Mafia Secrets
Get a grip on that lane changer
It’s the one part of the truck that you literally have at arm’s reach all day long. Doesn’t a tricked-out steering wheel seem like a logical upgrade?

By Bryan Martin, contributing writer

It’s right in front of us the entire time we are working – the steering wheel. It is often taken for granted, but easily upgradable. Why settle for a boring factory steering wheel? There are dozens available, and for almost any budget.

Nearly all trucks are a candidate for a steering wheel upgrade. The exception being trucks that are equipped with a “smart” wheel. Those feature some of the electronic controls integrated into the wheel, such as cruise control, radio controls or more. There are some options for the “smart” wheel trucks, but they are fairly limited compared to what is available for trucks with the traditional setup.

Back 10 or 12 years ago, we could only pick from leather wrapped or wood steering wheels for the most part. But now, Katy bar the door! There are scads of styles, colors and designs.

Wood: This is a great option for most of us. You can buy one in an 18-inch or 20-inch version, as cheaply as $139 and up. Here at our store, the wood wheels are definitely the most popular choice among truckers. They come in different shades of the wood grain finish, and many different two-, three- and four-spoke arrangements. There are vintage spokes, spokes with sitting lady cutouts, steer head cutouts, flame cutouts, chrome spokes, satin finish spokes, and on and on.

Leather-wrapped: This style adds a luxurious touch to the interior versus the typical OEM rubber composite wheels. Leather steering wheels, much like the wood versions, have been around for decades. Typical leather treatment is black; however, a few providers offer colored leather for a more custom look.

Colored/painted: Until recently, when a colored wheel was desired, we simply bought a wood steering wheel, prepped it for paint, and sprayed it the color desired. This is still a common practice. However, Steering Creations Inc. offers new steering wheels in several different colors – from royal blue to lime green to orange and about everything in between. Now you have options that don’t require you to mix up paint and round up your spray gun. SCI also has launched some really wild painted wheels too, such as camouflaged wheels, multicolored flamed wheels, and even wheels in various shades of pink.

Retro: Remember Granddad’s 1975 Pete with the big ol’ three-spoke, ivory-looking wheel with the finger grips molded into it? Well, they’re back. We now offer new old-school 20-inch vintage retro wheels for late model trucks. Often referred to as bone or ivory wheels, it is nearly impossible to locate a used one at the salvage yard or swap shop in good shape because they were notorious for cracking. If your truck features an old-time paint design or has a nostalgic theme, this is the wheel for you.

Custom: Rockwood Products builds an incredibly nice chrome-plated billet “flaming” steering wheel that is the envy of all other wheels. Featured on several working show trucks, this work of art commands attention and is highly sought after. Other suppliers also build some attractive aluminum and even stainless steel steering wheels. But I’ll warn ya. You will hafta wear gloves to keep your pinkies warm in the winter months with these wheels.

Steering wheel covers: Remember 20 years ago when we mentioned a steering wheel wrap, it referred to the type where you get a roll of vinyl and you pick a spot and start wrapping the wheel like a roll of tape until you made it all the way around the wheel? Well, nowadays you can get a slip-on circular cover that can be installed in five seconds. These come in many colors, textures and exotic simulated finishes, all available at very reasonable prices. A wrap is a great option if you have a company truck, and the wheel is starting to deteriorate and needs freshened up.

Installation:Typically it takes just a few minutes, and the only specialty tool needed is a basic T-bar type steering wheel puller. One thing to remember: Make sure your steering wheel is exactly centered and straight before removal. That way you can center up the new one and slide it on accordingly. Nothing more aggravating than riding around with a crooked wheel.

Buying a steering wheel is like buying a pair of boots. If you’re gonna reach for your wallet and get a new pair, might as well get a doggone nice pair, eh? With all the cool options out there for steering wheels these days, have fun with it and kick it up a notch. LL