How to Clean and Restore a Leather Steering Wheel

You always do your best to keep the interior of your car looking really nice. It’s important to put some effort into the maintenance of your car so that you can enjoy it to the fullest. If your car has a really nice interior, then it’s possible that you may have a leather steering wheel. These can be very beautiful, but they can give you problems if you don’t take care of them the right way.

For this reason, you need to learn how to properly clean and restore a leather steering wheel. If your leather steering wheel has seen better days, then you should know that it’s possible to bring it back to life. You can make it look vibrant again if you know what you’re doing. I’m going to go through the steps of cleaning and restoring the steering wheel, while also showing you exactly what is needed to do the job.

After going through the information, you’ll have a much greater understanding of how to maintain your leather steering wheel. When you clean it the right way and take care of it with the right products, it won’t have problems with becoming dull or tarnished. Just take the time to read on, and you’ll be able to get started right away. This is a great opportunity to really ensure that your car’s interior looks its best.

Cleaning and reconditioning an old leather steering wheel.

What You’ll Need to Get Started

Before you get started with cleaning and restoring your leather steering wheel, you’re going to need to have the right equipment to do the job. Most of the items that you’re going to need won’t cost you much money at all. You should be able to get these very easily, and you will be able to get this project going really fast. Take a look at the items below, and gather them up:

  • Clear coat sealer
  • Cloth to cover your car’s interior
  • Sponges
  • Some masking tape
  • Dye
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Adhesion promoter
  • Several cotton swabs
  • Leather filler
  • Linseed oil
  • Sandpaper

Leather Steering Wheel Cleaning & Restoring Process

1. Cover Up Your Car’s Interior

The first big step is going to be to cover up your car’s interior. This is going to allow you to keep your interior safe from some of the chemicals that you will be using. You should use the cloth that I mentioned earlier to cover the car up. It’s best to choose a sturdy type of cloth for this that won’t allow chemicals to seep through.

Use the cloth to cover your car seat, the floor, and your dashboard. If you do not take the time to do this, then you might wind up dealing with discoloration on these parts of your car’s interior. It’s best to take the necessary precautions to avoid this. It won’t take long to cover up your car’s interior properly with the cloth, so be sure to cover it thoroughly.

2. Use Your Masking Tape

The masking tape is going to be used to cover up logos, buttons, and anything else that isn’t leather on your steering wheel. Both the cleaning products and coloring agents will have a negative impact on these parts of your steering wheel. Covering them with the masking tape ahead of time keeps them from getting ruined. Take your time to cover the logos, buttons, and other non-leather parts of your steering wheel completely with the masking tape.

3. Turning Your Car on Makes Things Easier

Take note that it will be easier to do this restoration job if you turn your car on. Turning the car on allows you to move your steering wheel freely, making it a lot simpler to clean and get the dye where it needs to go. With the car off, you’d be struggling to reach the right spots and may not get the best results. Remember to turn your car on while doing this if possible, as it will make the entire process a lot simpler.

4. Clean the Steering Wheel Off

Next, you are going to need to start cleaning the steering wheel off using your rubbing alcohol. Soak your cotton swabs in the rubbing alcohol, and then use those to clean the steering wheel. You want to keep scrubbing the steering wheel with these cotton swabs until they come out clean when you’re scrubbing. You will be able to eliminate a lot of dirt and other grime from the steering wheel by doing this.

You should also know that you need to focus on the entire steering wheel. Some people make the mistake of only focusing on the part that they want to restore. It’s going to be best if you clean the entire steering wheel with your cotton swabs. This will help to prevent the other areas of the steering wheel from developing problems, and you’re going to have an overall better experience.

5. Sand the Steering Wheel

Now it is time to start the sanding process. The sanding paper that you’re using should be 400-grit or higher. This is going to work to help eliminate the flakes of leather that are likely dotting your steering wheel. At the same time, this is going to form tiny scratches in your steering wheel. This is a good thing because it is going to allow the coloring agents to properly get into the leather later on.

6. Wipe the Steering Wheel Down with Linseed Oil

Once your sanding is finished, you can wipe the leather steering wheel down with linseed oil. The purpose of doing this is to soften the leather up. Often times, steering wheels that are in need of restoration become very hard and unpleasant to use. This linseed oil is going to really help to make the leather soft again and more pleasant for you to use on a daily basis.

After you have wiped the steering wheel thoroughly with the linseed oil, you need to let it sit for a while. It doesn’t have to sit for too long, though. Around ten minutes should be enough time to let the leather absorb the oil properly. After this is done, it’s time to move on to the next step.

7. Use Your Leather Filler

Using the leather filler is going to allow you to fill holes in the leather. There may be gaps or small holes in your leather steering wheel that need to be addressed. The leather filler is going to be able to do a good job of taking care of things. You can actually use your hands to smooth the filler out over the surface of the steering wheel.

Do your best to smooth out the leather filler across all of the holes and creases that are present. Once you’re done with this, you can grab your sandpaper again. Let the paper dry, and then sand the dried filler down to truly make it smooth. This shouldn’t be hard to do, and it’s a necessary part of the process to make the leather steering wheel smooth to the touch again.

8. Wipe the Steering Wheel Down Again

Grab a cloth that is like the ones that you used to cover your car’s interior. You need to use this cloth to wipe the steering wheel down. This is going to remove any remnants of sandpaper that will cause you problems. You need to remove all of the sand that you can find on the steering wheel by wiping it down so that the repair process can go smoothly.

The best advice that I can give is to not rush this part of the process. You don’t want to move on too fast and wind up having issues with restoring your steering wheel. Try to be patient and take some time to wipe down the steering wheel thoroughly. You’ll eliminate the grains of sand and will be ready for the next step.

9. Coat Your Steering Wheel with Clear Leather Adhesion Promoter

It’s time to coat your steering wheel with the clear leather adhesion promoter. The purpose of this is to assist the leather dye by allowing it to bond with your steering wheel more completely. You will also be able to have your dye last longer by making use of the adhesion promoter. Applying your dye is going to be simpler, and you’ll be one step closer to getting the results that you want.

10. Use Your Dye

You can start using your dye on the steering wheel now. Take the time to dip your sponge in the leather dye. Now you can wipe it on the steering wheel using circular motions. Keep doing this until you have coated the entire steering wheel with the dye completely.

Allow the dye to dry before using your clear coat sealer. The clear coat sealer does an excellent job of protecting your steering wheel while also making it feel smooth to the touch. Spray the clear coat on properly and your steering wheel should be restored. Give it a good look, and see the results for yourself.

Keep Your Steering Wheel in Good Shape

Now that you have restored your steering wheel, you should take care of it properly moving forward. If you want to avoid problems in the future, then it’s a good idea to focus on cleaning the steering wheel more often. If you’d like to get the best results, then cleaning the steering wheel off daily is a great idea. You can use a dry cloth to brush off dirt every single day when you’re coming home.

Brushing off the dirt is not going to take a long time, so this shouldn’t feel like a huge chore. Also, you’ll want to give it a more thorough cleaning on a weekly basis. You can spray some leather cleaner on a microfiber cloth to give it a better cleaning. Gently wiping the steering wheel with the microfiber cloth should keep it looking great.

You can remove the leather cleaner with a simple wet cloth when you’re done. All you need to do is get a cloth slightly damp and then wipe the steering wheel down. This will wash away excess leather cleaner, and you’ll be able to feel confident that your steering wheel will keep looking great. Some people even apply a leather conditioner to their steering wheels sometimes, so you may want to consider doing that occasionally, as well.

Keep in Mind That Some Steering Wheels Can’t Be Restored

You should also keep in mind that some leather steering wheels cannot be restored. If you have waited for a very long time to try to restore your leather steering wheel, then it might be too far gone. If it has many cracks and generally looks really bad, then the above methods won’t likely be enough to bring it back from the brink. In this case, it’s going to be best to invest in a new leather steering wheel or a cover (link below).

Use your judgment to determine whether or not restoration will be a real possibility. In many cases, restoration can restore your leather steering wheel to a like-new state. If you’re just now noticing signs of wear on your steering wheel, then you should be able to take care of it. You just have to use common sense and try to realize when something is too far gone to fix.

In Conclusion

The above methods shouldn’t be very hard to implement. The act of restoring and cleaning your leather steering wheel isn’t going to be overly time-consuming. You don’t need to be a car expert or a car detailing aficionado in order to accomplish this either. Just follow the guide above, and your steering wheel will look and feel much nicer.

Don’t wait to get this done if your steering wheel is in need. You can take the time to fix it up before it gets too bad. This can be accomplished in a few hours time, and you’ll love the results. Putting the effort into taking care of your car’s interior is worthwhile, so don’t hesitate to restore your leather steering wheel if it is in need.

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