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How to install a steering wheel control adapter

Learn how to keep your steering wheel audio controls when you install a new radio

Learn how to install a steering wheel control adapter

One of the problems with replacing your factory radio with a new receiver, is that those handy audio controls built into the steering wheel won't work anymore.

The way to solve this dilemma is to install an adapter for the steering wheel audio controls, which we offer at a discount when you buy a compatible stereo. In this video, we'll walk you through what's involved in the installation process.

Installing a steering wheel audio control adapter | Video Transcript

When you install a new stereo in your car, you lose the benefit of these — the handy controls built into the steering wheel. That's because those are wired for the factory stereo and you can't just plug it into the back of the new stereo.

But what you can do is install a special adapter like this one, and that's what we're doing today. This adapter lets these controls interface with the new stereo so that you can use them just like you did before.

Plan the wire connections
I did my homework for this installation and downloaded instructions directly from the Axxess website. On their site, you tell them what kind of vehicle you have and they'll tell you right up front whether their adapter works with your car. And from there it's step by step, wire by wire, what you need to do for the installation. I added the color coding just to help myself out a little bit.

Disconnect the battery
I've disconnected the battery and I'm getting ready to pry open the dash panel so I can get the stereo out. That's what this puppy's for. Disconnecting the battery is important, and I want to note, for two reasons. One, I don't want to risk shorting something out so that my dash lights or stereo or A/C doesn't work. And two, there's an airbag sensor in this console and I don't want to mess with that, so I'm doing the job right.

Remove your stereo from the dash
I popped off the top panel, then removed a couple of screws and pulled off the main dash panel exposing the radio. Then four more screws out from the side of the radio and it's free. Now I can get to all the wiring. Next I'll take a look at the adapter. Opening the package I found the instruction manuals, a couple of wiring harnesses, and of course the adapter itself.

Connect the adapter harness and your stereo
At first glance, this harness looks a little intimidating, but don't be afraid of it. You're not going to use all these wires. First, you'll have your power and ground, naturally, and then depending on your vehicle, you'll use one or two of these wires to connect. For example, my car will be using these two. The rest aren't used and I can just tape them up or cut them off, whatever I want to do.

That leaves this big black cable. This is the control cable that'll plug right into most stereos. Now mine is one of the brands that doesn't work that easily, so instead they include this adapter. I plug that in here and then connect one of these two brown wires to a wire that's already on the back of my stereo. Not that bad.

Re-install the stereo
I used Posi-Tap connectors to make all the wiring connections between the adapter harness and my stereo. And now I'm going to re-install the stereo. So I plug this back in. And here's our new adapter and it's harness. Plug this guy in, there we go, and get that down there where I can reach it in a few minutes.

Programming the steering wheel control adapter
Alright we've finished installing the stereo and the adapter, the dash is back together, and I've pushed the adapter out through the bottom of the dash so I can see it, because the next step is programming the adapter. It needs to know what kind of car it's in and what kind of stereo it's connected to. So to do that, I turn on the ignition and watch for the Axxess adapter to start flashing. Once it does, following the instructions, I hold down the volume button on the steering wheel and just wait as it runs through its paces figuring out everything it needs to know. And once the adapter's LED is on steady — no longer flashing — then it's done. After that it's a matter of testing the buttons to make sure they work. And they do.

And that's how you install a steering wheel control adapter. It took a little planning up front and being prepared, but it really wasn't that hard. I chose the Axxess adapter because it was able to program itself on its own, meaning it could figure out by itself which buttons on the steering wheel controlled which functions of the stereo, and that made the process a little easier.

Sometimes it's not able to figure that out, and you have to do it manually, so you have to go in and say "This button controls tracks. This button controls volume up, etc." Instructions for doing that are included, and it's not that hard. It's just another series of steps.

So here's the adapter at work changing volume on the disc. I can change tracks. It'll also let me go through sources. I'm really excited to have these buttons working again, and if you're going to do this in your car I strongly recommend you install the steering wheel adapter at the same time you change the stereo. It'll just save you a lot of work. When you're ready to do it, give us a call. Our advisors will make sure that you get the adapter that works with both your car and your brand of stereo.

  • Mike Whitaker from Huntsville

    Posted on 8/28/2021

    I'm installing a pioneer fh-s52bt double din radio in a Mazda 2008 mx-5 Miata. I will need a dash kit and wiring harness for sure. The pioneer packing says the radio has a steering wheel control interface. Will I need an adapter to retain my steering wheel controls? Can you help with the parts I will need for my installation? Thanks,. Mike

    Commenter image

    Robert Ferency-Viars from Crutchfield

    on 8/30/2021

    Hi Mike, we can certainly help you get the installation hardware you need. And, you'd better read that packaging more carefully. It probably says that the Pioneer is 'steering wheel control ready' or 'steering wheel control compatible'. That adapter is not included with the stereo because which adapter you need depends on the combination of new stereo and what kind of car you have. You can find the items you need by using our vehicle selector. After you enter the info about your Mazda, scroll down the new page to "Installation parts and accessories" then click on "Complete installation packages." If you have any questions, contact our advisors at 1-888-955-6000.
  • Commenter image

    Alexander H. from Crutchfield

    Posted on 1/25/2021

    Samantha, if you purchased your gear from us, you'll be able to troubleshoot the problem with our Tech Support team for free.

  • Samantha from Acushnet

    Posted on 1/22/2021

    I programmed my steering wheel and the volume buttons are working but the cellphone answer and hang up button still aren't working . Is there something else to do for that ?

  • Brayden from Arnaudville Louisian

    Posted on 1/11/2021

    is the Axxess ASWC 1 Steering Wheel Control Adapter universal

    Commenter image

    Alexander H. from Crutchfield

    on 1/14/2021

    Brayden, it works with a lot of vehicles and radios, but not all. Enter your info in our vehicle selector and add a radio to cart and you'll have your pick of compatible installation gear. Or give us a call.
  • Harry F Worth Jr from Columbia SC

    Posted on 6/16/2020

    Does the ASWC-1 steering wheel adapter work on a 2017 Nissan Altima sr with a pioneer AVH-220EX? And what adapter do I need to hook up factory rear view camera? Is there a guide to show me how to do it? Thank you

    Commenter image

    Alexander H. from Crutchfield

    on 6/17/2020

    Harry, we recommend this harness to retain steering wheel controls. For more info on what you might need for installation, be sure to use our vehicle selector. As far as installation goes, your purchase entitles you to free Tech Support, so just give us a call when you're ready to install it.
  • Alfredo villa from Sacramento

    Posted on 5/18/2020

    I Bought this Product from Cruchfield my question is did YouTube Connect the wires from the Pac SWI CP2 Adapter to You Stereo Wires o to the wires coming from You Car Harness Thank You for You Help

    Commenter image

    Alexander H. from Crutchfield

    on 5/19/2020

    Alfredo, since you bought your gear from Crutchfield, you can call Tech Support for free help connecting your steering wheel control adapter. Check out our tech support page for details.
  • Alfredo Villa from Sacramento

    Posted on 5/18/2020

    So you just Connect the Pac Swi -cp2 wires to Power, The Black Ground wire

  • Brandon from New Orleans

    Posted on 3/3/2020

    Do the newer stereos and adapters operate EVERYTHING, besides the steering wheel controls? Like for instance, the navigation, does it run along with the On-Star with the GM models, or does that get deleted? And also can the factory Bluetooth mic be used, or does that get left aside to use a built in mic from the stereo? Etc...

    Commenter image

    Robert Ferency-Viars from Crutchfield

    on 3/4/2020

    Excellent question, Brandon. And of course, the answer is "it depends." Mostly, it depends on the integration harness that you choose when you get a new stereo. Factory nav is almost always deleted. OnStar is usually retained. Bluetooth mics are usually lost, but your new stereo will have its own mic. When you're shopping for a stereo on our site, add it to your cart and we'll show you the different adapters available and which features they keep or delete. You'll usually have several options (especially with most GMs) from which to choose.
  • Chris Chester from Sanford

    Posted on 11/13/2019

    I got the ASWC-1 from you guys for my 2011 Chevy Malibu and I am trying to use it with my Blaupunkt Dual Din Radio. I installed it by hooking the red to the red on the radio and the black to the black and then I plugged in the jack into the back of the radio. I still don't have any radio controls from the steering wheel and also am I supposed to connect one of the other wires to the radio harness itself if so which one and where because I have searched all over and can't find the answer.

    Commenter image

    Alexander H. from Crutchfield

    on 11/14/2019

    Chris, give our Tech Support a call. Since you bought the ASWC-1 from us, they can help you troubleshoot your system for free. Visit our tech support page for details.
  • Hank from San Antonio

    Posted on 9/12/2019

    I'm confused about how your adapter (the black box) is connected to the physical controls on the steering wheel. Are the steering wheel controls hard wired to the adapter (running through the steering column to the radio) or is there a wireless connection (eg. bluetooth)?

    Commenter image

    Alexander H. from Crutchfield

    on 9/30/2019

    Hank, usually you'll be interfacing with a wiring harness behind your factory head unit.