How to restore a leather steering wheel

Written by shae hazelton
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How to restore a leather steering wheel
A leather steering wheel is an essential part of a classic car. (Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

Smooth, supple leather creates a comfortable handhold for your steering wheel, but you can say the opposite for worn leather. Peeling or cracked leather on your steering wheel can feel disturbingly unpleasant and also mar the appearance of an otherwise classy vehicle. Restoring the leather can revert it to an almost-new state. Don't wait until it's too late, however, or your steering wheel may become beyond repair, forcing you to buy a new one or suffer with the existing damage.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • Cloth
  • Masking tape
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Cotton swabs
  • Linseed oil
  • Sandpaper
  • Leather filler
  • Adhesion promoter
  • Dye
  • Sponge
  • Clear coat sealer

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Cover your seat, floor and dashboard with a disposable, sturdy cloth. The chemicals you use to restore the leather on the wheel may discolour the seat, floor and dashboard if you do not protect them with the cloth.

  2. 2

    Place masking tape over any buttons or logos not made of leather on the steering wheel. The cleaning and colouring agents you use on the leather will ruin these if you do not take steps to protect them.

  3. 3

    Clean the steering wheel with rubbing alcohol. Scrub the leather with cotton swabs soaked in the alcohol until the swabs come away clean. Scrub the entire steering wheel and not just the part that needs to be restored.

  4. 4

    Sand the steering wheel with 400-grit sandpaper or higher. This takes away the crusty flakes of the leather and also creates small scratches in the steering wheel that allows colouring agents to seep into the leather.

  5. 5

    Wipe the steering wheel with linseed oil to soften the leather. Let it sit for 10 minutes to allow the leather to absorb the linseed oil.

  6. 6

    Fill holes in the leather with leather filler. Use your fingers to smooth the filler across the creases and holes in the leather. Sand down the dried filler with 400-grit sandpaper to make the area smooth.

  7. 7

    Wipe down the steering wheel with a sturdy cloth to remove remnants from the sandpaper. These small crumbs of leather, filler and sand will interrupt the repair process, so remove every last grain you can find.

  8. 8

    Coat the steering wheel in a clear leather adhesion promoter. Adhesion promoter helps bond the leather dye to the steering wheel, making it last longer. It also makes the application of the dye much smoother.

  9. 9

    Dip a sponge into the leather dye. Wipe the dye onto the steering wheel in circular motions until the dye completely coats the steering wheel.

  10. 10

    Spray the steering wheel with satin clear coat once the dye dries. This protects the steering wheel from damage and gives it a smooth, pleasant feel.

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