I need an expression to be a simile to gripping the wheel of a car tightly.

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Try; Hold on for dear life; 'He grasped the wheel and hung on for dear life' or 'He held onto the wheel as if his life depended on it.'

'He held the wheel like a vice'

'He was gripping the wheel so tightly his knuckles shone white'

'He gripped the wheel so tightly, they would have to pry his fingers off with a crowbar'

Hope this helps.

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    Driving on bad roads with cliffs to the left, seething sea to the right, and lightning coming down in sheets, I hold the wheel in a death grip. Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_grip – Wayfaring Stranger Sep 28 '14 at 3:03
  • @Wayfaring Stranger - sounds like an answer – Christopher Sep 28 '14 at 13:22
  • seemed to me you already had the gist of it. – Wayfaring Stranger Sep 28 '14 at 13:41

How about:

Gripping the wheel as if you are on a roller coaster?

For a fauna alternative (mind you, it is somewhat contrived):

...like a boa constrictor chocking its prey.

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"I was clutching the steering wheel like my whole life depended on it"

You could also say something like: "I was gripping the wheel tightly like I was hanging from a cliff (with my bare hands)"

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