Take the Wheel

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Two (or more) characters are in a car. Suddenly, we realize that they're being followed, or they pass by something or someone important, or there's a hostile tank right in front of them... something that needs taking care of, right now. So, without warning, the driver tells his passenger to "take the wheel" and does whatever needs doing, often leaping out of the car entirely while the hapless sidekick struggles to keep the vehicle under control. For extra humor value, have the passenger be in the back seat, or have them literally take the wheel.

Examples of Take the Wheel include:


  • The commercial for Mario Kart: Double Dash!! shows two old ladies in a security cart, one driving and the other chucking baggage at the guards chasing after them (in another security cart). The one driving says she wants to throw things, so the other old lady, sitting in the back, reaches over to the steering wheel.

Anime and Manga

  • In The Castle of Cagliostro, right after the car chase is over Lupin notices that Clarice fainted. He has Jigen take the Fiat's wheel so that he can cross over to Clarice's car and take control. Amusingly, Jigen takes the wheel but doesn't scoot over, leading to the Fiat stopping by bumping into a steamroller, losing the glass on its other headlight (the first lost its glass to a grenade).
  • Goku does the "literal give-me-the-wheel" bit in one of Dragonball Z's later Filler episodes, while taking his driver's license test.
  • In one episode of Excel Saga, a girl tells this to Menchi. Menchi is a dog (and a very good driver).

Comic Books

  • The Ghost Rider had an incident when he was fighting a thug attacking a circus with a massive earthmover vehicle and he manages to get into the control compartment. As they fight for the controls, the thug sees the vehicle moving towards to some place undesirable and pleads with the demon superhero to give him the wheel. The Rider obliges him by ripping out the entire steering column, but the fainting thug doesn't notice that the Rider was also hitting the brake pedal at the same time to bring the vehicle to a stop.


  • Happens twice in Terminator 2.
    • As they're escaping from the T-1000 in the police car, the T-800 Model 101 tells Sarah Connor "Here, drive", then shoots the T-1000's metal arm off.
    • While they're in the pick up truck escaping the T-1000 in the tanker truck, the T-800 tells John to "Drive a minute", then climbs out the back to fight the T-1000.
  • Done in The Movie of The Return of the King with Eowyn's horse when she tells Merry to take the reins during the Mumak battle. Which is interesting since prior scenes showed riders shooting bows and arrows while riding—while Merry would know nothing of handling a war-horse in battle, and be even less able to execute it.
  • Happens with an extra twist in See No Evil, Hear No Evil - one main character is blind and the other is deaf, and the blind guy ends up having to take the wheel and navigate according to commands shouted by the deaf guy.
  • Lampshaded in Smokey and the Bandit, where the Bandit wants to switch places with Sally Field's character (who's driving the car at the moment due to plot complications.) It's harder than it looks in the movies, as the Bandit remarks after trying (and failing) to execute the maneuver.
  • In the film of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, while the protagonists are driving in Nemo's car in Venice, Sawyer and Quartermaine do this.
  • The James Bond movies do this several times:
  • Undercover Brother. The title character has Sistah Girl do this during the golf cart chase.
  • In the Disney film version of The Three Musketeers 1993, Athos orders D'Artagnan to take the reins of the carriage they're driving so that he can start drinking.
  • In |Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, when the gang is being chased by the pterodactyl monster, Freddy asks Shaggy to take the wheel of the Mystery Machine while he tries to shoot the monster down. A little while later, Shaggy gets called to the back of the van so he can help Velma, and he leaves the driving to Scooby. To Scooby. Granted, he's pretty intelligent as far as animals go, but he's still not that far up the scale
  • Shows up word-for-word at the end of Buckaroo Banzai, when Banzai gives John Parker (who failed flight school) control of the Red Lectroid thermopod so that he can manually aim the gun instead.
  • Judge Dredd. Dredd says it to Fergie during the aerial Mark 4 Lawmaster chase as he's about to jump to another vehicle.
  • In the Cat in The Hat live action movie, the cat and two kids are in the middle of a car chase when not only does the cat literally give one kid the wheel, but also fabricates a new one, so they're driving one car with two separate wheels. And when the second kid objects, he gives her a wheel as well. Needless to say, it doesn't end too well.
  • In Sherlock, Jr., Sherlock briefly hands the wheel off to the girl so he can throw an exploding pool ball at the car that's chasing them.
  • A very low-key example in Pee-wee's Big Adventure as Mickey has Pee-Wee hold the wheel while he lights a cigarette driving down the highway. It takes maybe five seconds, but Pee-Wee is on the verge of panic.


  • In Tuf Voyaging by George R. R. Martin, Haviland Tuf has Tolly Mune take the wheel while he concentrates on calming his favorite cat and keeping it from leaping into trouble.

Live Action TV

  • Happens in the Doctor Who story "Battlefield", with the added detail that the passenger is from an alternate universe where they don't have cars, and the driver takes the time to confirm that this is the case before telling him to take the wheel anyway.
  • Almost the first moment of series 2 of Torchwood is Owen insisting that Gwen do this, so he can shoot at a blowfish in a sports car.



Time won't find the lost / It'll sweep up our skeleton bones / So take the wheel and I will take the pedals


Video Games

Western Animation

  • Wallace and Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death - Wallace hands the wheel off to his dog while he makes a death-defying leap to save a bread heiress.
  • A Doug cartoon once included a fantasy in which Doug and Skeeter were truck drivers. Skeeter's request to take the wheel ends up with Doug literally giving it to him.
  • Batman the Brave And The Bold, episode "Game Over for Owlman!": Batman and the Joker pursue Owlman in the Batmobile; Batman starts out driving, but hands over so that he's free to react to Owlman's attacks.

Batman: [pointing] Brake. Choke. Throttle. [climbs out window onto roof of Batmobile]

  • The Simpsons does it at least once, with Homer leaving Lisa (an eight year old, to remind everyone playing at home) to take the wheel for trivial reasons. Note that Lisa was in the backseat.
    • And when a paparazzo was houdning Homer everywhere he goes.

"He's trying to make me look like a bad father! Maggie, you take the wheel!"

  • In an episode of The Mask animated series, Putty Thing tells Fish Guy to take the wheel and goes to attack The Mask- forgetting the fact that, having only fins instead of hands and feet, Fish Guy can't drive.
  • In Regular Show this is often said by Skips when the characters are being chased by the Monster of the Week, usually when they are driving a golf cart.
  • Wacky Races: Dastardly occasionally turns the wheel of the Mean Machine to Muttley when need be.
  • Teen Titans: In an episode where the Titans are participating in a race, Cybrog and Beast Boy are constantly hounded by a mobile garage whose gremlin mechanics keep tearing apart Cyborg's car. Beast Boy repeatedly begs Cyborg to let him drive, only to be constantly rejected. Finally, Cyborg needs to start fighting and yells "Take the wheel", and then hands Beast Boy the disconnected steering wheel.


  • An ancient anecdote from the early days of automobiles employs this trope. According to the story, the owner of an early car -- a practical joker -- installed a horizontal bar in the steering column so that he could steer the car with his knees. He also removed the nut holding the wheel in place. He would then go driving with a potential victim and fake becoming ill. "I'm getting too sick to drive," he would say, "you take the wheel!" At which point he would rip the steering wheel off and thrust it into the hands of his terrified victim.