As a small boned 5’2" woman with size 7 hands, I cannot seem to find a new car with a thin enough steering wheel! Our new Honda Fit makes my hands ache in half an hour. I’m still driving a 2002 Elantra just because the steering wheel is nice and thin. I can’t be the only person with this problem…they make size 6 gloves after all! I still grip at 10/2, because bottom holding doesn’t give me enough control. Know any new car that has relatively thin steering wheel?
Lighten Up !
If “Our new Honda Fit makes my hands ache in half an hour.” Then You Are Gripping The Steering Wheel Too Tightly.
It is not necessary to be able to wrap one’s fingers around the wheel and squeeze it. This was possibly necessary prior to the advent of power steering, but not now.
Are you a “nervous” driver ? Perhaps you need to relax your body more (while keeping senses sharp). I believe this makes for a safer driver.
To be honest, I don’t think this is a common problem. It seems like you must be holding the wheel in an unusual manner, possibly too tightly as mentioned above. Also, if you’re too close to the wheel or the wheel is too high, your wrists might be at an awkward angle, leading to pain. (By the way, I’m not sure what this “bottom holding” is that you seem to think is recommended.)
If your steering wheel is leather-wrapped, perhaps you could take it to an upholstery shop to see if they could remove the cover, shave the wheel down, and put the cover back on.
An aftermarket steering wheel might be available, but I’m pretty sure you’d have to give up your airbag to use one, which wouldn’t be a good idea.
You could investigate one of those steering wheel knobs used by disabled people.
Perhaps it would help to increase the strength and flexibility of your hands by doing exercises for that.
I think the auto makers paid attention to their customers, who add aftermarket steering wheel covers to make the grip fatter. For most people, the fatter grip is better. It makes the wheel easier to grip for people with ailments like arthritis too.
CSA has a good point about your grip of the steering wheel. Your hands, arms, and shoulders should be relaxed. You don’t need a death grip on the wheel. In fact, having too tight a grip can cause an injury if one of your front tires has a blow-out.
Lion9car, airbags have led to the demise of the old 10 and 2 recommendation. Today, many recommend drivers grip the wheel at 9 and 3 o’clock, and gripping the wheel at the bottom isn’t frowned upon like it used to be.
A Professional (18 Wheelers) Driver’s Publication Says . . .
The steering wheel should normally be held lightly with both hands. Gripping the wheel too tightly can lead to fatigue and prevent smooth movement when steering.” "You should also avoid using a grip which has your thumbs on the inside of the wheel. "
Even on a big heavy truck, where drivers drive for hours at a time, a strong grip and wrapping one’s hands around the wheel are not necessary, nor desirable.
Not only is it better ergonomically for many people to have fatter steering wheels, but you also want to consider safety… yes, the airbag should hopefully keep you from hitting the wheel, but the more you spread out contact forces, the better off you’ll be in an accident.
@Whitey - not only have airbags led to the demise of 10 and 2, but most driving schools have long taught 9 and 3 simply because you can turn the wheel further without having to let go with one hand
Automakers do NOT listen to customers. They do not have a feedback system which would enable them to listen to customers. They do listen to writers and editors of car magazines and to Consumers Reports. Good magazine reviews = sales.
Car magazine writers and editors love fat steering wheels along with steering wheel positions that require outstretched arms, heavy bolsters under the thighs, shift levers between the seats, consoles between bucket seats, low to the ground seating and big wheels with low profile tires.
So we have all these, even though the outstretched arms require a tighter grip on the steering wheel that leads to fatigue and even pain in the fingers, and the bolsters under the thighs cut off blood circulation to the lower legs on long trips.
There is another problem with todays steering wheels besides being fat and that is the materials they are made from. It seems to deteriorate within a couple of years. Now I do prefer a fat steering wheel, but when the surface starts to deteriorate, I put on a cover. Now it does get to be uncomfortably fat and the cover does not go all the way around it.
Personally I’d like to see a thinner steering wheel that I can put a cover on to bring up to a thickness I prefer, and that I can replace when ever it starts to deteriorate, or get get a hankering for a change.
“Automakers do NOT listen to customers.”
…but they do follow the money, and when they see aftermarket parts suppliers making money, they integrate new features into their cars so THEY can make the profits they see going elsewhere.
“So we have all these, even though the outstretched arms require a tighter grip on the steering wheel that leads to fatigue and even pain in the fingers…”
You bought a car that doesn’t have an adjustable steering wheel or an adjustable seat? How did that happen?
You can steer the car with your finger tips.
I just don’t see it.
Why do you think you need to clutch the wheel so tightly with a full wraparound death grip ?
My uncle Jerry lost the three middle fingers on his right hand and could drive perfectly.
I think my 79 Chevy pickup has the steering wheel for you. I put a lace-on wheel wrap and it’s still skinnier than my 08 Expedition. But it’s also a larger diameter wheel.
I’ve seen people drive just fine with clubbed hands , Ectrodactyly, hook protheses etc.
bottom line ; adapt.
( p.s. I think you ARE the only person with this as a ‘problem’. )
Whitey “but they do follow the money, and when they see aftermarket parts suppliers making money, they integrate new features into their cars so THEY can make the profits they see going elsewhere.”
True, but when they see a few people putting ugly, gaudy large diameter wheels with ultra low profile tires on their cars, and they follow suit, they do not get the word that I am not buying their vehicles because I don’t like those wheels.
“You bought a car that doesn’t have an adjustable steering wheel or an adjustable seat? How did that happen?”
The seat goes back and forth, but it affects the distance to the pedals as much as the distance to the steering wheel. If I move the seat any further forward, I cannot get in and out of the vehicle, legs only fold so much. The steering wheel only goes up and down, not in and out. I do keep it down for comfort, but it also gets in the way of entry and exit.
The steering wheel in my 66 Dodge was closer to my chest than the ones in my newer vehicles, and that car was not as tiring to drive long distances. I admit that I was younger then too so that may have a little to do with it.
It’s all about marketing and perception. Car companies are always trying to fill a nitch and avoid too much direct competition with other makes and models and steering wheel thickness is part of it. The only manufacturers who really have a handle on the entire buying public are those who make suicide knobs standard…none.
" It’s all about marketing and perception. Car companies are always trying to fill a nitch and avoid too much direct competition with other makes and models and steering wheel thickness is part of it. "
Although marketing and perception drive sales, consider for a moment that many customers make up a “niche” of drivers wanting fat steering wheels. I am one of them. You’d have to convince me that I’m in a minority of customers, here. I’m guessing (strictly guessing) that most people prefer them.
I think the manufacturers do have a handle on this feature. Cars with suicide knobs ? I don’t think they’d pass safety testing and I’m one customer who doesn’t want nor need one.
I’ve got cars with skinny wheels and fat wheels and I like the comfort and perceived safety of a wrapped fat steering wheel. I have added leather covers to cars just to beef up the wheel a bit.
I part of my point got lost here. I like a fat wrapped steering wheel too, but what I don’t like is a fat steering wheel whose surface deteriorates so quickly. There is a point where the steering wheel is too fat, some cars are delivered with a steering wheel that is at the limit for thickness, which would be OK with me IF the surface didn’t deteriorate within two years.
Example, our 97 Honda Accord was a little fatter than cars we had previously. But it was made from a foam that began to deteriorate a couple years after we bought it. I put on a leather cover and its just fine.
Come 2002 and I buy a new Saturn to drive back and forth to work. Its steering wheel is thicker that the Honda’s with the leather cover. Now a year later, the foam covered steering wheel begins to deteriorate and I put a leather cover on it. The leather cover barely goes half way around the thickness of the rim, it has trouble staying in place and it makes the rim over 2" thick. At this point it really is too much.
I would like to see steering wheels come with removable covers. Then I could put on a new one every time the old one wears out. I’d be Ok with the manufacturers selling “factory replacement covers” with different designs. But I don’t think they are going to be reading this post so they will never know what I want.
CSA; the suicide knob was tongue in cheek as few makers really have a handle on everything the buying public wants…that’s where the " none" comes in. Nitch does not refer to the minority or the majority. It’s a group who prefers things a certain way. I doubt many Caddy owners see their steering wheels the same way as Accord owners. So, two separate niches and little direct competition. Of course this example is subject to over simplification.
Ah! You mean “niche.” I can’t find “nitch” in the dictionary.
You can bet your bottom dollar those car manufacturers paid good money to marketing groups whose whole lot in life is to survey potential buyers and focus groups on the various aspects of the design way before anything was cast in stone (plastic). The problem is assembling a profile group that accurately represents the targeted buyers. Would you take a day off to participate? Jury by peers comes to mind…