Steering wheel audio control adapters

Get a new stereo and keep your steering wheel controls


Bob Bihlmayer

Robert Bihlmayer was born in Chicago and lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for thirty years. He's been playing the guitar since 1970, and during the intervening 40+ years has worked in a variety of settings ranging from bandleader to solo artist where he's experienced the changes in the pro audio market over the decades. He has a degree in Library Information Technology and spent a decade in Silicon Valley as a technical editor and writer. He has a calico cat named Lulu, and believes that there's never a bad hair day when you're wearing a hat.

More from Bob Bihlmayer

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

Taking a look at the different adapters

It’s important to select the correct adapter for your vehicle. Not all adapters work with all cars, and some cars have no compatible adapter. We check these steering wheel control adapters for ease of installation in every vehicle. When you identify your vehicle on our site, you'll only see the adapters that are easiest to install in your specific vehicle. And when you buy any stereo from us, you'll get a deep discount on the steering wheel control adapter for your car.

If you have multiple adapters to choose from, it can be difficult to know which one is the best option. Here's an overview of the pros and cons of each adapter.

Axxess ASWC-1

Axxess ASWC-1


  • Plugs into many Metra stereo installation harnesses for easier installation
  • Easiest to program — the auto-programming feature recognizes the car automatically in many cases (see below), and programs the buttons automatically
  • Reads both digital and analog signals (see the explanation below)


  • Difficult to remap buttons — It's not as easy to redefine what the steering wheel buttons do

iDatalink Maestro

iDatalink Maestro ADS-MSW


  • Programmed online — set it up before you get out to the car and define the buttons the way you want
  • Supports multi-function buttons — press once to do one thing, hold it down to do something else
  • Watch the video demo on iDatalink's website — under the "Video FAQ" tab, look for "How to Flash a Maestro SW"


  • Does not read digital signals — analog only (see below)




  • Least expensive option
  • Works in many older vehicles


  • Programming is more complicated — you have to program each button in a specific order
  • Requires an additional adapter to read digital signals (see below)




  • Reads both digital and analog signals (see below)
  • Supports multi-function buttons — press once to do one thing, hold it down to do something else
  • Multiple programming modes — manual or via computer
  • Confirms manual programming with audio beeps as well as flashing LEDs (the other adapters only use LEDs)


  • Most expensive option

The details explained

The chart above is nice, but some of the points need a more thorough explanation.

Easier installation

  • Some stereo wiring harnesses (used to connect a new stereo) have a built-in connection for a steering wheel control adapter. Purchasing the matching steering wheel control adapter will result in an easier installation. For instance, the Axxess ASWC-1 adapter might plug right into the Metra wiring harness for your car, saving you a bunch of time.
  • Even when the stereo wiring harness doesn't have a connection built in, we have other adapters for some vehicles that will still let you plug in your SWC adapter. These extra harnesses are usually inexpensive and make the installation much simpler.
  • Our advisors can let you know if one of these situations applies to your vehicle.

Analog vs digital signals

  • Many modern vehicles send the signals coming from the steering wheel audio controls to the radio in a digital format. The Axxess ASWC-1 and the PAC SWI-CP5 adapters can read these digital signals. PAC's SWI-RC adapter will also read the 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.
  • Identifying your vehicle on our site will make sure you're buying a compatible adapter.

Button programming

Maestro box

The ADS-MSW connects to your computer via USB cable

  • 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.
  • Some steering wheel adapters (namely, the Axxess ASWC-1) 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. This option is not available with all brands of aftermarket car stereos, so you'll want to do some research ahead of time to make sure your desired preset change will work.
  • The iDatalink ADS-MSW and the PAC SWI-CP5 adapters both let you use a computer to program the buttons (referred to as "flashing" the adapter). This is an easier way to set up the buttons and gives you more control over what they do. Plus, you can program the adapter before you start the installation.

Installing your steering wheel controls adapter

Tech support

Our tech support advisors can help you find the right wire

For the most straightforward installation, install your steering wheel adapter and aftermarket stereo at the same time. 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 most 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.

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.

Last updated August 05, 2015
  • Larry from Rohnert Park, CA

    Posted on 5/19/2015 10:23:33 AM

    Which ones will let you keep the AUX input on a car?

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 5/19/2015 1:47:42 PM

    Larry, Retention of a factory AUX input will depend on your vehicle as well as on what aftermarket stereo you choose. If you input your info in our vehicle selector and select a stereo, you will be shown your options for retaining factory features.

  • Hugo

    Posted on 5/26/2015 2:02:47 AM

    I have a honda civic 2008 which one of these adapters can i use?

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 5/26/2015 9:28:15 AM

    Hugo, the adapter unifies an aftermarket stereo with a factory system, so the easiest way to find out is to input your info in our vehicle selector and select your stereo of choice. You will be shown your options for retaining factory features. If you have any questions, just give us a call at 1.888.955.6000

  • nichel from zahle - lebanon

    Posted on 6/1/2015 3:45:20 PM

    i please i 'm asking if i can have steering wheel control for my prado vx mod 2003

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 6/1/2015 4:11:18 PM

    Nichel, unfortunately, our vehicle database only spans vehicles sold within the U.S. If you have a specific aftermarket receiver in mind, you may be able to find recommendations on forums that discuss the Prado VX specifically.

  • Gary mccarthy from Llanelli

    Posted on 7/19/2015 11:58:02 AM

    What adaptor do I need for my Astra 2003 1.6 model

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/20/2015 9:17:45 AM

    Gary, our vehicle database spans vehicles sold within the U.S. You may be able to find recommendations on forums that discuss the Astra specifically, or check with you nearest professional installer. Good luck!

  • Sabastine from logos

    Posted on 7/23/2015 11:13:46 AM

    How about altima 2003

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/23/2015 1:48:35 PM

    Sabastine, you'd use this steering wheel adapter for the 2003 Nissan Altima.

  • Joham from Las vegas

    Posted on 8/12/2015 10:41:33 PM

    What adapter do i need to mantain my steering wheel controls functioning with the kenwood Excelon dnx692 on a 2002 mercedes S500

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/13/2015 10:01:44 AM

    Joham, we don't carry a steering wheel adapter or a wiring harness for your Mercedes. To install your stereo, keep in mind that you will need to bypass the factory amp located in your trunk, by running speaker wire from your stereo to your speakers.

  • Frank from Panora, Ia

    Posted on 8/18/2015 8:23:04 PM

    Hello, we have a 1999 ford explorer limited with a the mach system. The radio is toast. leaning towards the alpine cde-hd149bt. (We are not young anymore, are son is 44 years old) I am making a list of your items to purchase.. I am not too sure of what is needed for retaining the (redundant) steering wheel controls. What would you recommend, please? Thank you

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/19/2015 10:14:27 AM

    Frank, I sent your questions to our sales team, and they'll be contacting you via email soon. For immediate help, you can contact them via phone or chat.

  • jose carrillo from Greenfield

    Posted on 9/3/2015 2:42:26 AM

    I have an 03 excursion...what adapter would work best for me?

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 9/3/2015 8:53:28 AM

    Jose, here's the wiring harness that you need for your '03 Excursion. You can use our vehicle selector to confirm which stereos fit your car and get some info on what else is needed for the installation.

  • Michael from Auckland

    Posted on 10/5/2015 2:45:55 AM

    Hello I just bought an e46 325i BMW with an older alpine unit - 9850ri. I'd like to upgrade to a newer unit with usb and bluetooth. Presently the steering wheel controls work. If I swap in a newer Alpine unit will the steering wheel controls continue to function? Or have Alpine updated their steering wheel control input connector?

  • Dave Delamere from Crutchfield

    Posted on 10/5/2015 12:11:51 PM

    Michael, our vehicle database spans vehicles sold within the U.S., so I can't confirm information about your BMW. Additionally, we did not carry the Alpine 9850ri radio; however, I checked with our Tech Support group. The older steering wheel control adapter that is probably present in your vehicle will more than likely work with newer Alpine radios. You can also check with Alpine directly to see if radios sold in your area are compatible with an older steering wheel control adapter. Good luck!

  • Mike from Bowling Green

    Posted on 10/21/2015 8:18:58 PM

    Hello, I have a 1998 BMW 528i (e39) which adapter should I purchase?

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 10/22/2015 9:54:12 AM

    Mike, I've passed your information along to our sales team. An advisor will contact you soon to help you find the wiring harness for your needs.

  • rich from fontana

    Posted on 11/22/2015 6:10:53 PM

    I have a 1995 dodge ram 2500 I am installing a pioneer nfx 4100. I don't have volume control on steering wheel ! will this work for me?

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 11/23/2015 9:52:01 AM

    Rich, if your steering wheel doesn't already have factory controls, you can add them. However, universal steering wheel controls require an aftermarket stereo with a steering wheel control input. So, if you don't have one, you will need to upgrade your stereo as well. Give us a call and we can help.

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