How to Fix a Sticky Steering Wheel on your Classic Car

It’s a beautiful morning, the birds are chirping, the sun is shining, and you decided it’s a good day to jump in your classic car or truck and take it on your daily commute to work. You jump in and begin driving and your hands suddenly become sticky and black with residue from your old steering wheel! It’s a good way to ruin your morning and can be frustrating as it tends to come and go depending on the heat and humidity outside!

dirty hands

I’ve heard mixed stories on why this happens and it may differ between the era of your wheel and the materials that it’s constructed of. I had this problem on an old Ford Truck I own that has a ’40 Ford steering wheel in it. In the mornings (especially when it was humid out) I would get black hands from driving the truck to work. It seemed as the truck heated up and the day went on it would mostly go away. In my case I think the residue on the wheel rim was from 70+ years of greasy, dirt, and oil built up and ground into the wheel from use. I decided I needed to fix this issue and share my solution.

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A quick tip to clean the hard plastic/bakelite type wheels with this issue is to use Eastwood Low VOC PRE Painting Prep and a clean rag to wipe the rim of the wheel with.

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If it’s hot outside the PRE tends to evaporate quickly so I like to hold the rag behind the wheel and liberally spray it with the PRE. I then grab the wheel and wipe it down until the PRE has fully evaporated. It may take a few times around the wheel to completely get the residue off, but I usually continue the process until hardly anything is transferring to the rag (key to using a clean rag is that you can easily tell when the wheel is clean).

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After the wheel is cleaned off, let the vehicle air out with all of the windows and doors open until the PRE fumes have evaporated and you’re ready to drive it with a sticky-free wheel!

-Matt/EW

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4 thoughts on How to Fix a Sticky Steering Wheel on your Classic Car

  • My 56 truck wheel does that. I never thought using Pre painting prep just to clean the residue off would stop it permanently. Thanks for sharing this useful tip.

  • I went for a very long drive, and hands soon became very sticky and black, which was quite distressing , as I was heading towards a wedding with a cake to deliver and I suffer with sensitive skin…….I’m hoping your advice will help, as wheel has remained sticky ever since……am using cling film at the moment to enable a sticky free drive!!!

  • Good advice! However, the GM black vinyl / rubberized type of steering wheels of the late 60s thru 70s), they are notorious for getting oozy with some kind of sticky gel. Do you know of a way to, 1) Clean the wheel and, 2) Keep it from becoming oozy and sticky again, at least for some months?

    Many thanks for your expertise and great show.

  • I have tried everything and only found one solution. I use dryer sheets. Wet them and rub off the sticky stuff. May have to use several, but it works amazingly well. Wipe with clean, wet rag, after each application.

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