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Steering wheel restoration involves many different techniques to bring a battered steering wheel to like-new condition. Often older steering wheels become cracked and broken around the hand-grip perimeter and the chrome becomes flaked, dull and peeled. With steering wheel restoration, the outer diameter is repaired, any chrome is removed and re-plated and any other steering wheel component is brought back to new condition. Older steering wheels were commonly wrapped with leather that also benefits from steering wheel restoration with replacement leather, sewing and dyeing or staining that is required much in the same manner wooden steering wheels are stained.
One of the finishing touches on some vehicle restorations involves the steering wheel restoration. Reproduction steering wheels are typically less expensive, however, they lack the original flavor that the original component offers. A practice that was once performed only by experienced repairmen, steering wheel restoration can now be achieved by the novice in a home garage setting. Cracked steering wheel material is easily repaired with only common hand tools and minimal skill. Home powder-coating kits allow the home mechanic to coat the steel steering wheel components with a myriad of colors, including chrome-like finishes.
To repair a cracked steering wheel, the material surrounding the crack is removed with a file, sandpaper or grinding wheel. The steering wheel restoration kit contains a epoxy-like substance that is mixed and packed into the crack; once hardened, the filler is sanded to the final shape and readied for paint. Any chrome components are removed from the wheel, if possible, and chemically dipped or sandblasted to remove the old plating. The clean metal is then prepped to receive the new plating and begin the series of chemical baths, which result in a new finish. Many of the world's best automobile and collector vehicle restoration shops also have a division within the shop dedicated to the practice of steering wheel restoration.
By restoring the original steering wheel, many vehicles can be valued much higher than a similarly-restored vehicle using an aftermarket steering wheel. High-end steering wheel restoration can involve the repair of Bakelite, plastic and wood steering wheels. Exotic metals such as brass, silver and nickel can often be repaired and polished, however, gold is commonly substituted in some steering wheel restoration processes. Many older steering wheels use components made of pewter that commonly pits and corrodes. These pieces can also be cleaned, plated and polished to match the luster and brilliance of the original.