Steering Wheel Restoration
Restoring worn out steering wheel is a common practice in the hot rod world. How to repair a steering wheel is something you may need to learn if you own a high mileage Mercedes-Benz.
Steering wheels do wear out not just in Mercedes-Benz, but most cars. On Mercedes-Benz steering wheel, the control buttons in particular don’t hold up very well. They may get discolored, too dirty and hard to see. Often times Mercedes-Benz cars with as little as 100,000 miles show wear and tear on the steering wheel. If you are looking to keep your Mercedes-Benz for a long time you either should protect the steering wheel with cover or learn how to restore it. When you clean the steering wheel, be careful with the solutions that you use, as some of them may do more damage than you realize.
If your steering wheel does not have any wear yet, consider installing a cover. They are inexpensive, and you can find some classy looking covers. If you browse through Amazon, you will see that you have several interesting options. You can install a Wood Grain Steering Wheel cover or a steering wheel cover that represents your favorite sports team. If you are against using steering wheel covers, then you can follow this tutorial to restore your steering wheel when it wears out. Here we show you the steps and provide a list of the tools and materials you will need to restore your steering wheel.
In a few words, this is what you need to do. First you need to remove the steering wheel. Don’t worry; it is easy. Then you will need prepare, clean and paint it. You will be able to restore the steering wheel to almost factory condition. If you have a spray gun, you can use it too, with your color choice of single stage paint. Since most car owners don’t own a spray gun, we will show how to achieve great results with a spray can.
Here is a list of the tools that you will need. For most Mercedes Benz cars this is all you need. Especially for MB cars made after 2000. Some of the older models or other car makes may use a nut or bolt instead of the hex head bolt in the center of the steering wheel.
For the following materials, we have provided links to Amazon products for your convenience. Some of these items you probabily already have.
Vinyl and Plastic Spray Paint Color: (White, Gray, Black, Tan, Beige, White)
Clearcoat(For best results)
Steering Wheel Restoration – Step by Step DIY Instructions
- Disconnect the battery
It is highly recommended that you disconnect the battery before you start this job. If you don’t, then make sure not to insert the key in the ignition while you have the airbag removed as this will trigger the AirBag / SRS light to turn on. You will need a OBD II scanner like the iCarsoft MB II to rest the airbag light if you trigger it. To be safe, just disconnect the battery.
- Remove the airbag
The airbag is held in place with two bolts. If you look at the back of the steering wheel, you will notice two small holes. This is where you insert the hex or torx bits to loosen the bolts. The airbag bolts do not come out entirely. Continue unscrewing them until they feel very easy to rotate. Disconnect the air bag electrical connector. Unplug the connectors that go to the steering wheel buttons as well.Disconnect the airbag.
- Remove the center bolt
Use a breaker bar to remove the center bolt. Have someone help you by holding the steering wheel in place, as you try to break free the center bolt. Note the grooves in the center on the steering wheel before you pull it out. You can use a marker to make a line on the shaft. This will help you when you install the steering wheel latter. Making sure the grooves are matching just like before. Otherwise you will be driving down the road with the steering wheel off center.
Watch this video on how to replace the airbag and steering wheel if you need help.
- Sand and Clean the Steering Wheel. A lot!
Use sandpaper to remove any cracks that you may have. Make sure to finish with a fine sand paper, at least 500 grid paper. Be careful in this step. Do not sand to much or the steering wheel may lose the round grip.
- Prepare the steering wheel
If you have large gaps or cracks on the steering wheel, you may consider using a filler to fill the gaps. Let the filler dry for several hours before you try to sand, clean or paint. Make sure the steering wheel is clean and doesn’t have any dust before you start spraying. You could also use carbon fiber cloth and resin to fill large gaps or badly worn steering wheels. Here is an article by Doug Lepak, The Steering Wheel expert who uses carbon fiber to restore an old steering wheel. You will most likely will not need to use carbon fiber repair unless you are restoring an antique car.
Remove the Three Pointed Star from the airbag.
This is a tricky task. You need to be careful to not to break the star. The star may be plastic, as in our case. You can use a small tool to pry out the star. There are a few pins that stick on the back of the star. If they do break you can use your favorite glue when you reinstall the star back in.Look at this airbag. This airbag looks so bad, you wish it never expires, even in case of an accident.
Steering Wheel Buttons
The buttons wear out and you can no longer see the symbols on the steering wheel. You can cut out a + and – sign and place it on the corresponding buttons. For the other buttons, you can just cut out a round sticker to put on top of the button. At least, this is what we did. We also cut out a down arrow, as shown below. If you have a better suggestion share it in the comment section below.Check out the (-) sign that we made using masking tape.
- Use Adhesion Promoter
Clean the steering wheel with a dry cloth. Spray a thin layer of adhesion promoter. Wait 15 minutes as spray a second thin layer. If you have any drips, make sure to smooth them out.
- Spray Pait the steering wheel
Here comes the best part. Make sure you are working in an environment with at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit (°F). Spray one thin layer of paint. Let it dry for at least 15 minutes. Spray again. Let the paint dry again. Repeat this process at least three times. Even more if the paint is being absorbed by the wheel. You want to have an even distribution of paint and the color should be the same all over. When you spray keep your spray can at least 6 inches away from the steering wheel. Now spray the airbag too. Make sure to do three light coats and take 15 minutes break between each application.
If you went through all this trouble, you should consider spraying clear coat as well. Not only will it protect the paint that you sprayed but it also will make your steering wheel look great.
Let the paint dry for at least 4-5 hours. The paint will not cure completely typically in 24 hours. Be careful as the steering wheel may be sticky. If your circumstances allow, it is best if you can let the paint fully cure before you install back the steering wheel. Install the steering wheel in reverse order. Make sure to tighten the center bolt and connect the airbag wires.
If you steering wheel has excessive cracks, you have two options. You can use a filler, or you can sand it down. If you decide to sand it down, note that the steering wheel (cross section) may not be perfectly round. Using the filler option will look better, but it may not last for a long time. Make sure to clean the steering wheel and the gaps as much as you can if you go this route.
If you have any suggestion, please use the comments section below to share them.