- Steering wheels come in various sizes, but their measurements aren’t far apart. The average steering wheel size ranges between 14 and 15 inches, which is about 36 to 44 centimeters.
- To measure the diameter of a steering wheel, place a tape measure on it horizontally from left to right. There are different types of steering wheels, including the tiltable kind, the rack-and-pinion type, and the swing-away sort.
- When buying a steering wheel, always refer to your vehicle’s year, make, and model. You can follow the detailed steps in this article to remove your steering wheel. One of the most affordable ways to protect your steering wheel is to install a steering wheel cover.
- Steering wheels are a necessity for most vehicles一except for some autonomous models, which are becoming more common.
When cracks begin to form on your steering wheel and the leather starts to chip away, it might be time to shop for a replacement. But like other vehicle parts, steering wheels have a set of specifications you need to consider, including the size.
Are All Steering Wheels the Same Size?
Steering wheels come in various sizes, but their measurements aren’t far apart. The average steering wheel size ranges between 14 and 15 inches, which is about 36 to 44 centimeters.
Factors that affect the diameter of a steering wheel include the type of vehicle, wheel type, and more.
Older cars had bigger steering wheels than the average measurement because they didn’t have power steering systems yet. Bigger steering wheels helped drivers turn the wheels, especially at low speeds.
Racing cars, on the other hand, have smaller steering wheels than regular vehicles to have more space inside the cockpit. The only trade-off for having a small steering wheel is that the driver will have to exert more effort to turn the wheels.
How to Measure Your Steering Wheel
To measure the diameter of a steering wheel, place a tape measure on it horizontally from left to right.
Knowing your steering wheel size is important when buying a replacement and installing accessories like steering wheel covers.
Different Types of Steering Wheels
Steering wheels come in different types with slight modifications, which will also depend on the vehicle. Here are some of the most common ones.
The tiltable steering wheel was launched in the 1960s in some General Motors vehicles. This type has a multi-position arc that can be raised or lowered, depending on the driver’s preference. Moving the steering wheel up or down won’t affect the steering column.
Popularized by the 1974 Ford Mustang II, the rack-and-pinion steering wheel spins a gear that’s linked to the tie rod. The tie rod is connected to the steering arm, and turning the wheel moves a rack that moves the drive wheels.
A swing-away steering wheel can be moved by nine to 10 inches from its original position for easy entry and exit. This type was popularized by the 1961 Ford Thunderbird.
Similar to the tiltable type, a telescope steering wheel can be adjusted within a three-inch range.
Quick-release steering wheels are performance wheels that feature a collapsible steering column. This type, however, doesn’t come with airbags, so it’s not exactly road-legal.
The D-shaped steering wheel has a flat bottom for extra legroom when driving. In most cases, vehicles that rotate 180 degrees from lock to lock have this type of steering wheel.
Sport-type steering wheels are those that have a smaller diameter than normal. This type is usually found in race cars.
Factors to Consider When Buying a Steering Wheel
Knowing your vehicle’s year, make, and model is always crucial when buying any sort of replacement or upgrade.
There’s not much information to gather when you know your vehicle’s specifications because most aftermarket and original equipment (OE) steering wheels are designed for a specific make and model.
How to Remove Your Steering Wheel
When removing your old steering wheel, it’s important to disconnect the battery and wait for the capacitors to discharge (about 30 minutes after disconnecting the battery). Then, you can proceed with disconnecting the airbag wiring connector at the base of the steering column. This reduces the risk of inflicting personal injury due to accidental airbag deployment.
It’s also important to know if your vehicle needs special tools to disconnect the airbag and release the entire mechanism.
Once that’s out of the way, you can remove the retaining screws and inflator module to expose the center section of the steering column. There are also some steering wheels that have controls for cruise control, stereo controls, and the horn, which might require an additional set of steps to remove.
Remove the steering wheel retaining nut, and use a puller to detach the steering wheel from the steering shaft.
A lot of steering wheels don’t have a centering locator on the shaft that the steering wheel bolts onto, so you might have to get an alignment after installing the steering wheel.
Then, you can proceed to install the new steering wheel, align it to its straight-ahead position, and slip it down the splines. Install and tighten the retaining nut according to specifications, and you’re done.
Note: This procedure is a generic rundown of a typical steering wheel removal and installation job. It might not apply to certain makes and models, which is why it’s important to consult your owner’s manual for any repair information.
How to Prevent Steering Wheel Damage
One of the most affordable ways to protect your steering wheel is to install a steering wheel cover. Doing so can also increase palm grip for better steering wheel handling, regulate surface temperature, and improve your cabin’s overall look.
However, keep in mind that although your steering wheel might look fine from the outside, it could be developing some issues underneath.
The Future of Steering Wheels
Steering wheels are a necessity for most vehicles一except for some autonomous models.
Autonomous vehicles (AV) are vehicles that don’t need a driver to get around, and this technology continues to develop over the years.
The main purpose of the steering wheel is to maneuver the drive wheels. But for AVs, this function may no longer be necessary because there won’t be a driver to do all the work.
In 2023, Cruise, an American self-driving company, announced that its robotaxis are nearing approval for mass production. These autonomous taxis don’t have steering wheels or pedals.
In its hometown of San Francisco, Cruise AVs that are parading the streets are close to 400. These taxis are mostly fleets of Chevy Bolts that can also be found in other cities, including Austin and Phoenix.
Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.