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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

I've been with Crutchfield since 1999, where I began as one our advisors, helping our customers choose new gear. After a couple of years, I moved to the writing team where I spent a decade researching new products and getting hands on with car stereos, amplifiers, speakers, and subs. Yeah, I've been doing this for a while.

For the past few years, I've been the managing editor of Crutchfield's Car A/V web article content. I couldn't ask for a better job — we get to play with car audio gear every day! I'm a Virginia native from the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Outside of work, I love listening to music, playing board games, and installing new audio systems for my friends.

More from Robert Ferency-Viars

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.

  • David from Florida

    Posted on 4/26/2015

    Can you please tell me if my jensen vx3010 single din radio put into a 2012Honda civic will require a steering wheel audio control?

  • Robert Ferency-Viars from Crutchfield

    Posted on 4/27/2015

    David, if you want to continue using your Civic's steering wheel radio controls when you install your Jensen, then yes, you'll need an adapter. You can find out which adapter will work with that match of car and stereo on our site by pretending to purchase your VX3010 and a steering wheel control adapter, then delete the stereo from your shopping cart. Frankly, the easiest way to get it is to just call us. Our Advisors can look it up and get you the adapter you need right away.

  • Drew Fealy from San Diego, Ca.

    Posted on 6/5/2015

    I have just bought a Kenwood KDC BT362U H/U and noticed that the 3.5mm jack on the rear is NOT for my maestro, but for the mic for bluetooth. I see the video here shows that the maestro 3.5mm jack must be plugged into the radio wiring harness to function. I have connected red, black, black/white & purple/red wires specific to my 2007 Hyundai Sonata, but the maestro will not turn on. My Kenwood H/U included a light blue/yellow wire for steering wheel remote control, which I also connectd to the H/U harness. So the 3.5mm jack is about the only thing not currently connected, and my reasoning is this is preventing my steering wheel controls from once again functioning. Please advise.

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 6/5/2015

    Drew, the Maestro should still work without using the 3.5mm jack - you use the Kenwood's blue/yellow wire instead. Don't forget that you need to "flash" the Maestro with the controls for your car by connecting the Maestro to your computer (just follow the instructions that came with it). If you purchased either the stereo or the Maestro from Crutchfield, our tech support team can help. Just give us a call. You can also call iDatalink's tech support line at 877-212-6169.

  • Andrew from Mass

    Posted on 7/4/2015

    I have an aftermarket Stereo that i have wired in my ford freestyle that works 100% except the wheel controls. It isn't a name brand, but it does have SWK 1 and SWK 2 wires and in radio settings for steering wheel controls. i purchased a Scosche interface and an axxis one as well and cant figure out what to do.

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/6/2015

    Andrew, if you bought your gear from Crutchfield, you can call Tech Support for free help troubleshooting your system. If you purchased your equipment elsewhere, you can still get expert Crutchfield Tech Support - 90 days-worth for only $30. Check out our tech support page for details. Alternatively, you could call Scosche tech support at (800) 363-4490 ext. 3.

  • Rob

    Posted on 7/6/2015

    This video skips the entire wiring step... Worthless

  • Marcela from Mass

    Posted on 7/29/2015

    I will like yo know if I will need an adapter for my Nissan versa 2014 if a Boss BV9372BI is Installed. It does have steer wheel settings.

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/29/2015

    Marcela, give us a call at 1.888.955.6000 and an advisor will be able to help you with the installation gear you need. We do carry the harnesses you will need for that installation.

  • Will Sargent from Georgia

    Posted on 8/8/2015

    I have 2 boxes with my steering wheel control adapter i only know what one of them is, I have a 2004 GMC Envoy with an aftermarket JVC KW- V21BT radio installed.

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/10/2015

    Will, if you bought your gear from Crutchfield, you can call Tech Support for free help troubleshooting your system. If not, give the manufacturer's tech department a call. They should be able to help you.

  • kathie from burlington

    Posted on 10/13/2015

    You skipped where to wire the brown and the brown/ white wire!!!! I do believe it was done on purpose, so people have to buy from your company too find out.

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 10/14/2015

    Kathie, as we said in the video, we downloaded vehicle-specific instructions from Axxess' very helpful website. So, instructions are readily available no matter where you purchase an Axxess adapter. Although if you purchase from us, you're entitled to free lifetime tech support to help you with installation. For what it's worth, this video is an overview of what it's like to install a steering wheel adapter so that you have an idea of the process, but the details of the wiring will vary depending on the vehicle. Car installations pose their challenges, and the last thing we aim to be is unhelpful. If you have any questions about a product, feel free to call us.

  • marcus from cleveland

    Posted on 11/23/2015

    If i didnt purchase the harness tht makes the steering work i got the other one do that stop the player from working correctly like cds and dvds to play on the radio cause its not working i want to know do it have something to do with the harness i purchased

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 11/23/2015

    Marcus, as long as you purchased the correct harness for your vehicle, you should get full functionality from your radio (without steering wheel controls). Retrace your installation steps and recheck all of your connections to make sure they are secure. Any interruption of signal from the radio to the speakers will cause your system to function improperly. If you bought your gear from Crutchfield, you can call Tech Support for free help troubleshooting your system. If you purchased your equipment elsewhere, you can still get expert Crutchfield Tech Support - 90 days-worth for only $30. Check out our tech support page for details.

  • rudy olivas from el paso

    Posted on 2/17/2016

    if i bought a product from cruthfield and i need help do i still need to pay for someonr to help me?

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 2/18/2016

    Rudy, purchasing from Crutchfield entitles you to free lifetime tech support over the phone for your gear and in many cases, we provide custom installation instructions. Our tech support team is available to help you with any roadblocks you may run into as you install your gear. However, in some cases, we do recommend professional installation depending on the complexity of the gear or your vehicle. If you're unsure about your skill level, give us a call and an advisor can help you as you choose the gear you need.

  • von Aspern from Telgte, Germany

    Posted on 2/18/2016

    I'm exited of your knowledge and your customer care; you're great! My question is about steering wheel control adapters: Can you tell and promise, if there is an adapter that works with my Toyota Prius 3 (ZWV30)? Thank you for answering! Sorry about writing errors, I'm German Greetings Ingo

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 2/22/2016

    Von Aspern, our database spans vehicles sold in the U.S., so we wouldn't be able to make any guarantees about your Prius, which, I presume, you purchased in Germany. However, if you believe your vehicle is the same as those sold in the U.S. in the same year, you can use our vehicle selector to see steering wheel control options.

  • Terry from Boise, Idaho

    Posted on 3/26/2016

    Hello My radio is an Ouku 6.2 inch double 2 din in dash car dvd player with GPS. It has Key1 and Key2 wires. Do you know if it will work with the ASWC-1 It will go into a ford expedition 2005. I have already purchased the correct harness for this car but need to know this one last problem. Hope you can help

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 3/28/2016

    Terry, I'm not familiar with Ouku, but these are the compatibility details for the the Axxess Steering Wheel Control Interface: It's universal and can be used on your '05 Expedition with factory steering wheel controls. The aftermarket head unit must have a SWC (Steering Wheel Control) 3.5mm input or steering wheel remote control input wire (blue/yellow).

  • Ryuu from Malaysia, KL

    Posted on 6/1/2016

    Hi, Mine is Honda City 2005 which do not have steering audio control. Can i add it and use? Thanks

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 6/3/2016

    Ryuu, our vehicle database spans vehicles sold only within the U.S.. You may be able to find recommendations on forums that discuss the Honda City specifically.

  • Shanna from Dixon

    Posted on 6/25/2016

    I have a 2005 pontiac g6 and I purchased the c2r-gm11b and I want to hook my swi-rc up to it too but the instructions are confusing. I cannot connect the green wire to a blue wire because I do not have a blue wire. I also don't know where to hook up the blue/yellow wire. Help please

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 6/27/2016

    Shanna, if you bought your gear from Crutchfield, you can call Tech Support for free help troubleshooting your system. If you purchased your equipment elsewhere, you can still get expert Crutchfield Tech Support - 90 days-worth for only $30. Check out our tech support page for details.

  • leonie from Deer Park

    Posted on 9/14/2016

    Will my call/bluetooth button on my steering wheel work too? Or just the volume buttons and channel changers

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 9/15/2016

    Leonie, that will depend on your vehicle and potentially the harness available. Give us a call for more details or use our vehicle selector to confirm which gear fits your car.

  • Joe from Brownsville

    Posted on 3/26/2017

    I bought a boss radio to connect with my 05 chevy malibu i took it to some guy who said he knew how to connect it but when he was changing it he cut some cables that now my car steering wheel is hard to move I left my stock radio on I checked with a mechanic nd he couldn't find any problem under my hood can someone help please or someone has an idea what could be the problem

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 3/30/2017

    Joe, if you're having trouble steering, you should have your vehicle checked out immediately by another qualified mechanic. While we can't help you with the steering-related issues, if you're having radio-related issues, you can get expert Crutchfield Tech Support - 90 days-worth for $30. Check out our tech support page for details.

  • Alan from Danville

    Posted on 7/30/2017

    So how do you connect to the 3 pins on the connector (at 45 secs in the video)? I got a connector from Crutchfield, and it has a blank (i.e., no wire) at the SWC connection.

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/4/2017

    Alan, give our Tech Support a call for free help troubleshooting the harness. You'll find the number on your emailed receipt.

  • Jeff from Phoenix

    Posted on 10/1/2017

    I am trying to wire this to my 2007 audi a4. In my version with the symphony system the steering wheel controls are dials, so I can't hold down any buttons. How do I program it?

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 10/2/2017

    Jeff, give us a call to confirm which steering wheel control unit you are using. If you bought your gear from Crutchfield, you can call Tech Support for free help troubleshooting your system. If you purchased your equipment elsewhere, you can still get expert Crutchfield Tech Support - 90 days-worth for only $30. Check out our tech support page for details.

  • Jacob

    Posted on 10/20/2017

    I noticed in the video, the steering wheel also has buttons for the hands free phone. This will be my case also. If the stereo has that function, will those buttons work as well?

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 10/20/2017

    Jacob, give us a call to confirm your vehicle. Depending on the radio and your vehicle, it's certainly possible to assign functionality.

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