Thursday, March 10, 2016

Installing a New Wheelskins Steering Wheel Leather Cover

Good quality steering wheels are not cheap, and sometimes it is far easier and cheaper to have an original steering wheel recovered rather than replaced. And if you can do it yourself, then the savings can be substantial.

A few years ago I ordered a leather steering wheel cover from Wheelskins for my 1984 Trans Am. Alas, I never installed it, so it sat in my garage for a long time collecting dust. I guess it was just luck that it fit my 1978 Corvette steering wheel like a glove, so I decided to put it to good use.

Since plans for my '76 Vette include a steering column swap, I found a column locally that also included the steering wheel, but the leather was no longer supple and it showed many wear and age cracks on the surface. After a certain point, leather conditioners can only do so much so I thought about replacing it, but using this new cover would save me a few bucks, besides, I thought I'd try my hand at steering wheel upholstery and see what happens.

Not bad for a steering wheel approaching the 40-year-old mark.

But the closer you got to the original leather, the more damage you saw.

The top of the wheel always gets the brunt of the damage since it usually sits exposed to the sun,
and the windshield acts like a magnifying glass.

I wanted the cover to line up exactly with the old one, as this looked best.

You want to make sure the stitching will be perfectly lined up with the original.

And the same applies to the circumference stitches. It is better and easier to work
with a cover that is aligned properly from the get go.

And DO NOT forget to read the instructions. You want your stitching to look like a pro did it.

A journey of a thousand stitches starts with a single stitch... or something like that.

And here I go...

The instruction sheet as well as the how-to video provided by Wheelskins tells you
how to make "dummy" stitches in steering wheel post areas.

Once you get the hang of it, the stitching goes a bit faster, but you want to make sure
they are lined up correctly so they look uniform.

After about an hour your steering wheel will sport a new leather cover that not only
looks great, but also feels new.

 I'll be the first to admit that I got a bit too confident toward the end, and sort of messed up the last stitch. Granted, it is almost impossible to tell where I went wrong but I know where I screwed up and I'm still shaking my head at my stupidity.

Having said that, the overall look and feel of the wheel is incredible, and it would be great if Wheelskins offered a custom product that covered every single inch of the original leather. The  only areas that give away the fact that this is a steering wheel cover are the three spots where the spokes are located, and while it's a small detail, perfectionists such as myself may be bothered by it.

Other than that, for around $60 you can't go wrong.

Thanks for reading.