Being one of the few parts of a motor vehicle that is in almost continuous contact with the driver, manufacturers have tried to ensure that the steering wheels of modern cars are much warmer to live with, compared to the cold Bakelite items that were fitted to cars of yesteryear.
Unfortunately, some of the materials used have proven not to be very durable and certain leather-clad steering wheel rims seem to denigrate into a horrible sticky mess after a surprisingly short time. It seems that the material reacts with either the natural oils that are present in human skin or other chemicals, such as the ingredients of hand cream or even remnants of fuel that remain on the driver’s hands after a visit to a fuel station.
Despite covering only 40,000 miles, the wheel on my four year-old Citroen C5 was starting to degrade and I was keen to arrest the decline. New steering wheels are often very expensive and, even if a second-hand replacement is found, the airbag module will require swapping over. An alternative is fitting an aftermarket cover but these can increase the width of the wheel dramatically and, as slip is an omnipresent risk, they can be far from pleasant to handle. I also prefer something that is a permanent addition to the wheel, rather than a snap-on cover that might come loose, with potential safety implications.
The best solution that I could come across is not a new one. Essentially, I took a gamble on a kit, sold on eBay, that comprises a strip of real leather of the appropriate diameter for the C5’s steering wheel, which comes with a needle, thread and instructions supplied. Although fitting the part took over an hour of fiddly sewing, the end result looks almost factory fresh, for a total expenditure of under £20.00.