You get into your car on an average of three to four times a day and the first thing you grab is your worn out leather wrapped steering wheel. Yuck, huh.
The cause, well can be a few things, dirty hands from work, lotions you put on your hands, or if your a nervous type and like to rub your steering wheel. All of these and probably a few more that I haven’t mentioned can damage the waterbased dye applied to your leather steering wheel cover.
The fix can be simple if you have the right products and the know how.
Heres the know how…the products are up to you ( which I’ll tell you what to use )
Take an old sheet or a drop cloth and drape it around the steering wheel covering your dash and instrument panel to prevent any overspray from getting on them. Lay another sheet on the seat to eliminate any drippings from the prepping process.
Prepping the area. This is the key to success. You need a dirt free area or the dye won’t stick. I use rubbing alcohol, acetone, ammonia, and water mixed equally in a spray bottle. Spray the steering wheel with the solution and using a red Scotch Brite pad scrub the wheel, wiping as you go. This not only removes any grease and goo but it also scuffs the area so the dye will stick. You will also notice the dye will lift a little, this is good thing. Use the dye to help smooth the areas out. Let dry, then sand the wheel with a 400 or 600 grit sandpaper, this will also help to smooth any frayed or rough leather.
If there is a hole in the cover, it depends on how big it is, the size of say your thumb is repairable, any bigger well it’s time to buy a new steering wheel. Here’s an example of a steering wheel thats to far gone.
Now to repair the hole you will need THICK GEL SUPER GLUE. Yup, super glue. What you will do is glue the edges of the hole down and sand with a 240 Grit sandpaper while the glue is wet, this mixes the sanded leather with the glue and creates a patch. Keep applying the glue and sand until the area is smooth and level. This trick also works for rough leather too. If the steering wheel is rough on the top with no hole do the same, spread the glue around the area and sand it smooth.
For you folks at home, a lot of the products aren’t readily available to you. SEM Classic Coat dye can be used, with Bulldog adhesion promoter before you dye. Seal the steering wheel with Thompson water seal before you apply any adhesion promoter, this will help to smooth the area out and will keep the dye from just soaking in and make the ending result look better. Fillers, well, you can use a flexible drywall filler, applied in thin coats to fill in those rough areas, dry and sand the areas. If fillers are used, apply the sealer again before you dye.
For you techs using your water based dyes, use a sticky primer mixed 50-50 with your flex coat applied before you dye to eliminate any oil migration. The dye will stick better and last longer if you do this.
The trick is to get the area as smooth as possible, because any imperfections will be seen, use your fillers if needed. The soft touch filler, and leather crack filler (the gray stuff) works good, use your finger to apply a small amount at a time, drying and sanding between coats. Switch to a finer grade of sandpaper when sanding the fillers.
Don’t forget the back of the wheel. I don’t know how many steering wheels I’ve redone for customers that have been done before (by someone else), that they have missed the back of the wheel. When a customer looks in the car through the windshield, what do they see, the back of the wheel, so dye the whole thing!
Running the vehicle while your doing your work helps, your able to turn the wheel and position it where you want it.
After the dye has been applied and dry, top coat it with a satin clear (don’t forget to add a little cross-linker to the clear if your using water based dyes ) this will add a little bit more of a barrier and will help the dye last longer.
At this point your steering wheel should look like new.
When your all done and the dye is dry, apply a small amount of leather conditioner to the leather wrapped steering wheel to give it a smooth feel on look. If you have any questions or need more info about How to Repair a Worn Leather Steering Wheel feel free to contact me.
Got a NEW version of How to Repair a Leather Steering Wheel for those tech’s out there using only water based dyes…Let me know what you think, the superglue trick still works either way…