At one time, restorers had few choices when deciding what to do about that unsightly 40 or 50 year old steering wheel on their vintage ride. They could either plunk down big cash for a NOS wheel or purchase an aftermarket version. However, with the help of Eastwood Products and National Parts Depot, owners can keep their original steering wheel by restoring it.
Case in point is this 1965 Mustang that spent most of its life in southern California. The combination of heat and sun has certainly taken a toll on the wheel. As you can see, the plastic portion is full of cracks and gaps.
Eastwood Products has an excellent easy-to-use steering wheel restoration kit. The kit includes two-part epoxy mix, Eastwood pre-paint prep, SEM plastic adhesive promoter and a detailed instruction booklet. Eastwood also supplied us an aerosol 2K clear coat, made by Spray Max, to use after color coating the steering wheel. The use of 2K clear will give the wheel a rock hard surface that will be nearly impervious to chipping or wearing. The unique way the manufacturer put 2K paint in an aerosol is an internal bulb that holds the hardener. Pushing a small push button at the bottom of the can breaks a bulb that releases the hardener. After mixing, the clear coat has a pot life of about 24 hours. It’s important to use a proper facemask when using this product.
Restoring a steering wheel and re-installing it with the old trim parts or incorrect color paint is a no-no. With that in mind, our friends at National Parts Depot came to the table with a can of SEM Universal Color Coat for flexible coating in the correct 1965 Mustang red color. They also supplied us with a new horn ring Tri-bar, horn button, turn-signal indicator and contact spring and insulator kit.
Before starting the project, keep in mind that the restoration will take several days so make sure you have another ride. The results are worth the effort.
The restoration of the Mustang is complete except for the steering wheel. Forty-five years of Southern California weather has taken a toll on it. While there are replacement wheels available, the original can be repaired for less than the cost of a new wheel.
Thanks to Eastwood Products and National Parts Depot, we have the necessary pieces to restore the steering wheel. You'll also need a small grinding wheel and circular sanding disc, electric sander, a drill and clean rags.
Before you start removing the steering wheel, disconnect the positive battery cable. You are dealing with electrical components so you don't want to blow a fuse or hear the horn go off as you are assembling the new horn ring.
Remove horn ring by twisting it counterclockwise until attaching tabs are disconnected from the steering wheel. Remove the horn ring spring located behind the horn ring.
Remove the steering wheel nut. Make sure you position the wheel in the straight forward position prior to removing the steering wheel.
Using a steering wheel removal tool, remove the steering wheel from the column.
Place the steering wheel in a vise using paint sticks between the wheel and the vise to prevent damage to the wheel and then begin to open up the cracks with a small grinding disc.
Using a drum sander, make a cut into the cracks.
This is what the crack will look like prior to applying the epoxy. The remaining small cracks are from old clear coating. These will be removed by additional sanding.
The steering wheel is ready for the Eastwood epoxy.
Mix the epoxy as per directions, then begin applying it to the various cracks with a gloved hand.
After the epoxy has been applied, dip your finger in lacquer thinner then blend the epoxy smooth.
After applying the epoxy, let it dry for approximately 24 hours.
Begin sanding with 100 grit sandpaper, followed by 220 grit sandpaper.
Use a file to finish hard-to-reach edges.
Finish by hand sanding with 220 grit sandpaper.
This is an example of a crack that has been repaired and sanded
After sanding is complete, clean the steering wheel with Eastwood PRE pre-painting prep. This will remove any grease or oil prior to priming.
Take the wheel to a well ventilated area and apply SEM Plastic Adhesive Promoter as per directions, then apply primer. I used Dupli-Color high-build primer in red since this wheel will be painted red.
Primed steering wheel.
Apply SEM Universal Top Coat in the desired color.
After the paint has dried, apply Spray Max 2K clear and let it dry. Note: This product contains Isocyanates, making it necessary to wear a proper protective face mask. Read all cautionary notes prior to using.
Prior to installing the steering wheel, install new horn contacts.
The finished steering wheel.
Install turn signal indicator.
Install the steering wheel and nut. Tighten nut to specified torque for your particular vehicle.
Install horn ring spring under horn ring, then position horn ring to steering wheel. Turn clockwise to lock attaching tabs in place.
Install the battery cable, then test the function of the horn.
The finished wheel looks great and saved money at the same time.