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Classic Land Rover steering wheel restoration

Classic Land Rover steering wheel restoration.


Charlesworths have new tooling which now enables us to re-mould your original worn / cracked classic Land rover or vintage spoked (banjo) steering wheel rim in the original ebonite material.

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Ebonite was developed in the early 1800’s and is made from natural rubber. It’s obtained by a process called vulcanisation, which hardens the rubber to make it more durable. The rubber is then cured, becoming rigid and inelastic. This material was originally intended to be a substitute for ebony wood, so it was given the name ebonite. The curing process is exactly how the original steering wheels were moulded, and as a result, slight imperfections will be present in the final moulding.

Early uses for the material were as a replacement for ebony and as a jet replacement for jewellery. As early steering wheels were constructed with wooden rims finished in black, Ebonite was the ideal material to replicate the wood rim but allow for early mass production volumes. Once moulded wheels became standard, ebonite was replaced by more modern materials, such as filled bakelite and celluloid.

The names ebonite, vulcanite and hard rubber are all applied to the hard products obtained by heating a mixture of rubber with about half its weight in sulphur, and are sometimes used interchangeably. However, generally the name ebonite is restricted to black materials of high quality, vulcanite to coloured varieties; and hard rubber is then applied to any other grade of rigid or almost rigid product.

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The two pioneers of the rubber industry, Charles Goodyear in the U.S.A. and Thomas Hancock in Britain, both made ebonite during the 1840’s, the former by heating for a long period a mixture containing sufficient sulphur, and the latter by immersing thin strips of rubber in molten sulphur for some hours. Goodyear’s method proved to be the more convenient in practice, and technical development on these lines followed shortly afterwards in both countries. By the early 1850’s, however, Nelson Goodyear, brother of Charles, had taken a particular interest in hard rubber products, and Meyer had secured the first patents covering technical details of the process. The Goodyears’ also found that by varying the sulphur content it was possible to produce materials having different properties. These products were first classified as `caoutchouc enamel’ or `caoutchouc marble’ (the hardest of all), `caoutchouc ivory’, and `caoutchouc whalebone’ (the most flexible). These specimens were shown at the Great Exhibition of 1851 and included carved book-covers, cameos, furniture, and fretted articles such as fans, besides hair combs, buttons, and many small sundries, some of which were moulded. By contrast, Hancock, confined himself to slabs, bars and sheets for manufacturing purposes and to articles of known utility.

By the 1860’s the ebonite industry had spread to Britain, Germany, France, and elsewhere; most of the machinery required for the manufacture had been developed, and some companies were finding profitable business in supplying the growing demand. The early years of the 20th century saw the foundation of the chemistry of vulcanisation, the establishment of an empirical formula for ebonite, and the start of investigations into its nature. Shortly afterwards the use of certain types of organic substance to accelerate vulcanisation was discovered, although it was not until the 1920’s that these came into general use.

The general trend towards more elaborate moulds and moulding techniques which so profoundly influenced the plastics industry in general during the 1920’s & 30’s was also evident in the moulding of ebonite goods.


Rubber is a natural elastomer obtained by acid coagulation of latex derived from plants, mainly trees of the genus Ilevea. By far the most important is the species indigenous to Brazil; namely Braziliensis. This species is grown on a large scale on plantations in Malaya, Ceylon, and Dutch possessions in the same area. Rubber is essentially a long chain hydrocarbon substance which is a polymer of isoprene. It is exported to the west mainly in the form of dry sheets or as ammonia-preserved latex or latex concentrate. Dry rubber is converted to a more or less plastic state by mastication—a process of kneading between hot rolls to expose a larger surface area to oxidation by air. The rubber is then ready to be vulcanised.


When rubber is heated with an excess of sulphur the degree of unsaturation diminishes, and the sulphur combines and becomes unextractable with boiling acetone. This process when carried to completion yields a hard product which is almost saturated and contains about 32% of combined sulphur.


If your classic 17″ bakelite type steering wheel is cracked, broken or leaches black & sticky when wet or damp we can help to refurbish it.
After removing the existing cracked material (often refered to as bakelite) from your  wheel we can mould a new rim covering in it’s place.
This process allows us to replace all of the old material with new, without the need for fillers.

Our guide for Land rover steering wheel removal 


The small print bit:

Please contact us: Email or phone 01675 470382 for more information & pricing.

We are only able to carry out this on 17 inch outside dia wheels at the current time.
It is up to you to supply us with with a sound rim to re cover. We unfortunately cannot repair any broken or damaged metal work, spokes, splines or bosses

We are not offering an exchange service, you will receive your wheel back with spokes & centre boss in the same condition that we receive it. 

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Land Rover Steering Wheel removal

Steering wheel removal.

If you require some instructions to help with the removal of your Land Rover steering wheel or horn button / dip switch assembly we have a short guide based on our own experience.


Land Rover Series One Steering Wheel Removal

Proceed with care. This is only a guide your vehicle may be different.

The bakelite wheel centre, horn button & dip switch assembly is attached to a stator tube which runs inside the steering column.
You must remove this complete assembly before attempting to remove the steering wheel.


Firstly the horn & dip switch wires need to be disconnected from your wiring loom. 
Follow the wires from where they enter the bottom of the steering column (in the wheel arch).

They should go into a junction box on the bulkhead in the engine bay.

Straighten the wires so they will feed up the steering column easily.
Slide the stator tube end cap off over the wires.

Undo the stator tube clamp bolt at the bottom of the steering box.

Any oil in the steering box will drain out. 
Do not lever the bakelite horn surround. It will break.
You should now be able to push the stator tube up the steering column to remove the complete steering wheel centre still attached to the stator tube, as one unit, through the centre of the steering wheel.

Undo and completely remove the steering wheel clamp bolt. 
The steering wheel will now either easily slide off the splines or not!
If not….
Spray loads of release oil onto the splines.
Gently prise the split open. The casting is soft, take great care not to damage.
It should then be possible to carefully persuade the steering wheel to move using plenty of push-pull-shake and patience!


Horn Button / Dip Switch Assembly Rebuilding


  1. Unscrew the 3 mounting posts using a 9/32” A/F spanner
  2. Remove the horn contact plate (There are different types)
  • Remove 2 washers from 2 of the moulded pins and the earth wire from the third
  1. De-solder horn contact to reveal rivet head
  2. Using a drill or mini die grinder, very carefully remove the rivet head and free the horn contact
  3. Remove brass cup, contact, fibre washer, horn button and spring. (There are different types)
  • Unscrew nut from dipswitch contact using a 7/32” A/F spanner to remove dipswitch lever
  • Lift out spring contact
  1. Remove solder from screw head to remove screw and washer from contact plate
  2. Remove contact plate.


  1. Fit spring to horn button
  2. Insert horn button from front of top cover and using 6BA screw (supplied), re-attach brass cup & contact. This screw will need to be removed again to fit the power feed.
  • Replace 4 washers and earth wire
  1. Replace horn contact plate
  2. Replace 3 mounting posts using 9/32” A/F spanner
  3. Replace contact plate and fix into place applying threadlock to the 6BA screw (supplied)
  • Replace spring contact assembly
  • Replace the dipswitch lever. Fix the 5BA nut with a 7/3” A/F spanner applying threadlock
  1. Check the switches operate correctly using a multimeter.
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Customer Parts

We have produced several reproduction parts for owners clubs, classic parts supplies & Land Rover specialists.

Trafficator knob 312619, reproduction Lucas trafficator knob for switch PRS7 used on series 1 Land Rovers, switch part number 230281. Transfer moulded in bakelite phenolic for Stokenham Spares and available from them

Trafficator knob 312619
Trafficator knob 312619

Rubber base for rear “pork pie” lamp ST38 injection moulded for the Land Rover Series One Club Ltd please see for more information

ST83 rubber base
ST83 rubber base

Land Rover S1 spark plug cap 1948-1953 Part No. 214262 Also fitted to several other rover cars with Rover inlet over exhaust P3 engine  Made for the Land Rover Series One Club Ltd please see for more information

rover spark plug cap 214262

rover spark plug cap 214262

Clutch fluid reservoir Fitted to Land Rover 101 forward control 1 tonne 4×4 part No 595447 and Brake fluid reservoir fitted to Land Rover 101 forward control 1 tonne 4×4 part No 90577636 Injection moulded for the 101 Forward Control Club and Register Limited available from

101 clutch brake reservoir
101 clutch brake reservoir