Why Is The Steering Wheel Removable In NASCAR Cars?
The steering wheel is removable in NASCAR cars because it makes it much easier for the driver to get out of the car. Before removable steering wheels, a driver had to maneuver their body in many different ways to slide their legs past the steering wheel to get into and out of the car. This is because the doors to NASCAR cars do not open and the inside is very compact. The removable steering wheel also is used because it makes it easier to remove the driver from the car in case of an emergency. Removable steering wheels are also commonly known as quick-release steering wheels.
Safety is the most important reason for having removable steering wheels. Whenever a crash occurs during a race and the driver is unconscious or needs help being removed from the vehicle, the removable steering wheel is helpful for getting the driver out of the car.
Before the removable steering wheel, it was difficult to remove drivers that could not get out of the car themselves. This made it dangerous and difficult to try and pull them out without causing injury. The early fixed steering wheels also made it difficult to remove the seat belt because of their location, and it was hard to cut the seat belt without causing injury to the driver. The use of the removable steering wheel in NASCAR cars has aided in the survival of many drivers in extreme crashes.
NASCAR’s removable steering wheels are generally found in two different designs, hexagonal or round. They mount using a splined hub, and most are made of steel or aluminum. The design of the steering wheel that a driver selects is based on their preference and what is most comfortable to them.
Who Removes and Reattaches the Steering Wheel?
In general, the removal and attachment of the steering wheel are done by the driver. The driver will remove the steering wheel and give it to a crew member to get out of the car. The driver does have the main responsibility of attaching the steering wheel, but crew members often try to make sure that before the race starts, the wheel is properly attached and locked into place. The driver does this by properly locking the hub on the wheel onto the steering shaft.
Drivers understand that properly attaching the steering wheel is their responsibility. For example, Dale Earnhardt Jr., a famous and successful NASCAR driver, said that he is the one that straps himself in and puts the steering wheel on. He recognizes that it is his job to put on the wheel and make sure it’s attached properly. The drivers are responsible for checking that the wheel is on, and if they forget to do so or they put the wheel on poorly, problems ensue.
Problems with Detachable Steering Wheels
The main problem with removable steering wheels is that they can come unlocked. When the driver forgets to lock in the wheel or does so incorrectly, then it's possible for the driver to pull on the wheel and accidentally remove it, potentially causing a crash. Unfortunately, this has happened before in NASCAR racing. For example, in 2016, Jimmie Johnson forgot to lock his steering wheel, and during the race, he accidently removed it, and the end result was a full-speed crash. Luckily, in this instance, injuries were avoided, but sometimes, that is not the case.
Even if the driver is able to avoid crashing, the removal of the steering wheel during a race will cause the driver to lose laps and their position in the race because they must stop racing and reconnect the steering wheel before they can continue. Either situation is not ideal for the drivers. Although these are problems that come with removable steering wheels, they are easily avoidable as long as everyone does their job. Therefore, it is accepted throughout the NASCAR community that removable steering wheels are very important to have in all NASCAR racing cars.