Leather steering wheel intensive care

So many vintage car enthusiasts also love old steering wheels. Whether they are old Momos or Abarth steering wheels or other, less well-known brands – leather steering wheels all need the same care and attention. Cleaning and protecting your leather steering wheel is essential to maintain its appearance and prevent damage. Here are some tips to help you clean and protect your leather steering wheel.

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Key is to keep the leather smooth

In contrast to suede & alcantara steering wheels, leather steering wheels don’t need such an intense cleaning due to the more closed surface of the leather. But the much bigger part in maintaining a leather steering wheel is keeping the leather smooth and soft. The weather conditions in particular are extremely difficult for the steering wheel. Of course I’m talking about vintage steering wheels that have been in cars for 40 years. In wind and weather and especially heat, dryness and mostly also direct sunlight. This causes the leather to dry out and become brittle. The result: the leather cracks, feels hard and the small cracks quickly develop into large ones. Well, sometimes that goes well with a vintage car, of course, when the two of them have grown old together. There are a few dents, cracks, the paint is fading and the steering wheel also bears marks. But as a rule it is about preserving the leather, also in order to be able to enjoy the patina for a long time to come.

So the most important factor is to protect the leather steering wheel from drying out. And a good cleaning will support your efforts.

Restoring a leather steering wheel

At some point I came across a very old, dusty steering wheel that had been in storage for over 30 years. First, of course, I removed the dust and then found out that someone must have tried to stain the leather. He didn’t manage to hit all the spots, thats the reason I was able to see that he must have tried. I used the grease remover to get the steering wheel clean. And to my surprise, the bad attempt of staining was also removed and underneath it showed lovely patina. Then I divided the rim into four parts and tried different products. There are no pictures at the time, it must have been 20 years ago, smartphones didn’t exist at that time. Regardless of the products, the steps are always the same. Clean the steering wheel, condition the steering wheel and protect the steering wheel. It’s like with shoes, you can’t always apply another layer of leather care, at some point it doesn’t work anymore and you have to remove all these layers. Same with leather steering wheels. 

I can only recommend trying to restore it before you even think about having a leather steering wheel reupholstered. It’s a shame, but I’m sure you already know that, otherwise you wouldn’t be here.

Supplies you need

Momo Prototipo Steering Wheel - 350 mm - flat - sunburned

Too much sun and too little care

Abarth 370mm Rally Steering Wheel

A lot of patina but still salvable

How to clean and protect a leather steering wheel

Most important, avoid harsh chemicals or abrasive materials on the steering wheel at all cost. They will damage the leather and strip it of its natural oils.

Step 1: Clean the steering wheel

Use a soft-bristled brush or a microfiber cloth to gently remove any loose dirt and debris from the steering wheel. Then, apply a small amount of leather cleaner to another microfiber cloth and gently wipe the entire surface of the steering wheel, making sure to remove any dirt or grime. I highly recommend Leather Honey leather cleaner, so many excellent results over so many years

Step 2: Condition the leather

After cleaning the steering wheel, apply a small amount of leather conditioner to a clean microfiber cloth and work it into the leather in a circular motion. This will help to keep the leather supple and prevent cracking or fading over time. Again, I completely trust Leather Honey and their leather conditioner.

Step 3: Protect the leather

To prevent future damage, apply a leather protectant to the surface of the steering wheel. This will help to repel water, oils, and other substances that could potentially stain or damage the leather. I use Huberds leather grease for all leather protection applications.

Huberds leather grease will even waterproof your steering wheel. I hope you will never come to a point where you have to proof that but it’s an important feature – since the product was originally developed for shoes.


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