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When you are behind the wheel of your hot rod or race car, one of the most important pieces of your interior is the steering wheel. The steering wheel not only provides the driver input to the steering system, but the steering wheel and its associated components also play a big part in your ride’s safety, styling, and more. There are a lot of choices and decisions to be made when it comes to your ride’s steering wheel fitment and application. Are you using the original steering column or perhaps a retrofit steering column that requires a specific wheel hub? Are you looking for an original-style steering wheel or a custom steering wheel? What rim diameter will work best for you and should you have a shallow or deep dish on your steering wheel? What steering wheel bolt patterns work? We will help you answer these questions and more about aftermarket steering wheels below.

What Steering Wheel Size is Best?

Aftermarket steering wheels are available in several sizes. So what size is best? That will be determined by the intended use and what features you are looking for. The main thing to consider in a car steering wheel size is that the smaller you go in diameter the more steering effort comes into play. Essentially, as the wheel diameter goes down the steering effort goes up. This is more critical on cars without power steering obviously and less important when it comes to a racing steering wheel where the race car is at speed and sees reduced steering angle/input. So, figuring out application is your first decision. Is this for a street-driven car, or a race car? On a street driven car, you might want to go up in steering wheel size, say to a 15-inch steering wheel, to make manual steering a little bit easier in a parking lot situation. Whereas in a race car, going to a smaller wheel will help with getting into and out of the race car, as will a steering wheel option like a flat bottom or possibly using a quick-release adapter to remove the steering wheel completely for ingress/egress. For both street and race applications a large wheel may interfere with your driving position depending upon the seating you are using, and more so for racing does the wheel design block your visibility out of the race car and to the dash/instruments? Conversely, a small steering wheel will increase steering effort but potentially allow better instrument visibility and lead to easier entry/exit of a race car. As you can see, there are a lot of things to consider and a few potential tradeoffs to deal with.

Is Steering Wheel Dish Important?

The dish of an aftermarket steering wheel is the measurement from the wheel mounting surface to the wheel rim centerline (the portion you hold in your hand while driving). The dish of an aftermarket steering wheel directly impacts two critical measurements—the distance of the steering wheel to the driver and the distance of the steering wheel to any column mounted controls such as turn signals, windshield wipers, etc. Take note that the thickness of your steering wheel adapter hub or quick release will also add to the steering wheel to column controls distance and push your aftermarket steering wheel choice closer to the driver, so be sure to add that to your measurements. Again, consider the application when deciding on wheel dish. Universal steering wheels generally can be found in three common dish ranges: flat (no dish), small dish, and deep dish. A flat wheel will have your hands very close to column mounted controls, but will be the farthest from the driver’s position, possibly causing you to drive with outstretched arms, which can be tiring. A small dish is common in many 1960s through 1980s vehicles. It tends to be the best of both worlds, allowing near fingertip control of the turn signals, but is a bit closer to the driver for driving comfort. Lastly there is the deep-dish wheel which is most often found in motorsports. This puts the wheel closest to the driver when steering column-mounted controls are nonexistent. As we mentioned above in wheel diameter, everything is a trade-off. A wheel too close to the driver in a street car means you will have trouble reaching the column controls, while a wheel too close to the driver in a race car could mean getting in and out of the car becomes an issue and you may need to consider a smaller diameter wheel or a quick-release mounting hub.

Why All the Different Steering Wheel Bolt Patterns?

Any time you replace a stock steering wheel with an aftermarket steering wheel you will need to keep the steering wheel’s bolt pattern in mind. Most stock and aftermarket steering columns are comprised of a splined shaft that rides in a set of bearings within the steering column tube. The base of the steering shaft connects to your steering system while the top of the shaft is where the steering wheel is mounted. Due to the varieties of shaft diameters, spline counts, and shaft shapes (single D, double D, etc.) a wheel hub adapter is pretty much a given to be able to mount your new aftermarket steering wheel. Steering wheels come in several bolt patterns. These bolt patterns are industry standards yet have been configured by different wheel manufacturers over time. So, what does it mean when you read “3 bolt steering wheel” or “5 bolt steering wheel” in our product descriptions? This denotes the actual bolt pattern drilled into the center hub of the steering wheel and how many fasteners it will require to mount the steering wheel to the wheel hub. Common steering wheel bolt patterns include 3-bolt, 5-bolt, and 6-bolt (Grant steering wheels), 9-bolt (Lecarra steering wheels), and even a few 2 bolt patterns. All you need to remember is that you will need the matching mounting hub adapter, and you can find that in the Related Products section, or confirming fitment via our make/model/year search tool.

What Else Should I Buy With my Steering Wheel?

We have touched on the aftermarket steering wheel mounting hub adapter previously, but obviously that is the number one item that you should be adding to your cart along with your aftermarket steering wheel of choice. Besides the mounting hub adapter, we highly recommend you confirm the style of horn button you wish to use (for street applications) if your universal steering wheel does not come with one or offers multiple options. We offer spacers as well for several steering wheel bolt patterns if you find a wheel you like but it does not have enough dish for your preferred fitment. If this is your first time replacing a steering wheel you may also wish to add a steering wheel puller tool to your order to make removal of your original steering wheel easier and safer. Answering all the questions discussed here will ultimately aid you in purchasing the best aftermarket steering wheel for your intended application.

Updated By Mark Houlahan