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Steering Wheel

This component is part of Steering and of Interior.

Definition

A variety of different steering wheels were used throughout the lifecycle of the Pagoda. The types and models used, as well as pictures of these, are listed below.

Type I – early 230SL

Used to about chassis #2035.

  • Color: black and ivory (white).
  • Horn ring: round with 2 pins through the crossbar
  • Wheel: no grooves, no holes on the inner side of the rim
  • Center pad: outer ring (all chrome) and inner chrome ring around plastic center star.
  • Center star is surrounded by another chrome-mirrored ring within the plastic.

It appears that the same wheels were used on convertibles and coupes of the time (W111):

Type II – late 230 SL and 250SL

  • Color: black and ivory (white).
  • Horn ring: flat upper part with 2 pins through the crossbar
  • Wheel: grooves facing driver and 5 single holes on the inner side
  • Center pad: Outer ring: 2-part - outer half facing driver is chromed and inner half is painted matte dark-grey/black.
  • Inner chrome ring around plastic center star.
  • Center star is surrounded by another chrome-mirrored ring within the plastic.

Note: The horn ring with the flat upper part was introduced on Feb. 02, 1964, starting with chassis number 2035. At the same time the wheel was stiffened. The distance between the pins on the horn ring did not change. Thus, round and flat horn rings will fit a Type I and and a Type II wheel.

Type III – 280SL

  • Color: black and ivory (white).
  • Horn ring: flat upper part without pins
  • Wheel: grooves facing driver and 5 pairs of holes on the inner side
  • Center pad: No outer and inner chrome rings
  • Center star is surrounded by a chrome-mirrored ring within the plastic.

After July 12, 1967, starting with 250SL chassis number 2980, the horn ring on USA version cars was no longer a bright chrome but matte.

For those who need to refurbish these wheels and pads it appears that the 230SL and 280SL plastic center star have the same diameter. So if the inner chrome is still good one can put a 280SL star into the center of the 230SL pad.

The outer dimensions of the 280SL pad are currently unknown, and therefore it is uncertain whether it will fit into the outer ring of the 230SL pad. Perhaps somebody can supply the missing information. However, a center pad from a 280SL cannot be mounted on a Type I or Type II wheel because the pattern for the mounting studs on the back is different.

If the padding cover needs to be replaced then it is easiest to use a razor blade, or scalpel, and to cut the pad out of the outer chrome ring. The cut cover (see picture) can then be pulled through the center of the donut without damaging the brittle padding.

Maintenance

M-B sells a replacement center pad for a Type II wheel that is slightly different from the original: http://www.sl113.org/forums/index.php?topic=6502.msg73593#new

Refinishing the Hub Pad of a 230SL/250SL Steering Wheel

All hub pads, whether black or ivory, were covered with MB-Tex material not leather, yet some original, unmodified cars have a “brown” version. This was not a real color option but is result of aging as can be clearly seen when one looks at the center portion of the pad that was seldom exposed to light.

When not properly cared for the pad covering developed cracks and the plastic center star, although quite hard, can become scratched and develop deeper cracks over the years. Thus many owners want to refinish the pad and also match it to the interior of the car. Little can be done to remove deep cracks in the plastic star and re-silvering a blind or blemished star is a major undertaking whereas replacing the MB-Tex is relatively simple. What helps is to have a tool that shapes the leather or synthetic fabric to the contours of the pad.

Removing the Hub Pad

The hub pad is fixed to the wheel by three hollow plastic connection sleeves. Grab the perimeter of hub pad with both hands and pull it off the hub. Sometimes it may be necessary to use a blunt piece of wood and pry the pad away from the signal hub.


Figure 1


Taking the Pad Apart

On the back of the pad is a plastic base with petals that are pressed behind and under the lip of the metal rim. Insert a flat-tipped screwdriver or similar tool behind a petal and while pressing down on it with your thumb pull it free from the metal rim. Initially this will be difficult and the petal may be barely in front of the rim. Try to keep it in this position by wedging another object behind and then move to the next petal, repeating the process.

Do not use too much force and do not to pry the individual petals out too far. Old plastic is brittle and breaks easily!


Figure 2


Once three of four petals are free it becomes easier to pry the next ones loose until the metal ring is free. It is advisable to do this when it is warm and the old plastic is a bit more pliable. If this is a winter months job try using a hair dryer and carefully warm up the plastic before prying it loose.

Next straighten out the bent tabs and press the plastic star together with the vinyl-covered pad out of the base by pushing a blunt tool through the oval opening in the base plate.


Figure 3


Cut the pad open along the perimeter and remove the doughnut-shaped foam ring.

Be careful, old neoprene foam can crumble easily!


Figure 4


Shaping the Leather or Fabric

Select a relatively thin portion of high-quality leather without blemishes such as cuts and depressions. To shape the leather or synthetic fabric to the contours of the pad use a thick rod or pipe with the same outer diameter as the plastic trademark Star, that is, 62 mm or slightly under 2.5 inch. This tool was made by Larry Hemstreet and he will provide it to group members on request. See: http://www.sl113.org/forums/index.php?topic=8813.0


Figure 5


Since wet leather will stretch spray some water on it with a mister – but only on the back to prevent stains – before you shape it by pushing a collar with a slightly larger inner diameter over the stretched leather.


Figure 6


Clamp the collar in position and let the leather dry out again for a few hours while clamped.


Figure 7


It is best to use leather that it is thin enough so that the collar can be pushed down by hand but remains in place by friction. In case of thicker leather the collar can be hammered down but then the dry leather needs to be thinned by skiving or sanding otherwise it will be difficult to keep it in place later.


Figure 8


Before the collar is removed place the chrome ring on top, mark the position of the tabs and then cut the holes for the tabs.


Figure 9


The plastic star has a notch for one of the ring tabs that is used as a marker to align it and it helps to mark the position of the indicator tab on the leather when assembling the parts.


Figure 10


Next push the tabs of chrome ring with the plastic star through the leather, wrap the foam doughnut around the leather and then push the tabs through the opening in the base plate and bent the tabs of the inner chrome ring to hold the Star emblem in place.


Figure 11


Push the tab in the notched hole through the opening closest to the oval slot in the base plate. This assures that the the Star is aligned properly with one leg facing upward when the steering wheel is installed in its neutral position.


Figure 12


Push the chrome ring over the leather and trim the leather flush with the ring. Place the assembly on a soft surface and push each petal of the back plate into the chrome ring using a blunt tool.


Figure 13


If the leather is too wrinkled one can use a heat dryer or heat gun and very carefully heat the leather slightly and it will shrink and smoothen out.

Finally use a good leather preservative and remoisten the dried leather.


Figure 14


Enjoy your new hub pad!


Figure 15



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Nardi steering wheels

Apparently this section contains out-of-date information. Until this information is updated, please refer to this thread for up-to-date information on adding a Nardi wheel to your W113 chassis car.

http://www.sl113.org/forums/index.php?topic=8740

Does anyone in the group have experience installing a Nardi wood steering wheel into a W113? Need to get the voice of experience ...

Will Samples says: I tried it on a 230 SL and the horn honked when you turned the wheel. Could not fix it, gave up. That was a few years ago. Just last week had a customer who is a professional mechanic have the same thing happen. He eventually figured out the only thing to do was to remote-locate the horn button.

I'm not giving up on my quest to find installation information for Nardi wheels! I recently received a beautiful Nardi Classic wheel from an Italian colleague, along with what was supposedly the correct mounting hub. The problem is that this hub does not connect with the horn system on the 'stock' wheel. Instead of a wire connection, it has a half-moon shaped copper connector that presumably mates up to a similar connector on the back of the wheel. Has anyone installed a Nardi wheel adapter and could help me through the steps. Do I have the wrong adapter? Does it actually require some re-engineering?

Will Samples says: I tried to install a Nardi wheel and hub on the 230SL only to find the horn honked each time I turned left. That was 4 years ago and I gave up. About 3 months ago in casual conversation a professional mechanic said he had the same problem and he remote located the horn by installing a button somewhere else. That is all I know. I tried contacting the importers of the wheels but they are of no help.

Is Nardi no longer in business? I did a quick www search and I could not find a home page for them. I also have a '66 230SL Euro (from Italy) and a smaller wheel may interest me as well.

Will says: Nardi is very much still in business. They are imported by Automod Atlanta, 1-800-241-1832. Call them, get all the info you can on what you need, then give me all the part numbers and prices and I will see if I can save you any money.

I have a Nardi wheel on my 280 SL. Looks great, but no horn. I'd like to have a horn. I've heard all the horor stories about the horn issue. Does anyone have a success story? Has anyone figured out how to get a functioning horn on a Nardi wheel?

The "secret" to making sure that the horn works with a Nardi wheel is to make sure that the wheel has the correct hub. The correct hub will have two circular troughs on the bottom. These are the troughs in which the brushes (part of the steering column) will ride when the wheel is turned. They provide the electrical contact for the horn button. Even if you have the correct hub, there are a few things that you should do before you install the wheel.

  1. Clean the two troughs on the wheel hub. DO NOT use sand paper; use a gentle metal cleaner (not polish). Just make sure that they are clean and free of debris.
  2. Buy some electrical lubricant from a local auto parts store and place a VERY THIN coat on the troughs.
  3. Make sure that the brushes (they protrude from the steering column) are clean and free of debris.
  4. Make sure that the brushes spring back when pushed.
  5. Make sure that the brushes protrude at least 1/4" - 5/16" from the steering column. If they are too short, they may not make contact with the wheel troughs and the horn won't work.

Does anyone have the correct part number for the Nardi W113 hub? My hub definitely is designed for a different horn connection, but I don't know what the correct hub part number should be.

I got a Nardi wheel and hub a few months ago for my 1969 280 SL. I had no problems with the horn. The key is the hub (or adapter). The brushes in the steering column must line up with the brass rings in the hub or the horn won't work. Make sure that you have the correct hub.

Contact Gernold at: gernold@sltechw113.com. I just bought a Nardi wheel and hub from him for my '69 280SL and it works perfectly, horn too. He may be able to get a hub for you.

The ivory wheel was available on all the cars in the late 60's. The optional equipment brochure shows that. It's always been my assumption that it was up to the buyer which wheel to fit & not a matter of interior colors. Incidentally, I noticed the factory also sells ivory colored "caps" for the (left and right) seat recliner levers to match the wheel and gearshift knob.

Ivory wheels and indicator knobs are in my opinion better to have. My first 1968 280 SL had a black steering wheel and everytime I wore light colored pants and went for a drive, I always ended up having a black rub mark where the wheel rubbed on my leg. I then switched to the ivory wheel and have been happy since till I sold the car.

Will: Some years ago I ran across a written note in MB literature that said the Ivory wheel was primarily for export, espcially to the US. The reason was simple, the ivory wheel did not get as hot as a black wheel when the sun hits it. And compared to Germany, most of the US is hot (or so the Germans think).

Any steering wheel from any 108/109/113/114/115 will fit your car. Make sure you park with the road wheels exactly straight ahead so that the wheel can be centred on the spine. If you find the nut (24mm?) keeps falling out of the socket as you try to re-install it you can hold it in the socket with some sticky-tape around the edge, or some grease in the socket. Otherwise if can repeatedly fall into the steering wheel hub and you have to keep taking the wheel off again to shake it out.

Does anyone know of an aftermarket steering wheel that will fit a 113? We are running in "La Carrera Panamericana" Mexican roadrace this October and we need to go to a smaller wheel. Problem is that we can't find an adapter hub... does anyone have any recommendations for this?

Will says: Get a Nardi adapter and I think you will find alot of aftermarket wheels fit that pattern.

Are those of you with Nardi steering wheels satisfied with them? Could you advise which is the most suitable diameter - 330, 360, or 390mm. Anyone know the diameter of the original wheel offhand?

My car came with one on it when I bought it. I like it very much, but I have never driven a w113 with a stock wheel. I think it also looks much better than the stock wheel.

My 1971 280SL came with a Nardi wheel. I really like the look of the highly polsihed wood rim (teak?). Don't know the dimensions of the stock wheel since the car never had one...

Achim: Original sizes of the factory steering wheels (both W110, 111 and W 108/115) are 44 cm outer diameter horizontally and about 41.5 cm vertically.

My 1969 280SL original steering wheel has a diameter of about 430mm (OD). The old diameters were big in a time when Mercedes engineers frowned at power steering. The Nardi steering wheel, ordered for the model, has a diameter of about 385mm (OD). Besides the looks, the smaller diameter is nicer to handle and makes entering and exiting the car easier. Depending on your seat position, the smaller diameter will block the view to the upper outside scales of the tach and speedo. E.g., you may have to shift your head to see anything above 60mph. On the other hand, the visibility of the lower center section, i.e. oil pressure and water temperature dials, is much improved with the Nardi wheel. Of course, you will also loose the protection of the center "crash pad" in the steering wheel, as marginal as it is. All said, I love the Nardi.

Today's question is regarding the position of the steering wheel. One would assume (as I do from having driven many cars since 1974 when I first got my license) that the steering wheel is parallel or somewhat close to parallel to the dashboard--as it is on most cars. This also means it is parallel to the seat back, thus parallel to the driver (assuming equal arm length...). Mine is NOT. There is a noticable, actually annoying cant or lean such that the door (left) side of the steering wheel is significantly closer to the dash then the right side. Is this normal? Am I the only one who has noticed it? Or is the possibility that something was not screwed back together properly in the restoration? Before I go looking for solutions I need to know if I actually have a problem or a feature...

Yes this was a design quirk from MB with the steering wheel being canted at a slight angle towards the door of the car, as to aid in ease of getting in and out. Guess they had no other diameter steering wheel to install other than to use the off shelf one from the current sedans of the time. I have seen this on every SL that came under my eyes.

All of the 113 vehicles have this feature. This is early ergonomic design from the German engineers. The proper hand location on the steering wheel is 10 and 2 o'clock when driving at high speed over long distances. i.e. autobahn. The offset of the wheel is intended to prevent boredom or highway hypnosis at this critical driving time. You may find it annoying, but it may make you concentrate on what you are doing when you are driving.

Some weeks or months back, I posed the question about steering wheel position, as mine was considerably closer to the dash on the left side then the right. Many responses came in saying that it is an early ergonomic feature designed to get in and out of the car easier. Well, I don't know if people were guessing, or if there is any truth to this rumor, but in my case it was simply false. The car went back to the restorer late last week to "clean up" some punch list items, one of them being the steering wheel was not straight (a product of the alignment I guess--it's happened to me many times on other cars). He called me today and asked if I had noticed that the steering wheel was closer to the dash on the left then the right(!) and I said yes! Turns out that there was a significantly bent part(some ring on the steering column) that appeared to have been damaged in one of the many crashes that the car had in its previous life. A used part was located and now THIS problem is solved.

Rodd: there are so many people who said their's is canted that it's hard to believe that it's a true problem. Perhaps your's was worse than others? Didn't someone take dash-to-wheel measurements? I must be going (company golf league), but I'll take my measurements tonight and post and compare against others.

As for the cant of the steering wheel, I will admit that in 32 years I never noticed this (live and learn) until alerted to it by some of the members of this list. But, and observe my but, it is clearly @ an inch closer to the dash on the left side* and - again - nothing has changed on my car since it was new, some 33 years and 160K miles ago.

Bernt: the steering wheel has to be angled and can never be straight. This is simple to see by observing where the column is attached to the dash and then looking at where it goes through the firewall between the pedals. It runs at an angle and is closer to the transmission tunnel at the bottom. I don't think it is an ergonomic ergonomic feature either. They simply could not fit it in straight because of space problems and because it would have to go through the firewall where the brake pedal is and there would be no space that far left inside the engine bay for the steering box etc. etc.

Good luck on hitting the ball Ron - I did take the measurement, when the earlier mails circulated I could not believe my steering wheel would be closer to the dash left than right, but sure enough, it is. And the difference is significant, if memory serves me right the difference is at least an inch. I never noticed it before.

My guess is that this is one of the easiest jobs, but before I cause any damage, I thought I should seek advice. I purchased an ivory steering wheel for my '64 230SL Euro. To remove to old one, is it as simple as removing the large nut under the horn pad. I took one pass at it, pushed pretty hard, but didn't move it. Before I pushed harder, I thought I should seek advice.

To remove the steering wheel of a 230 SL, it's necessary simply:

  • To pull the horn pad, fastened with 3 pressure "clips"
  • To unscrew the only nut there's below the horn pad
  • To pull the steering wheel

There's no horn or cables to disconnect. The horn electric contacts remain in the car.

Can someone please give me some instructions for removal of a Nardi steering wheel? I don't want to damage the horn button or surround.

Tom Hanson: the only way to get the horn button off is to pry it off. It doesn't require too much force. Everything else is easy. One big nut (bolt ?) down in the middle.
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