Steering Wheel Restoration

Steering Wheel Restoration-By Scott Clark

Restoring a plastic steering wheel isn’t actually that hard, but if you have a lot of cracks it can be time consuming. Years ago when I did the body work on my car, I also repaired the steering wheel and sprayed it with the same white paint the roof was painted with. It looked pretty good..for about 6 months. Then the cracks started forming again :x . I used some 5 minute epoxy to fill all the cracks originally…BIG MISTAKE. I didn’t know any better back then… The 5 minute stuff is way to rubbery to use in something like this. All the cracks I filled started to show up again…the epoxy didn’t really seem to completely bond with the wheel. Anyway, here’s what it looked like last year when I decided to redo it:

It had a crack in pretty much every single finger groove .

Soo…I started to sand off all the paint I’d put on it, and I used a dremmel tool to grind out EVERY PIECE OF EPOXY. Here’s some pics of what it looked like as I was sanding it:

Here’s a picture of pretty much everything you need to restore your steering wheel…the wheel in the pic is from my ’55 Willys Jeep…another project.

The epoxy you see is PC7, and it comes highly recommended for steering wheels. It’s a two part epoxy, and the can says it takes 24 hours to fully cure. They’re not making it up; after the first time I applied it and it still felt a little soft after 12 hours I was kind of worried. After a full day though it was hard. If you file/sand it after 24 hours it’s not that hard to work with…wait a few more days and it gets hard as a rock (and harder to sand or file).
There’s also a dremmel tool with a small burr in it to hog out the cracks big enough to fill, a couple files for knocking down the epoxy that filled the cracks, some wet/dry sandpaper…the gloves are obviously optional, but are helpful if you spend 4 hours wet sanding .

Basically, here’s how it goes: Hog out the cracks so they’re big enough to fill. Mix up a batch of PC7. Use some small instrument to stuff the epoxy into the cracks (I found a 3″ finish nail worked really well). The working time on this stuff is obviously pretty long, so you can try and smooth it out some now, or just wait until it sets up. Wait 24 hours. Take a fine tooth file start to flatten out the parts you’ve filled. When you get close enough to the wheel that you don’t want to eat into it, get out the sandpaper and a bucket of water. I can’t remember what grade of sandpaper I was using…probably either 150 or 220. You might try 220 first and see how it goes. It actually wet sands pretty easily. Then just sand your repairs until it all matches the contours of the wheel. Here’s what the finished repairs looked like:

Paint work is the same as any other body work…I sprayed mine with a primer/surfacer to fill the sanding scratches. Then hit it with a primer/sealer.

Finally, I gave it the (first) color coat. I didn’t really like the bright white it was painted originally…it didn’t match the off-white of the dash and was a little too “hard” for the other interior colors. I found a color used on Case tractors called “Power White” that is a little more cream colored. I sprayed it with that and here’s how it came out…

This is about as good a paint job as I can do…the paint laid down just about perfect. It really looked great. At this point I *probably* should have just left it alone and put it all back together. Here’s how it looked in the car:

After looking at it for a while though, I decided that it still wasn’t exactly what I wanted…the color still didn’t really match anything. And then I saw this….

That’s a wheel done by Pearlcraft in Australia. See more at www.pearlcraft.com.au . After seeing that I thought “how cool is that??”. Soo…paint job v2.0 started.

I sanded down the paint I’d just applied and taped it off in way similar to that wheel. I taped it off and tried to paint the lower portion of the wheel with the same paint as the lower dash area.

One problem…I was right on the edge of running out of paint
. I couldn’t get enough paint on there to get it to flow out like it’s supposed it…it was just too dry of a coat . Oh well. That’s actually as far as I got on paint job v2.0. I ended up just poking the wheel back on so I could use the car and I still haven’t finished it yet. This will give you an idea of what it looks like though:

I was originally going to paint the upper and lower sections with the same metallic blue/grey as the upper section of the dash, but I kind of like the white that’s there now. I’d also like to give it a clearcoat just because the wheel gets handled all the time.

Anyway, there it is… It’s not hard, but if you have a lot of cracks, it does take a lot of time. I’d be embarrassed to tell you just how much time I spent working on that thing .
Anyway, hope that helps,
Scott

One Comments to “Steering Wheel Restoration”

  1. Nice job! Thanks for the info and the great photos. I’m about to tackle a slightly cracked 1972 VW bus steering wheel and I feel more confident after seeing this post.

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