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How to repair or restore a steering wheel or auto leather interior?

CC got her start in 1987 repairing leather interiors and steering wheels for auto dealerships in Southern California with the products now known as Rub ‘n Restore®. Her skill and attention to detail set her apart from her competitors, and she was sought by upholstery and fabrication shops that specialized in collectible cars and hot rods. Her clients dubbed her the Vinyl Lady.

CC developed the Sandpaper-Super-Glue Method for repairing minor damage to leather upholstery. Her clients were shocked that such a simple method yielded flawless results. Ron Mangus Interiors even featured CC and her method in his exquisite manual, Custom Auto Interiors.

Lesandre (daughter) demonstrates the method on this steering wheel.

Video contents:

  • 0:12 – Clean
  • 0:30 – Repair small tears and dents with super glue and sandpaper
  • 2:47 – Repair deeper gouges with an epoxy made from super glue and baking soda
  • 4:53 – Polish
  • 5:15 – Color test
  • 5:52 – Texturizing
  • 6:55 – Advanced texturizing
  • 7:57 – Spraying the color

Click here for free written instructions or troubleshooting for this repair method. CAUTION: Studies of workers in shoe factories and tanneries show sufficient evidence that leather dust is carcinogenic, though exposure is minimal with repairs like these.

For more substantial damage, like this hole in Bill’s Silverado, use a subpatch and Soft Filler. It’s less work and maintenance to restore the original color, and our Custom Color service is highly recommended for auto interiors.

However, Brianne restored the entire interior with our stock Beige. A $300 detailing could not rejuvenate the leather. As CC likes to say, “It’s easier to recolor it than clean it.” 

Brian restored this gear shift with our Black leather paint, which is a universal color in auto interiors. He could always go back and fill the few remaining gouges using the Sandpaper-Super-Glue Method demonstrated in the video.

Will restored restored his VW Bug with our Marine White, Red Chili and a serape blanket.

Mike ordered a Custom Color to restore the discolored vinyl to its original fresh mint.

Our leather colors double as a conditioning sunscreen that’s also great for exterior vinyl, plastic, and rubber—everything from convertible tops and tonneau covers to sun-rotted bedliners, bumpers, and trim.

Learn how to:

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Comments

  1. Stuart says

    Wonderful site!

    Similar question to Bill Boyd’s, posted here on 29 July 2020: How would you advise addressing significant deteriorization of the leather wrap on a steering wheel? A full quadrant of the wheel is without finish and fully reveals the interior of the wrap material (leather, according to the vehicle manufacturer). I wonder if too much material is missing to successfully use the sandpaper and glue method I watched Lesandre apply to scratched and gouged leather on a steering wheel. I could send a picture to better allow you to assess the problem.

    • lesandre says

      Thanks for emailing the photo directly. We’ve never seen such extensive damage on a leather steering wheel. Must be an inferior finish, perhaps damaged by lotion, body products, or oil.

      Repairing with Soft Filler will be tedious and also not as stable over time. We suggest:
      1) Clean with alcohol.
      2) Primer the worn areas with our Clear Prep+Finish. Let dry.
      3) Gently sand with 220-500 grit sandpapers.
      4) Repeat steps 2-3 if desired. Tack down little flaps with a tiny bead of super glue. Use the uper glue and baking soda epoxy method in the video to repair gouges.
      5) Apply a matching color.
      6) You can repeat steps 3-5 as needed without having to strip off the color.
      7) Add Clear alone for shiny topcoat or mix with color to make a more subdued satin finish (we call this a glaze) which will blend well to undamaged areas.

  2. Bill Boyd says

    My 1993 volvos leather steering wheel has worn down to the plastic in a few spots…can I use filler tho build it up again ? Many thanks! Bill

  3. Thomas Williams II says

    So,… My steering wheel doesn’t need repair just a recoating of a portion of the steering wheel I think got too much hand sanitizer in or something and the leather to coat feels home or something. Would I be able to just passing a later if this over it?

    • lesandre says

      The alcohol in the hand sanitizer may have damaged the finish… or perhaps moisturizing chemicals.
      Gently sand any unevenness with 500 grit wet or dry sandpaper, and wipe down with rubbing alcohol. So long as you can’t feel the damage, our finish will correct the rest. Black is universal. Other colors might require customization.

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The Knowledge Hub is a library of articles and videos complied to help our customers complete their DIY leather and vinyl restoration projects.