Is your Wrangler’s sticky steering wheel causing you much irritation? Does it feel as if your kids have been all over your steering after eating a bag of sticky chewy caramel candy? Have you tried all sorts of household cleaning agents with limited success? If you’ve answered yes to any of the above questions, then this article will help you find a suitable remedy to the sticky steering wheel syndrome so commonly found on our vehicles.
A sticky steering wheel is caused by a combination of, prolonged exposure to unforgiving UV rays, harsh cleaning and degreasing agents, and strong hand lotions.
So, your steering wheel has suddenly developed some weird sticky substance on it that, no doubt, drives you crazy. What makes this so strange is that in many instances, the stickiness is isolated to only the steering wheel or steering wheel airbag cover and nothing else? Why is this the case when the entire front dashboard area is exposed to the same elements?
This can be a very frustrating situation for anyone, so the next part of this article will “cover” what your options are and what “solutions” you can implement.
Jeep Wrangler Steering Wheel Sticky
So you’re the latest victim to the sticky steering phenomenon, else you wouldn’t be reading this article, right. The good news is there is a solution. You can try any one of the following 3 solutions:
- Clean off the sticky gunk
- Purchase a Steering wheel cover
- Have the steering wheel refurbished
- Replace the entire steering wheel
Obviously, this is just an annoyance and doesn’t affect the performance of your vehicle, so as far as possible, you’ll want to find the most cost-effective method to this problem. We’ll begin with the cheapest solution first, cleaning agents.
Before we go there, allow me to briefly explain what the actual cause of the stickiness is in a bit more detail.
Source of the Sticky Steering
As previously mentioned, it’s caused by the harsh UV rays of the sun that pull out the moisture, causing drying and cracking as it bakes the oils from inside the plastic/vinyl. There are other contributing factors, and that is the chemicals found in hand lotions and cleaning agents.
Many hand lotions contain alcohols, with weird and wonderful names like cetyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol, Behenyl alcohol. After prolonged exposure, these dry out the vinyl on the steering as your hands make contact with it, thus decreasing its lifespan. The lotion damages the steering material by penetrating the vinyl over time and unglues the vinyl cover from the steering wheel frame, causing it to become sticky.
Now that we understand the cause, what can we do about this? Can we clean it off and what products are recommended by fellow Jeepers?
Cleaning the Steering Wheel
Cleaning agents are designed to break down the surface and remove the top layer, thus revealing the clean, “new” under the skin. These harsh chemicals are only going to work a hand full of times and are usually more effective on faded old surfaces. Once this happens too often, the plastic/vinyl will simply be past its lifetime and you will have no other option to refurbish or completely replace the steering wheel.
A good clean with mild household soap and warm water then avoiding direct exposure to the sun will preserve the plastic for longer and keep it looking good. However, if this doesn’t work you’ll have to apply a stronger method with a slightly stronger cleaning agent. Exercise caution here, since certain types of plastic renewing cleaners, are not designed for regular detailing use, no matter what the advertising says.
You can basically use any regular isopropyl agent with a (70%-90% concentration). Most households have a product like this that will fix the sticky symptoms, obviously not the problem.
If you’re going to use an alcohol-based agent, Keep in mind it will dissolve pretty much any adhesive, so use at your own risk and exercise caution. You’ll need a lint-free cloth and a lot of elbow grease! If a cloth is not effective enough, try something more aggressive like a scrubbing sponge.
Alternatively, try something stronger like denatured alcohol. Word of caution, Denatured alcohol contains ethanol includes additives that are poisonous, bad tasting, bad-smelling or nauseating.
Alternatively, use any cleaning agent that includes
- Grain Alcohol
- Absolute Isopropyl Alcohol
Whichever option you opt for, remember to cover your face and hands when working with these chemicals. Open all the car windows for good ventilation, since all these chemicals have very pungent smells that linger. DO NOT SMOKE or expose any of these chemicals to open flames.
What if the steering is past the point of cleaning, and you just want to cover up the darn thing quickly but don’t want to splash out on an expensive steering wheel cover? Are there any cheap DIY fixes we can implement?
If you want a really quick and easy fix to this problem you can try your hand a squash racquet tape. It’s a lot less messy and safer than harsh cleaning agents, and won’t leave your Jeep smelling funky for days.
Alternatively, use golf club tape, which is slightly thinner than squash racket tape. Also works well for sweaty hands on those hot summer days and long road trips. You probably want to pick up 2x rolls.
Remember to keep the steering out of the sun for as much as possible. You might have to redo the tape ever so often but should do the trick and last a while.
If the DIY fix is not your thing, then your next option is refurbishing the steering wheel or replacing it completely. This will require you to remove the wheel completely. Let’s investigate.
Replacing the Steering Wheel Cover
This can be a tricky option since many of the available covers either look ghastly, tacky, or too thick. It can be hard finding the right one for your taste. I remember shopping around for one and settling on a plain black vinyl one. It looked cool but the vinyl caused my hands to sweat like crazy on long road trips. I ended up buying a new Napa leather cover which looks good and feels amazing too.
Try and find a cover that looks and feels as close to the original as possible.
If you decide to refurbish or replace the steering wheel instead, there are a few things you need to know, so read the next section and make sure you understand the procedure.
Steering Wheel Removal
Before you remove the steering, you need to disable your airbag. Follow the below guidelines.
- Disconnect and secure the negative battery terminal.
- Wait 2 minutes for the airbag capacitor to discharge before proceeding
- Failure to do this will result in the airbag deploying and cause injury
Steering Removal Procedure
- Disable and remove the driver’s side airbag.
- Remove the steering wheel bolt
- Remove the wheel slowly
NOTE: Do not reuse the old steering wheel bolt (a new bolt must be used)
- Install steering wheel to the column
- Install the new steering wheel bolt
NOTE: Be certain that the steering wheel mounting bolt is tightened to the proper torque specification to ensure proper clockspring operation.
Purchase Meguiar’s Vinyl and Rubber Cleaner here
Purchase Star Brite Ultimate Vinyl Cleaner here
Purchase 303 Aerospace Ultimate UV Protection here
Purchase Elite Jeep Steering wheel covers here
Purchase a Fancy Jeep Steering Wheel cover here
Jeep Wrangler Leather WheelSkins Steering Cover
Purchase a Jeep CJ YJ Steering Wheel replacement
Try to avoid using harsh cleaning agents on your steering and dashboard. Avoid parking in areas where the vehicle will be exposed to the harsh UV rays of the sun for prolonged periods. If you can’t avoid exposure to the sun, invest in a windshield cover that deflects the heat away.