How do you grip the steering wheel?

Hi all. First time poster, long time reader- since about 2012 when I discovered the Straight Dope in the Reader in Chicago. Been lurking daily since about 2016, but could never find a topic or thread to spur me into action. Anyway, with the dawn of a new era and hopefully no more 502 gateway issues, thought it was time to join. So thank you for the community and thoughtful responses; I have learned and been entertained. On to the actual post…

As I drive, I notice that drivers hold the steering wheel a number of different ways and I am curious to hear how people here hold the wheel.

I tend to have my right hand at 2, but often find that my left hand floats anywhere from lap to ear scratching to resting gently on the wheel but typically not gripping it unless the situation warrants additional focus.

I am perpetually puzzled by (and I have only ever noticed men doing this) the position where they drive with their wrist at 12 and can’t figure out how it is comfortable or provides any control.

Love to hear your thoughts! Thanks

I only do the left hand on 12 when I’m reaching over with the right to futz with the radio or glovebox. Usually I’m 10 and 2.

Left hand at 8 while my elbow rests on the arm rest.

Welcome (to posting), Scarlax!

I generally drive with left hand at 9:00, kinda pinching the wheel between thumb and index. I grip around the steering wheel’s cross bar. If traffic picks up, I’m at 10 and 2 like drivers teach.

My dad used to drive with his right palm at 9:00 and his left palm at 3:00. That’s right—slumped over the wheel. He was a trucker, once upon a time, and on long hauls I guess that was the done thing to do.

Welcome, Scarlax!

I usually hold the wheel at 8 and 4, as that’s where the cross-bar connects the column to the rim. I have my thumb and index finger around the cross bars, and my index and middle fingers “forking” the wheel part. If I ever bought a car with a different type of steering wheel, I don’t know what I’d do.

Usually I’m somewhere between 9 and 3 / 10 and 2. If I’m driving one-handed, where I’m shifting gears with my right, I tend to have my left hand closer to 12. Back when I was a teenager and drove auto, I probably had my left elbow out the window, right hand close to 12 and did that “wax-on wax-off“ kind of motion with my hand when executing one-handed turns. You know, where you kind of let the steering wheel go from your fingers to the heel of your hand in a smooth motion.

Left hand at 12 while slumping towards the right is some weird macho/hoodie thing. It’s hilarious. If you’re right-handed, it must take practice.

My hands sit just inside the wheel with my pinkies outside the wheel and the other fingers resting on the cross structure and my thumbs in the general area of the horn. But if there’s a lot of traffic and a lot going on, I’m at 10 and 2. It’s very rare that both hands aren’t holding on.


In Drivers Ed nowadays, they teach you to place your hands at 8:00 and 4:00 instead of 10 and 2. It’s supposed to be safer if you’re in a collision and the steering wheel air bag goes off. Keeps your hands from smashing into your face. I’ve tried to switch over, but after 40+ years of driving, it’s a hard habit to change.

Depends on how long the trip is, mood I’m in, whether I’m on the highway; or negotiating downtown Manhattan on a crosstown journey with lemming-pedestrians leaping in front; or sailing around quiet suburban streets.

Sometimes the answer is “with the tops of my knees, while both hands are elsewhere doing other things”. Or “one hand at the 6 PM position”. Or “inner right wrist against wheel, hand doing things with the cruise control lever, left hand perched on the window ledge”. I’m not saying those are good answers, mind you, but they’re honest ones.

Like Tim_R.Mortiss lately around 8/4 as an accommodation to the current steering wheel cross members, with thumbs on the “spoke” rather than hooked around the rim, which my fingers are. When I’ve had wheels with more directly horizontal hubs I found myself going to 9/3. The 10/2 arrangement never quite worked for me, I’d always end up with one hand near the top and the other below the midline.

If I’m on a long stretch of dry highway on cruise control, however, I go like Grr and one-hand it.

I’ve been a 9-3 driver because my first car which I had a later year duplicate model for my second car, had steering wheel spokes at the other common positions (10-2,8-4).

The recommendation I recall was 10-2, but that was changed to 9-3 due to airbags.

Left arm out the widow, gesturing as I talk to my passenger. Right hand on the bare-naked lady on the steering wheel knob.

Actually, 10-and-2, all the time, and I never use cruise control. Two hands and one foot always engaged, even if all day in a interstate.

I usually just one-hand it from the bottom, 6-o’clock. On long highway trips, knees may become involved.

Wherever it’s most comfortable. Typically the spokes make 9 and 3 easiest. As others said, airbags changed the recommended 10 and 2 to 9 and 3.

In the days before airbags, I would occasionally use the 12 o’clock position, but when airbags came on the scene I realized that in an accident the first thing that would happen is that I would punch myself in the face very very hard.

I switch around a bit due to conditions. But mostly it’s my left hand at 8. This may be because I drove manual transmissions for many years, so I steer mostly with my left hand.

Usually one hand at 6:00, occasionally the left hand at 9:00 resting on the door’s armrest. Sometimes one arm up at 12:00 which apparently makes me macho/hood. I mean, where my hand sits has to be a signal to others and couldn’t simply be something I find comfortable at times. I’m glad it entertains others though. Driving is boring.

My hand positions change frequently based on conditions. I could be one-handing it at 6:00 or 12:00, but then slide to 10 and 2 if I start to approach heavy traffic. I’m not even conscious of it usually; my hands just go wherever feels natural, at what feels natural isn’t always the same.

usually my left hand on 10 resting the elbow on the armrest and my right hand lies on the gearbox

Left hand at 12 while slumping towards the right is some weird macho/hoodie thing. It’s hilarious. If you’re right-handed, it must take practice.

… still working on quoting - sorry …

That is precisely what I do - usually just my wrist hanging over the top. I’m not all that macho/hoodie, but I admit, you’ve got a point. The habit began for me with the first car I learned to drive on: my beloved '77 Pinto Wagon with the fishbowl window on the back and red shag interior. The right hand is always on the shifter - always - the right elbow rests on the console armrest. You steer with your left hand, regardless of your handedness. I’ve driven several other standard shifts since then and kept it up, but even the automatics with shifters on the floor (I don’t even think they make tree shifters any more) I do the same thing. Forty year habits are hard to break.

My last car was my equally, if not more, beloved 2007 V6 Mustang and I was accused quite often of utilizing the “Gangsta Lean” while cruising down the road.