MUNDANE MYSTERIES: Why Your Steering Wheel Feels Sticky

Leaving work, you might not have paid too much attention to your usual routine: you sit down in your car, turn on the radio to WFRE, adjust the AC, drop your wallet into that aggravating space between the seat & the center console, curse, dig out your wallet, then prepare to drive off. One thing you might not have specifically focused on, however (though you’ve at least subconsciously noticed along the way), is that the steering wheel feels kind of sticky. Why is that? Why does nearly everyone’s steering wheel seem sticky (even if you don’t remember sneezing or spilling anything on it)?

There’s actually lots of reasons why your steering wheel feels tacky, kinda like flypaper. Steering wheels are frequently upholstered in faux leather or vinyl, which are both materials that can collect a lot of surface residue like sweat or oil from your hands, or lotion, or food grease. So, while you might not think your hands are dirty when you notice the tackiness, it could be an accumulation from past trips when your hands weren’t as pristine.

Genuine leather is breathable, though, so it might not retain as much surface oil as synthetics. But that doesn’t mean it’s exempt from the sticky feeling. And when UV rays hit the leather, it can bring the oils in the leather (or even the adhesives use to bond the leather to the wheel) to the surface, giving it a slippery feel. It might even begin to crack, which, while it might improve your overall grip, doesn’t look too hot.

So, how can you avoid the sticky wheel syndrome (or at least minimize it)? Well, one easy solution is just to clean the wheel with a wet washcloth or, preferably, a cleaning cloth made for your wheel’s specific material. If it’s leather, you’re going to want to also apply a conditioner suitable for your specific wheel material. Or you could go retro & get yourself a pair of driving gloves, which not only improve your grip on the wheel but also prevent the transfer of oils & other contaminants from your hands.

No matter how it may feel, though…sticky or otherwise…always aim to keep both hands at 10-and-2 on your steering wheel, keep both eyes on the road, and keep both ears right here on WFRE.

And if you’ve got a Mundane Mystery you’d like solved, send me a message via Twitter (@AndyWebbRadio), or shoot me an email at [email protected].