Now that you’ve attached that cherry faux sunroof you snagged on EBay onto your econobox, it’s time to spruce up the interior. No, I’m not talking about a pine-scented Magic Tree® air freshener (review to follow). Nothing says upwardly mobile motor like a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Now you could stunt down to your local auto parts store and pick-up one of those slide-on leather covers for about twenty bucks. But unless you have hands the size of Sasquatch, you may find this to be a sub-optimal solution. Thankfully, a slimmer, higher quality alternative is available. If properly installed, it adds a tasteful touch to any tiller.
Wheelskins has been flogging cow skin wheel covers for over thirty years. The Berkeley-based aftermarketeers currently offer three styles of single and two-tone skins to fit virtually any whip’s wheel. The covers come in fourteen colors– from black to jackass yellow– complete with a handy guide for monitor-challenged web surfers and color blind males (“Tan is the color of tobacco or a football.”). You can mix and match hues for a two-tone covering to complement your fly yellow AMC Pacer– or way-too-black Ferrari F430.
If you buy your cover directly from Wheelskins– which is more expensive than sourcing one of their retailers– you’re looking at an autosartorial investment of $44.95 for a single tone cover, $49.95 for two-tone and $54.95 for the BCBG perforated Euro model. If one of their six standard sizes doesn’t fit your Citroën DS or suchlike, Wheelskins will craft a custom covering for a small additional fee. And yes, they make covers in extra large sizes for your Peterbilt, Freightliner, Kenworth, etc. and dinky sizes for your golf cart and pedal car.
The Wheelskins ordering process starts with a steering wheel measurement. The website provides a chart to determine wheel size based on your vehicle’s year, make and model. Once you’ve determined the exact size required, you’ve got to choose between single or two-tone. I went for Tommy two-tone, opting for a suitably macho red and black combo.
Both versions can be had in EuroPerf– which has nothing to do with scantily-clad women posing behind plate glass windows in Amsterdam’s De Wallen. You can order your EuroPerf skin perforated at the top and bottom of a two tone model, on the sides of a two-tone model, or all around the cover of any model cover. You know; just in case you were wondering.
The Wheelskins box arrived containing the leather cover, a spool of thread, a large sharp needle and instructions. Obviously, very few people (you know whom I mean guys) have the sewing skills required to make a sock puppet– let alone sew a daily use item requiring one hundred plus stitches. And remember: this all must be done within the confines of your car. Although I can cook a mean Quiche and thread a needle with one eye closed, I never got the results I wanted. As the thread started to unravel, I gave up.
So I let an experienced seamstress go to work on the project. About halfway through, she complained that it would be easier for a rich man to pass through the eye of a camel (or something like that) and gave up. Though I think Florida’s oppressive heat played a part in her surrender, you have been warned.
Another problem arose: the wide spokes of my test vehicle’s helm. If your steering wheel spokes are thin, the Wheelskins covering will not be greatly affected by lack of grip on the spokes. BUT if the spokes are very wide, the covering will stick out due to insufficient pull on the cover (dummy stitches indeed). A small piece of Velcro could have solved the problem, but Wheelskins [thoughtlessly] neglected to provide it.
After I finally completed the installation I found that the join of the two pieces of leather (at 10 and 2) was uncomfortable, forcing me to change my grip on the wheel. While I understand that one must suffer for one’s art, my thirty-year-old wheel helmsmanship habits proved too strong to change. I tried reversing the cover to place the larger swath of red leather on the bottom. To say the result looked awkward would be like saying a duck-billed Platypus is a rather odd sort of creature.
Overall, I liked the look and quality of the Wheelskins cover. But I can only recommend the product with two big ass caveats. First, measure twice, order once. Second, keep in mind that the end results depend entirely on the wheel being wrapped and the installer being warped (i.e. an indefatigable OCD seamstress). Try to attach the wrong Wheelskins cover to your wheel or screw-up the install [NB: don’t drink and stitch], and you’ll be ripping the cover off in a few days. Just like I did.
Should this be a TTAC-approved product?