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Steering Wheel Audio Control Adapters

Get a new stereo and keep your steering wheel controls


Many people are surprised to learn that their steering wheel audio controls won't work with a new car stereo without the help of an extra adapter. If you're considering upgrading your factory radio to an aftermarket receiver, adding a steering wheel audio control adapter lets you keep the full functionality and convenience of your steering wheel controls. We even offer a solution for vehicles that don't have factory steering wheel controls (see below).

Steering wheel audio controls in a 2006 Toyota Sienna XLE

The three major brands that produce steering wheel audio control adapters are PAC (Pacific Accessory Corporation), Axxess (owned by Metra), and iDatalink. But besides the adapter itself, there are often special situations that come into play when installing a steering wheel audio control adapter. For example:

Axxess ASWC-1 steering wheel control interface

The ASWC-1 steering wheel control interface from Axxess will plug into many Metra harnesses.

  • Check to see if any of the wiring harnesses or adapters available for installing a car stereo in your vehicle have a built-in connection for a steering wheel control adapter. For instance, the Axxess ASWC-1 adapter might plug right into the Metra wiring harness for your car, saving you a bunch of time.
  • Many modern vehicles send the signals coming from the steering wheel audio controls to the radio in digital format. The Axxess ASWC-1 adapter will interface with the digital signals coming from the steering wheel controls at the radio, eliminating the need to tap into the wires in your steering wheel. PAC's SWI-RC adapter will also interface with this digital signal with the help of a second adapter (SWI-CAN or SWI-CAN2). You'll need to tap into the wiring in your steering wheel if you're using the iDatalink adapter in a vehicle like this.
  • Other cars can use an optional adapter to make installation much easier, but it isn't required. (The Metra 70-8114C is an example of this. It works when installing the Axxess ASWC1 steering wheel module in many Toyota vehicles.)
  • The iDatalink module (if compatible with your vehicle) offers a couple of unique advantages. First, iDatalink offers intuitive online visual programing that's vehicle- and radio-specific, so you can program the adapter before you start the installation. Second, you can program secondary functions to your steering wheel controls. For instance, tap once on "volume down" to lower your volume, press and hold "volume down" for mute.
iDatalink Maestro ADS-MSW steering wheel control interface

iDatalink's Maestro ADS-MSW steering wheel control interface offers some unique features.

If you're purchasing a steering wheel control adapter from Crutchfield, we recommend contacting us by phone or chat to make sure you get the best option for your vehicle.

No matter which steering wheel adapter you choose, adding it to your new car stereo is done in two stages: installation and programming.


For the most straightforward installation, install your steering wheel adapter and aftermarket stereo at the same time. You'll be able to test the steering wheel controls before you put the finishing touches on the stereo installation. If you already have an aftermarket stereo installed, you'll need to pull it out of your dash to install the steering wheel control adapter.

Depending on your vehicle, the installation process can range from very simple to fairly complex, and that's why we recommend downloading more detailed vehicle-specific instructions from PAC, Axxess, or iDatalink. All three manufacturers also offer online instructional videos and installation tips.

In almost all cases, you'll have to splice some wires. If you're comfortable making a few cuts into your vehicle's wires, this is a great project for a do-it-yourselfer. And when you buy from Crutchfield, our tech support is available 7 days a week to walk you through the installation.

Soldering is recommended for the most secure connection, and is required for many of these installations. See our Car Stereo Installation Guide for soldering tips. You can minimize the amount of soldering by using Posi-Products™ wiring connectors. They're as secure as soldering, but much, much easier to use. And this particular set of Posi-Tap™ connectors is specifically sized for the smaller wires you'll encounter when installing a steering wheel control adapter.

If you're installing a radio made by Kenwood or JVC, you'll need to connect a wire from your new interface to the Blue/Yellow wire on the radio's harness. If you're installing any other compatible brand, you will simply plug in the interface's 3.5 mm jack into the steering wheel remote input on the back of the radio.

The SWI-RC Steering wheel control interface from PAC

PAC's SWI-RC steering wheel audio control interface


Some steering wheel adapters require you to manually assign a function to each of your steering wheel control buttons. The instructions that come with your adapter will show you how to do this.

Many newer steering wheel adapters have an auto-detect mode, so it'll program itself to transmit the right signals from your steering wheel controls. If auto-detect mode doesn't work to your satisfaction, you'll still have the option of programming the adapter manually.

One neat advantage to manual programming is that you can choose to assign functions to the buttons on your steering wheel that are custom to your needs. For example, let's say your steering wheel controls have only four buttons: Track Up, Track Down, Volume Up, and Volume Down. Maybe you prefer controlling volume using your radio's volume knob, and you're a big local radio fan. During programming, you can assign the Volume Up, Volume Down buttons on your steering wheel controls to do something else, like skip through radio presets. This option is not available with all aftermarket car stereo brands, so you'll want to do some research ahead of time to make sure your desired preset change will work.

Axxess RFASWC universal steering wheel controls

The Axxess Universal Interface straps onto your steering wheel

Don't have factory steering wheel controls?

If your car doesn't have audio controls on the steering wheel, you can add them when you install a new stereo. The Axxess RFASWC universal interface will work in ANY car. It's compatible with many major brands of aftermarket stereo, so it's a great addition when you're upgrading the deck.

How do I find the right one?

Contact one of our expert advisors for help choosing the right adapter to work with your car and your new car stereo. They can also answer any questions you have about the installation and give you some idea about how difficult it'll be — some vehicles are easier than others. You can reach them at 1-888-955-6000 or via chat or email.

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