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Steering wheel covers are accessories used to change or improve the comfort, grip, or look of a steering while in a motor vehicle. They can be found in just about every color, design, and material, but they were originally designed with race car drivers in mind. These covers were first created to enhance the grip of the steering wheel in a car built for racing. The factory-made steering wheel on race cars was made with a narrow, plastic rim; when this was replaced with a tough but cushioned leather cover, grip was improved, and with it, the handling of the car. Many drivers claim that comfort is the only appeal of steering wheel covers, but studies have shown that leather is much easier to grip than plastic.
When race car driving took off, steering wheel covers were suddenly in demand by the general car-driving public. Leather was the first, obvious choice, but creativity reigned and suddenly there was an onslaught of designs to please every whim, fancy, or taste. Some were created to protect the driver from a steering wheel that became hot from sitting too long in the sun. Soon, fur covers became popular, with fur in multiple colors, but this style is only for decorative purposes, as fur actually makes the steering wheel harder to grip.
Today, while fur and leather are widely used for steering wheel covers, there are also hard covers, such as wood and chrome. When wood or chrome is used, it is clipped over the wheel as a large ring. Covers can also be found to celebrate sports teams, movie scenes, music preferences, and favorite colors. Designs are numerous, with everything from floral to Gothic, and of course there are covers that depict favorite race car drivers.
Steering wheel covers should never interfere with safety or with the deployment of the airbag behind the steering wheel. Anyone who is considering adding one should check with the car's manufacturer or in the owner's manual to find out about safety requirements.