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DIY Steer Wheel Repairs

Years of use and exposure to the elements can damage the black plastic and rubber material covering old steering wheels to the point that they are a hazard to your hands, let alone an eyesore.

Many tractor restorers have turned to sources that sell newly manufactured or new-old stock wheels. Find an outstanding source of complete steering wheels as well as steering wheel parts at Steiner Tractor Parts (steinertractor.com).

If your steering wheel is suffering from superficial damage and wear, there is a do-it-yourself alternative repair utilizing off-the-shelf products like urethane glue and epoxy putty. 

A good friend of mine, Jim Friedrich, owner of Rust In Piece Tractor Resurrections in Lake Elmo, Minnesota, let me borrow an extremely dilapidated wheel to try out my restoration technique.

my wheel restoration project

I began the project by wire-brushing the rust from the exposed steel ring. This required a gentle approach in order to avoid further damaging the old, brittle covering.

Next, I sprayed water into the cracks of the covering. Then, I poured water-activated urethane glue into the cracks. The purpose of this was to secure the existing covering to its metal core. The glue ran into the cracks and then, activated by the water, started to foam and expanded to fill cavities and provide a tight bond.

After the glue had dried, I removed excess foam to 1⁄8 inch below the surface of the wheel.

Next, it was time to apply a two-part epoxy filler, which is available at hardware stores either as a liquid (in squeeze tubes) or putty-like product (in stick form). Follow the product’s instructions when mixing the base material with a hardener.

Trowel and brush the filler into the wheel’s cracks and surface depressions. The product fills holes and also bonds the existing black rubber together. Build the material up a little higher than the existing surface. I found that the putty filler works best to fill large areas of missing coating.

Finish the job

After the epoxy has hardened, file and sand the filler to fit. Additional filler can be used to even out the low spots before the final sanding is done. A couple of coats of urethane varnish or black paint will make the restored steering wheel look nearly as good as new.

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