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Steering Wheel Gunk Theory - 9/5 show

So on the September 5th show, one of the later calls was from someone saying that after a recent move, he started getting black gunk on his hands from the seam on the edge of the steering wheel.

The edges/seams on leather and leather-like fabrics are often sealed with a vinyl-like flexible paint and I’m thinking there may be a similar product on the seam of the steering wheel which is where the caller reported the gunk to be issuing from.

On a trip to Las Vegas a few years ago, I put on sunscreen and then walked down the street with a black purse on my shoulder. A kind person stopped me to let me know that I had black gunk all over the shoulder of my white tank top; the sunscreen I had used disolved the seam sealer on the black purse strap, giving the appearance that I had smeared slightly tacky black shoe polish all over my shoulder.

Considering the caller had moved from one sunny clime to another makes this slightly less plausible as an answer, but I am left wondering if they had either changed brands of sunscreen (perhaps to one with the reactive ingredient) or otherwise changed their habits so that they are getting in the car or have gotten in the car with fresh sunscreen on their palms, dissolving the seam-sealing paint on the edge of the steering wheel? In the case of my purse, I wiped the disolved seam goo off the straps, let it sit for awhile and with more careful separation of straps and sunscreen had no further issues.

So, sound like a possiblity to anyone else?

My 1984 Pontiac Fiero Excretes Little, Sticky, Red “Clay Balls” From Inside The Rim Of The Factory Leather Steering Wheel. The sun’s Heat Seems To Exacerbate The Problem.


Correction: My 86 Fiero does this. My 84 does not.

My 1994 Miata leather steering wheel smeared black gunk all over me after I got caught with the top down in a downpour. I wiped the steering while with leather cleaner and it stopped dirtying my cloths. However, it the wheel gets wet it resumes it’s dirty work.

I think steering wheels are just inherently pourous and never really release the dirt and oils from our hands. My '48 Chevy 1/2 ton has a plastic (bake-a-lite) wheel that leaves my hands grimy on a wet day no matter how many times I clean it. But this truck’s got 21 years on me, so I respect this fault and just clean up after driving him.

Trust Me, The Problem I have Described Earlier Is Not From External Sources.

The sticky stuff on my steering wheel comes from inside the leather covering, exiting at stitched seams.