Introduction: Carbon Tape Heated Steering Wheel

Picture of Carbon Tape Heated Steering Wheel

We must be especially careful when driving. In winter we often have to drive with gloves, while the steering wheel is not warmed up enough. Of course this affects the safety. Make your steering wheel heated to improve your safety!

You can easily do it using a small piece of carbon tape.

See how easy it is.

Step 1: Shopping List

Picture of Shopping List

1. 4 (or 8 for double power) feet of carbon tape and now on Amazon (length depends on your wheel circumference).

2. Silver conductive glue.

3. A piece of electric wire (18-24 AWG).

4. Kapton tape.

Step 2: Step by Step

Picture of Step by Step

1. Remove the steering wheel (if it hasn't an airbag only!)

2. Measure the diameter of the steering wheel. Carbon tape length should be slightly smaller to leave a small gap between the ends of the tape.

3. Cut the required piece of the carbon tape. I recommend using a carbon tape width of 44 mm. This will allow you to close a large part of the surface of the steering whee and make absolutely uniform heating.

.4. Silver glue wires to the ends of the carbon tape. You will be more convenient to work if you sew the wires to the tape first to fix it, as shown in the photo. Then soak the wire and the carbon tape with a silver glue. Silver glue will ensure the highest quality, reliability and long service life.

5. Apply a rubber glue to the surface of the steering wheel and stick carbon tape. Position the tape so that it was convenient to lay the wires from the tape to the center of the steering wheel. Do not forget to leave a small gap between the ends of the carbon tape.

6. Connect the wires to the free sliding contacts in the center of the steering wheel.

7. Connect the wires in the steering column to a free button on the dashboard.

8. Wrap the carbon tape with Kapton.

9. Put on a steering wheel cover you like.

Step 3: A Bit of Theory...

Picture of A Bit of Theory...

The average circumference of steering wheels is 4 feet. At 12 volts 4 feet of 44 mm carbon tape will give about 18 watts of heat. In my tests this power needs 3-5 minutes to get 77F from 23F. So I recommend you to use two stripes of carbon connected in parallel. It provides approximately 36 watts of heat. This power is enough to warm your steering wheel to a comfortable temperature just for a few seconds even if the bitter cold outside. Simply cut 4 feet + 4 feet of 44 mm carbon tape and glue them one next to other. That way you can cover whole the wheel surface. Glue the wires to the both ends of the carbon tape stripes so they will be connected in parallel. As you can see I get 40 Watts of heat power (12V x 3,33A = 40W).

Step 4: No More Driving Gloves!

Picture of No More Driving Gloves!

...a heavy frost on the street. I sit in my car, insert the ignition key and click on the steering wheel heat button. The wheel immediately becomes warm and I can just go.

My safety is in my hands!


galenweaver (author)2017-12-09

I want to use this idea for another application so not concerned about the steering wheel issues some have mentioned. From what I understand the carbon tape is the heat conductor but what purpose does the Kapton Tape serve?

Shenzhen (author)galenweaver2017-12-09

My leather cover was too tight and I had to wrap the carbon with kapton so that it was easier to put on a leather.

DIYunderwater (author)2016-10-28

This is a great project! I need to
make something like this. Quick question. Why carbon stripe needs to be glued?

Shenzhen (author)DIYunderwater2016-10-28

The surface of the carbon tape will always be a reliable electrical
conductor due to the surface oxidation turning into a gas and dispersing.
This is unlike the surface of metals, for example copper, where as a result
of oxidation the copper is coated with copper oxide which hinders a good
electrical contact because copper oxide does not conduct electricity.
Overtime this eventually results in contact failure which leads to power
loss and potentially the overheating of contact points. Silver glue is the best way to get a reliable connection.

Mjtrinihobby (author)Shenzhen2017-01-10

Oxide is a problem with aluminum conductor, never a problem on copper.

Shenzhen (author)Mjtrinihobby2017-05-25

Yes, aluminum is more active metal and aluminum wire is quickly covered with aluminum oxide film even at room temperature. The resulting film is an excellent dielectric, very durable and can interfere with contact even at high voltage. Poor contact on aluminum wires is common.

Copper is a less active metal and at room temperature oxidation will not affect the reliability of contact even after years. The copper oxide film is very fragile, but most importantly, it is not a dielectric but a semiconductor, that is, it is capable of passing an electric current. This means that our heated clothes will continue to work for a long time, but the place of contact will heat up more and more..

In case of metal+metal contacts they are fixed hard and there are a few permanent micro points where direct phisical contacts are located. At those points oxidation goes very slowly especially for copper.

But in the case of contact of carbon fiber with copper, there is no constant contact point. Carbon fibers can freely pass oxygen to the surface of the copper wire and the whole wire will oxidize even at the point of contact with the carbon. The connection point will start to overheat. The oxidation rate at room temperature is low and your device could work for several years without interruption, but at a temperature of 50-70 degrees Celsius the contact will become hotter than the carbon tape just after a few months and then it will heat up more and more.

We know it from theory and our big practice.

Mjtrinihobby (author)2017-01-10

Excellent work.

FerretPD (author)2016-10-27

*Seriously*? That is your build...? I'm sorry...but I can see *several* serious safety issues immediately.

First: How are you with the fact that the Steering Wheel turns...but the Column (etc) doesn't? Either you have a wire hanging down around your feet (dangerous from a Driving Safety perspective, tangling up your feet)...or you have loosely-wrapped around the Steering Column (Dangerous rom an Electrical perspective...since there is no way to guarantee that the "loose" cord will not get pinched/cut/broken...and then you have Battery power applied to the Metal parts of the car (I should point out here that the "convenient" picture shows a hole in the middle of the Steering wheel...that's where the Bolt and securing nut goes through...there is no convenient axial hole in the Steering column to accommodate such a kludge.)

Your hands will *absolutely* be you veer off the road due to either your foot catching on wires when you need to brake/accelerate...or the Electrical system giving up the ghost as you toodle down the road.

This is a *BAD* Build...and (in my opinion as a mechanic of over 30 years) is dangerous. I'm sorry if it's not "nice"...this is a Safety* issue.

JK2001 (author)FerretPD2016-10-27

Good reply, but you forgot the part when the tape unravels due to the heat/wear & tear and gets caught up in the steering column control stalks. Also, I don't think it is a good idea to be pulling 18 to 40 Watts continuously though a slip ring commutator meant for intermittent pulses to the cruise control logic circuits or the horn relay. You were nice however just to refer to it as a kludge.

Shenzhen (author)FerretPD2016-10-27

Steering Wheel turns...but the Column (etc) doesn't...

Steering wheel slip ring.

FerretPD (author)Shenzhen2016-10-27

Yes...and all of those SlipRing contacts are dedicated...are you tapping off of the Horn Contacts...? If so....that was a *critical* safety factor that you should have mentioned.

tim.nelin (author)2016-10-27

Firstly, there is hardly ever an easily accessible 12 volt power source under the steering wheel of any vehicle. Most use a clockspring mechanism for accessories that are steering wheel mounted. Fooling with this will most likely result in loss of the accessories. Secondly, to leave the wiring running down the column and not leaving enough slack to let the steering wheel turn fully from lock to lock could be fatal. Thirdly, fooling with anything to do with the airbag system without knowledge or training will most likely result in severe injury. Please add safety warnings about what you are instructing to prevent serious injury or worse!

fastm3driver (author)tim.nelin2016-10-27

The fuse box and OBD2 port are usually under the dash on the drivers side. easy 12v power.

JK2001 (author)fastm3driver2016-10-27

"Easy 12V power" ?? The OBD-II jack is a data output port and was not designed to supply power to a heater. If you burn out your interface and cannot pass your emissions test it is on you. I got dinged for "tampering" because the jack fell out of its mount and the technician couldn't plug into it.

fastm3driver (author)JK20012016-10-27

So you broke your OBD2 jack mount? That has nothing to do with the power. You just use the power wire, nothing to do with scanning per se.

Pin 16 is a line from the battery(not switched). Just jump into it and add a fuse. It might be only rated for 4 amps though so I'd check against the draw. You can also get a OBD2 extension cable and cut into that so you would never be using both at the same time.

That said, I would rather use the fuse box anyway as it usually has an extra wire/fuse plug.

JK2001 (author)fastm3driver2016-10-27

I did not break the jack mount. The wire harness fell out of it and it was considered the result of "tampering". Because of this I failed emission testing. As this was the case, if you mess with your OBD-II harness it may be considered to be emission system tampering. Plus, it was never designed to carry a 18-40 Watt load.

ac-dc (author)fastm3driver2016-10-27

Yes it has something to do with power. Trying to draw more current than the connector is rated for may brittle the plastic and break or melt it.

There is a right way and a wrong way to power aux accessories in a vehicle. Randomly picking the closest 12V source and using that is the wrong way. Besides, the tough part is wiring that doesn't interfere with steering wheel operation, not using a few feet longer wire and fishing it wherever it needs to go, like to the main power distribution box or all the way to the battery, with an inline fuse there of course.

It's better not to alter the factory wiring, to have something that can be completely undone later.

clark5113 (author)2016-10-27

Yes, some people should NEVER attempt to wire anything. This is however a very good idea and even a necessity for those with vascular disease (Raynaud's immediately comes to mind.)

redsarahdaisy (author)2016-10-27

i love this idea, but consistent with the advice of other commenters should not be messing with car wiring (based on experience levels and the type of car). Any thoughts from the pros out there about a battery setup? Would it need to be a 12v? What sort of battery capacity would be suitable?

Wingloader (author)2016-10-27

If you do decide to mess with the airbag, disconnect the negative side of your car battery and let the car sit for 30 minutes (just to be really sure).

If you simply disconnect the airbag when there is power to it, you can sometimes cause the airbag light to come on in your dashboard and you may need to take it to a dealer to get it shut off.

GTO3x2 (author)Wingloader2016-10-27

Thanks. I'm not always familiar with this area.

autotech1 (author)2016-10-27

Some of these instructables should be scrutinized very carefully for safety reasons before they get published. As cbowers 18 posted, air bags have explosives in them in order to deploy the air bag, it's Sodium Azide, rocket fuel. The same stuff that NASA uses to launch the space shuttle and other space vehicles. Amateurs should not even consider touching anything having to do with the air bag system, but if they insist on doing so, the air bag module should not be removed before disabling the system and allowing sufficient time for the reserve power to power down. You did know that supplemental inflatable restraint systems have a reserve power built into the DERM, (diagnostic energy reserve module), didn't you? After all the ER stand for energy reserve. How else could any of the air bags be deployed in the event of an accident where power to the DERM was lost for some reason?

It amazes me that some of these instructables that should contain safety warnings don't. I shake my head in amazement and cringe every time I read one that deals with modifying a car in any way. I have seen and repaired many accessory installations that were made by supposed professionals that either disabled or compromised a safety system that would have resulted in that system not operating properly or at all in case it was needed to avoid and accident or in the event of an accident.

GTO3x2 (author)autotech12016-10-27

I agree with the concern and find some things (mostly chemical and radiation) out of my regular danger knowledge. I appreciate the comments from other people who give a "heads up".

I wouldn't want this site to become too censored with over-worked cautions though. People with desk jobs are highly susceptible to getting overcautious and paranoid to legal liability. I guess a lot of this opens to relative knowledge and comfort level, and is why one should yield to their limit. Even cooking a food preparation has significant dangers.

Good comment.

fastm3driver (author)2016-10-27

I'd rather have a heated steering wheel than cruse control. Do those buttons have power you can tap into? Also, I'd like to see a battery powered version. Two removable batteries that you charge one while using the other one. Having had a car with a heated steering wheel I'd say you mostly want it on quickly and for around 10 minutes.

scarrmrcc (author)fastm3driver2016-10-27

easy answer: no.

better answer: kind of.

there are wires for the cruise, but they are not large enough to take the kind of power that would run through them to make a heated steeringwheel. if you DID use them to get power to the tape (by putting the power on the column side, and the tape on the wheel side) you will probably melt them, and thus start a fire.

at least your hands would be warm.

fastm3driver (author)scarrmrcc2016-10-27

lol. Agreed, just thinking out loud. I've had wheels with all kinds of things on them so every car would be very different. Some cars might have the wiring for a heated wheel if it's an option too. Chrysler pacifica, BMW's, Kia sedona... BMW even offers a wheel with a display on it. I'd be curious to see how the different OEM's handle these options, wiring wise.

lewisvantassel (author)2016-10-27

Can anyone (preferably a vehicle mechanic or electrician) speak to whether or not there is a possibility of fire or other electrical danger? If you still your coffee on the steering wheel, or if your hands are wet, is there a possibility of getting shocked? This sounds like an awesome project for my old Diesel 87 F250, but I didn't see any mention of safety concerns in the project description or comments. I appreciate everyone's response!

Shenzhen (author)lewisvantassel2016-10-27

There's no risk of getting shocked. At 12v you can wet it daily. We (divers) used 12V open wire welding even underwater.

At 12 volts you can keep the carbon tape in hands as shown in this video:

Bodragon (author)lewisvantassel2016-10-27

You won't get shocked. No way. Unless it is wired to the high tension circuit that feeds the sparkplugs, but you ain't got HT in diesel anyway.

I am an electrician and I can't see any problems here. Of course, overheating and fire is the major concern. Any coffee spill on steering wheel is highly unlikely to have any safety issues here. I mean, whole steering wheel would have to be dunked in said coffee before any potential trouble and, even then, a little electrolytic bubbling and corrosion. No fire. Caveat: any short circuit in your add-on wiring though, could cause a surprise fire. Just saying.

cbowers18 (author)2016-10-27

A nice idea. Unfortunately, disassembling a steering wheel containing an airbag is NOT recommended for amateurs! There is an explosive charge in there. At best, you run the risk of making the airbag inoperable. At worst . . . The steering wheel you show must be from a very old car; all US cars have had airbags in the steering wheel for a quarter century.

DanW97 (author)cbowers182016-10-27

So I was thinking about how you could do it without disassembling the steering wheel, because mine has an airbag as well. The only difference I would do, is that instead of disassembling the steering wheel, I would remove the covering of the steering column, and run the wire down under the dash, or to wherever you are putting your button. Replace the plastic cover and your wire is covered.

What would be totally awesome is if I could get a button and replace one of the button placeholders in my dash.

Megawashu (author)cbowers182016-10-27

Perhaps the tape can be placed over a more modern steering wheel without removing it?

DanielL312 (author)Megawashu2016-10-27

It might be possible to tie into the horn circuit or the illumination circuit of any lights on the wheel, but the airbag circuit should be left alone. Also don't physically block the airbag.

Makirio (author)cbowers182016-10-27

I was thinking that too! Maybe it can be sewn inside of a steering wheel cover...

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