A quick-release steering wheel is any steering wheel that is mounted to a quick-release hub. The hub allows the steering wheel to be removed from the steering shaft with the push of a button or the lifting of a collar. Used on racing and competition vehicles, the rapid-release steering wheel is used to aid a driver's entrance and exit from the tight confines of the racing cockpit as well as aid in the easy removal of an injured driver by safety personnel. Typically offered in one of two designs, a hexagonal or splined hub, the steering wheel is also offered in steel or lightweight aluminum for most three-bolt steering wheel mounting patterns.
Prior to the quick-release steering wheel, a race driver was forced to squeeze into the driver's seat by sliding his body and legs around the steering wheel. This was less dangerous when climbing into the vehicle, however, in the case of an accident, this could be a very difficult and dangerous maneuver to accomplish safely. The permanently-mounted steering wheel also hindered rescue attempts of unconscious drivers due to its location directly above the lap safety belt. It was very difficult to remove the safety belts by using the latch on the belts and it was even more difficult to cut a safety belt without injuring a driver's legs.
One of the key problems that drivers face when using a quick-release steering wheel in a modern racing vehicle is not getting the hub properly locked onto the steering shaft at the start of the race. Several cases of a rapid-release steering wheel coming off of the steering shaft have forced drivers to lose laps and positions on the race track as they were required to stop on the racing circuit and replace the steering wheel onto the steering shaft before proceeding in the race.
There is a quick-release steering wheel in practically every racing vehicle in use around the world, from cars to trucks and even boats. The use of the modern rapid-release steering wheel in the tightly-designed cockpits of modern racing vehicles has aided in the survival of drivers involved in severe crashes. By allowing a safety official to quickly and safely remove a driver from a vehicle that may be on fire or in any other type of condition that warrants removal of the driver expeditiously, the quick-release steering wheel is an intricate part of the vehicle's safety system.