Shade Tree Rehab For A Cub Steering Wheel
If your steering wheel has been sitting in the sun and rain for the past 50 years or so, the black rubber grip is probably much the worse for wear. Your choices are fairly limited:
- Buy a new reproduction steering wheel. This may or may not be a close match to your steering wheel, and it will set you back about $50. (The wheel at TM Tractor Parts is about the closest reproduction I've seen.)
- Find somebody parting out a Cub which has a "like-new" steering wheel. (The odds of this happening range from slim to none.)
- Wrap or cover the existing wheel with some kind of steering wheel cover. Lace-up covers are available in both leather and plastic, but they don't look quite right to my eyes. And they will probably rot after sitting in the elements for a season.
- Use some kind of tape like duct tape, friction tape, 3M's 33+ electrical tape, or... After sitting in the sun, the adhesive creeps and bleeds or just gives up the ghost and starts to unwrap by itself.
- Take the steering wheel to your friendly neighborhood polymer chemist and ask him/her to "make it like new".
At least, these have been the choices up until now. About a year ago, I was faced with the same choices. Unfortunately, I went with option 1 before I knew about TM Tractor. The new wheel did not fit, but the steering wheel budget was spent. As I was looking around the shop for some kind of tape to wrap around the wheel, [see option #4], I saw a roll of 3M Scotch #2242 Rubber Electrical Tape. This is not your father's electrical tape. It does not seem to actually have adhesive. How does it work? Apparently, as the tape is stretched and wrapped over itself, some chemical/physical reaction takes place causing the tape to bond to itself.
This tape is designed to wrap electrical connections and form a water-tight seal. But as a cover for the weather-beaten Cub steering wheel, it is great! The images below show my steering wheel after being out in the weather for about 18 months. [I don't yet have a Cub Shed, but that is about to change.] The tape shows no sign of failure or decay.
This is a close up of the wrap on the steering wheel.
This is the entire wheel, dismounted so I can paint the spokes and hub.
Depending on the condition of the steering wheel, these are the steps I would follow to rehab the old, but still sound wheel.
- Examine the wheel. Are there chunks of the black rubber missing or loose?
- If there are loose chunks, determine whether they should be removed or if they can be stuck back in place with JB Weld.
- If any loose chunks were removed or if there are missing chunks, the wheel will have to be reconstructed.
- Clean the wheel with alcohol and maybe a light wire brushing. The tape needs a good, competent surface to stick to.
- If chunks are loose, stick them back on with JB Weld and temporarily bind the repair with a good electrical tape (3M 33+), and allow to cure. After epoxy cure, carve the surface to conform to original shape.
- If missing chunks, replace/repair with epoxy putty. After epoxy cure, carve the surface to conform to original shape.
- After all repair is completed, start the wrap. Start at one of the spokes and stretching the tape slightly, wrap it around itself. Now start wrapping the wheel, keeping the same tension on the tape. Too much stretch and the tape becomes too narrow. Not enough tension and the chemical/physical reaction does not take place.
Since I'm right-handed, I wrap to the right, but do as you prefer. As the wheel is wrapped, allow a half overlap. This allows the tape to bond to itself and gives a double layer of tape at every point on the wheel. Around the spokes, I take a wrap of two around the spoke and then continue on the rim of the wheel. The objective is to get a reasonably even spacing for the wraps. Once I've gone all the way around the wheel, I take an extra wrap and call it done.
It takes longer to read this than it takes to wrap the wheel. And if the wraps do not meet your level of perfection, cut them off with a razor blade or sharp utility knife and start over. The tape can be found at any electrical supply store or at Lowe's, Home Depot, etc.
After seeing how well this tape is holding up to the weather, I may even try to wrap the shift knob...
I would appreciate any feedback you have. This link will take you to the Feedback thread: Shade Tree Feedback