How to recover a leather wrapped steering wheel

Written by louise harding
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How to recover a leather wrapped steering wheel
Leather steering wheel covers fit over the wheel and are sewn, or wrapped, closed. (couvre-volant flaming image by Unclesam from

Steering wheel covers range from functional, which cover worn wheels, to decorative, such as furry covers, which reflect the car owner's personality. Leather-wrapped steering wheel cover kits are available at hardware, automotive and discount stores. Many car manufacturers offer car model specific leather wheel covers that are installed in the same manner with a few differences due to wheel and cover designs. Because leather wrapped wheel covers are hand stitched, or "wrapped," the process of recovering the wheel is time consuming.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Utility knife
  • Alcohol
  • Rag
  • Measuring tape
  • Scissors
  • Leather needle
  • Leather "thread" (strips) or waxed nylon thread

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  1. 1

    Cut the stitching or leather lacing, depending on the current wheel cover style, with a utility knife.

  2. 2

    Pull away the cut thread/strips. Pull the wheel cover from the steering wheel.

  3. 3

    Pour alcohol onto a rag. Scrub the wheel to remove any debris left from the interior of the previous cover.

  1. 1

    Remove the leather cover and leather "thread" from the packaging. Your kit may have waxed nylon thread or leather strips with which to sew the cover. If the kit doesn't have pre-measured thread, measure around the inside of the wheel with a measuring tape and multiply this measurement by 2. Cut a piece of thread according to this modified measurement.

  2. 2

    Sit in the driver's seat. Pull the cover around the wheel. Many kits are "universal" steering wheel covers. Some kits are car model specific. Most covers are one piece that wrap around the wheel with holes on the inside edges.

  3. 3

    Thread the leather through the needle. Leather needles are available at fabric, craft, leather working and upholstery stores. Tie a knot larger than the cover holes at the end of the leather.

  4. 4

    Count the holes along the top and bottom edge. According to Matt's Oldsmobile 442 website, the number of holes on both edges must match. If they don't, the lacing won't look attractive. Return mismatched holed covers to the store.

  5. 5

    Insert the needle into the bottom centre hole on the inside of the front edge. For the purpose of clarification, the front refers to the side of the cover you see. The back is the part of the cover facing your control panel. Pull the needle until the knot stops against the inside of the cover. The key to a good wrap is to keep your stitches tight.

  6. 6

    Hold the cover edges together tightly. Insert the needle through the hole exactly opposite the hole the needle was just inserted through on the back edge of the cover. Pull the needle/leather tight, but according to Matt's Oldsmobile 442 website, don't pull the thread so tight you rip the leather cover or break the thread.

  7. 7

    Pull the thread tight. Insert the needle through the hole to the left of the very first hole the needle was inserted through. Pull the thread tight.

  8. 8

    Insert the needle through the hole matching its position on the back edge. You want to sew the thread in a back and forth path, sewing together the edges of the cover, working your way up and around the inside of the steering wheel. Don't sew diagonally. Always join the corresponding holes of the front and back edges of the wheel cover.

  9. 9

    Stop sewing when you've reached the last hole, which should be the hole directly to the right of the bottom centre hole where you began stitching. Examine the stitching. Tighten any thread that needs tightened by pulling on it and slowly adjusting the subsequent stitches until you've reached the last holes again.

  10. 10

    Sew through the final holes twice to secure the thread. Cut off the thread about 1 inch from the wheel. Poke the tail of the thread under the stitches.

Tips and warnings

  • Some inexpensive leather wrapped steering wheel kits feature faux stitching and adhere to the steering wheel by use of adhesives or adhesive tapes. These work well for a short time, but the adhesive is affected by changes in temperature and exposure to sunlight, causing the leather to peel from the wheel.
  • You can use the old wheel cover as a pattern to make a new cover by cutting it so it lies flat. Then use an awl or leather punch to recreate the holes along the edges. Cut out the leather and sew it as instructed.
  • Sewing with leather is hard on your hands and fingers. Some people use needle nose pliers to pull the leather needle through the holes once their fingers start hurting.

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