove box and it should come right out (you may need to let it down a little bit). Next remove the trim ring (you’ll see it with the glove box gone). This is held in by 5 screws (or at least mine was). Again, this may or may not be necessary.

Passenger Airbag
Behind the radio there is a large yellow wire and connector. Unclip the connector from the dash (it’s held in place by a metal clip) and then unplug the two connectors. The airbag is held in place by 4 10mm bolts/nuts. The two lower ones are easy to see and a breeze to remove. There are two upper nuts , one is slightly difficult to get at and the other is a PITA. I used a ratcheting combination wrench on the easier one to get to (closest to the radio). It worked great. I don’t know how well a socket will fit as you need to use a deep socket. I went at it through the opening for the radio/air vents. The other one, the PITA one, I found it best to use a 1/4 inch ratchet, deep 7mm socket, and 6” extension and to go through the speaker opening. Hold the ratchet with your left hand and use your right hand to find the nut and to guide the socket onto it. Now the airbag should slide out the front of the dash.

Fuse Panel

This is held in place by a single screw. Once you push it out of the way a little, you’ll see a connector with 4 large wires coming into it on both sides. Unclip this from the dash (held in place by a metal clip), and then unplug it.

Door Plungers (turn dome lights on/off with the opening/closing of the door)
Simple and straight forward. Use a small flat screwdriver to hold the clip up and unplug the connector.

Ash Tray
Next I removed the ash tray. This may not be necessary, but I figured I might as well remove everything I could. This is held in by 4 screws (2 top and 2 bottom).

Defroster Vent
I cannot stress how careful you have to be when removing this! I’ve removed two now and I have cracked both of them. On the bright side, once they are back in place you won’t be able to tell (in my case anyways). This seemingly small piece is held in place by 8 metal clips that are in pairs of 2. I found it easiest to use a small flat screwdriver to work one end or the other loose first. Then I twisted it frontwards and backwards trying to unclip one of the two next set of clips. Again, I cannot stress how careful you have to be with this. It is frustrating and takes a great deal of patience. For me this was the part I dreaded the most.

A-pillar Covers
All you have to do is pull the plastic trim pieces straight away from the pillar itself. Each one is held in by 2 metal clips. Removing these will make getting the dash out easier.

Alright, now that all the “small” stuff is out of the way, now it’s time to work on getting the dash itself out.

The dash itself is held in by 17 screws. There are two located by the park brake pedal. One is 10mm and you can see it and the other is 7mm (just to the right of the 10mm) and is actually backwards (you see the threads instead of the head). There is one 10mm in the same location on the passenger’s side. Then there are 8 10mm bolts that hold some silver brackets to the dash itself and then too some other brackets that will stay with the vehicle. On my S10, there was a big metal shield around the steering column (I want to point out that mine is a ’98 with a 5spd if that makes any difference; the Blazer I took the second dash out of was an automatic and did not have this shield). If need be, a 10mm ratcheting wrench comes in extremely useful on these bolts. At this point the bottom of the dash is completely free of the vehicle. All that is holding the dash in now is 6 7mm screws across the top. One is located in the driver’s speaker area, four are in the defroster area, and the other is in the passenger’s speaker area. Before you take the last screw out be sure to support the dash by pushing up and in on it (either you or a friend).

With all these bolts removed, the dash will pivot down. Mine sat nicely on the steering column and didn’t really move.

Now comes the hardest part….removing the wiring harness from the back of the dash. The wiring harness is for the most part run through a plastic C-channel. The catch is that electrical tape was used to hold it in. I found about 6 to 9 places where it was taped and used a utility knife to cut it. This proves very difficult when you cannot see what you are doing and don’t want to cut yourself or any wires. Once you can’t feel any more tape, gently pull the wiring harness away from the dash and towards the front of the vehicle. While doing this, make sure that any and all connectors pass easily and carefully through any holes/passages that you can. Things to be very careful of: instrument cluster plug, climate control plugs. You are VERY close to getting the dash out, but you must have patience! Rushing at this point will only cause you more pain later when you tear a wire or break something.

Now with the wiring harness completely free of the dash, you’ll need to push the rearview mirror all the way up to the ceiling that you can. This will keep it out of harm’s way. If you left the steering wheel on, like I did, having an extra set of hands now will help tremendously. The trick is to tilt the steering wheel all the way down, and then to flip the dash. You’ll be taking the back of the dash, the part towards the front of the vehicle, and lifting it up towards the roof and over the wheel. In the end, the dash will be upside down. Now just take it out one door or the other.

Congratulations!!! You can now rejoice in your great accomplishment.

Steering wheel & airbag

Use a flat screwdriver to unclip the airbag. There are two openings (at 9 o'clock and 3 o'clock with the wheel straight). You will have to turn the wheel so that these openings are at the top (so you’ll turn the wheel 90 degrees and then another 180 degrees). Place the screwdriver in the slot and pry upwards on the handle. These will unclip so don't force them or you will break the steering wheel or your screwdriver. Once these are unclipped, hang onto the airbag itself. Next, you need to unplug the yellow wire going to it. All you have to do is pull up on the plastic cover that is right on top of the plug and then use your flat screwdriver to pop the plug off the airbag. Now set the airbag aside in a safe place.

For the steering wheel, I rented the steering wheel puller from AutoZone for $20 and it worked like a charm. First, you'll need a 21mm socket to take the center nut off the steering wheel (you'll need the wheel locked in place by the ignition for this). I left the nut just barely on so that the wheel couldn't come off (even though it really doesn't come off all that hard/fast). There is one more wire connecting the wheel to the steering column. This is a red wire for the horn. All you have to do is push in on the white connector going to the column and turn it 1/4 turn (I can't remember which direction, just don't force it; it comes right off). Now take the puller from AutoZone and figure out which of the bolts fit into the two threaded holes. Now put these bolts through the puller bar itself. I tightened these down until about 2-3 threads were showing using a 13mm socket. This should get the puller bar itself as close to the wheel as possible. Use a 16mm socket on the center black bolt (I used a breaker bar just to have more leverage). Tighten it slowly. You should hear/see the wheel start to move. It really doesn't take much. Now just remove the two bolts from the wheel and take the puller away. Now you can completely remove the center 21mm nut. Pass the yellow wire through the hole in the steering wheel.

There you go!

Before:

After:

My cardboard box that I used for keeping track of all the screws.

If I'm not mistaken, and didn't loose/forget any, there were 67 screws plus 2 nuts (that I put back on the passenger airbag) that I took out.

The parts pile! Ignore the metal ramps in the bed.

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