Restoring a rubber (or plastic) steering wheel
I need a product to reconstruct and repair a 1940s steering wheel off a truck crane. The original seems to be some type of hard rubber. Any ideas?
I assume you are primarily trying to repair cracks in that steering wheel, and in that case, if it is actually some sort of rubber, I can only offer some tricks you might try. I would begin by hogging out the cracks so as to get rid of any dirt or crumbling rubber, and then I would try black silicone sealer to fill them. After that I would suggest sanding and painting the wheel with black acrylic enamel with flexing agent added in order to allow for pressure and torsion, etc. But I am guessing the substance is more of a plastic than rubber.
With plastic steering wheels typical of the 1930s, I have had good results by filling the cracks with body filler like Evercoat’s Rage Gold. Others have used good old JB Weld and had good outcomes.
First wash the steering wheel with a heavy solution of dish detergent and hot water to get any grease and oil off of it, and then dry it thoroughly. Then using a Dremel tool or small electric drill with a carbide grinding bit in the shape of a cone, bevel out the cracks so you will have a good surface to which the filler can bond.
Mix the filler carefully according to the instructions on the can being careful not to encapsulate any bubbles and then daub and press the filler into place. Overfill the cracks just slightly so you can sand later. Let the filler cure until it is the consistency of Parmesan cheese and then sand it to conform to the rest of the wheel using 100-grit open sandpaper. But don’t overdo it at this stage. Leave a little for fine sanding later.
When the filler has hardened completely, you can then sand the whole wheel with 300-grit and then 500-grit open coat paper. When it is looks right, with no bumps or scratches, shoot on a couple of coats of primer with a little flexing agent in it and let it cure for a day or so before sanding it with 500-grit wet and dry sandpaper. Finally, with 1000-grit wet and dry, get the wheel ready for the color coats.
I like acrylic enamel with a little hardener and a flexing agent in it for the final finish, but you may prefer a color-coat, clear-coat system. However you do it, make sure to use one paint system throughout, because the chemistry between systems may not be compatible.
I have done a couple of wheels this way and have had good, lasting results. But if the wheel is badly cracked and the plastic or rubber is crumbling, you may have to look for a better wheel, or have your old one re-cast using its metal core. For that you might try:
Quality Restorations Inc.