A Leather steering wheel needs care and sometimes cleaning

Quite a lot of people love old vintage Leather steering wheels like Momo, Abarth, Raid, Victor, Nardi, Fusina and a few others. I just recently revealed how I clean my alcantara & suede steering wheels and right after that I got tons of emails from people asking me for tipps regarding care for vintage Leather steering wheels. 

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Leather steering wheel care vs. Suede & Alcantara

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. I’m not talking about a brand new steering wheel. Nowadays the use a different kind of leather, most of the time a covered leather which resists the influences of nature much more. 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.

Leather steering wheel care

Caring for a Leather steering wheel is really very easy. All you have to do is protect it from drying out. 

As usual I tried lots of different stuff. Once I even took a leather steering wheel that I purchased at that time and divided it into four parts and tried four different products. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture at the time, that was 20 years ago before smartphones even existed.

Anyway, in my opinion the very best product for caring for a Leather steering wheel is Huberds Leather Grease. Not expensive but also not supercheap but the best product for the job. It will soften and protect your Leather steering wheel and even waterproof it. I hope you will never come to a point where you have to proof that but its an important feature – since the product was originally developed for shoes.

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

Restoring a Leather steering wheel

Before you reupholster your Leather steering wheel, try to rescue it by restoring the leather. Cleaning is the first step to remove everything on top in order to reveal the genuine leather surface. So it might only be necessary to clean the Leather steering wheel, remove all the grease and than care for it again.

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 use a Leather Degreaser from Leather Honey which I also use for my leather jacket and leather armchair. In other words, a product that I am absolutely convinced of. It removes all the grease, oil and reveals the leather which of course – needs care afterwards. 

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.

Niki Lauda & James Hunt

Niki Lauda Steering Wheel Ad