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Guide to steering wheel audio control adapters

Keep your steering wheel buttons working when you get a new stereo

When adding an aftermarket receiver, you need a steering wheel control adapter to keep the functionality and convenience of your steering wheel controls. In this article, we'll explain why that is and what you need to do to keep those buttons working.

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any people are surprised to learn that their steering wheel audio controls won't work when the factory radio is replaced. But fear not, Crutchfield carries steering wheel control (SWC) adapters that form a bridge between your new stereo and those handy buttons on the steering wheel.

When upgrading your radio, adding a steering wheel audio control adapter lets you keep the convenience of your steering wheel controls — and may even add some functionality.

Steering wheel audio controls in a 2006 Toyota Sienna XLE

Picking the right adapter

Not all adapters work with all cars and stereos, so it’s important to select the correct adapter for your application. When you identify your vehicle on our site, you'll only see the adapters that are compatible with your specific vehicle and the car stereo you select. And when you buy any stereo from us, you'll get a deep discount on the steering wheel control adapter for your car.

Additionally, some of the more-sophisticated car stereo interfaces, like the iDatalink Maestro RR2 include the SWC adapter. So if you're considering an interface like this, you won't need to purchase a separate SWC adapter.

image of a person's thumb pressing a button on the steering wheel to answer a phone call.

Programming the buttons

Steering wheel control interfaces not only let you retain the controls you've become accustomed to for safe driving, but in some instances, they also let you customize the controls over your stereo.

Some steering wheel adapters require you to manually assign a function to each of your steering wheel control buttons, while other steering wheel adapters (like 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 or by "flashing" the interface.

Image of the iDatalink Maestro RR2 Interface Module being flashed with a smartphone interface

Flashing your steering wheel control adapter

The iDatalink ADS-MSW, PAC SWI-CP2, and Axxess adapters let you use a computer (or with the PAC adapter, even a smartphone with an app) to program the buttons. This is referred to as "flashing" the adapter. It's an easier way to set up the buttons, gives you more control over what they do, and makes sure the software is up-to-date and set up for your radio and vehicle. Plus, you can program the adapter before you even go outside to start the installation.

Screenshots of the Weblink Maestro app for iPhone

iDatalink's Weblink Maestro app has a demo mode that shows you how to flash a compatible module for your vehicle. When I installed a new stereo in my Subaru, I was able to set up the steering wheel control functions I used most often.

A neat advantage to programming or flashing the module is that you can choose to assign functions to the steering wheel buttons that are custom to your needs. I did this in my Subaru with the iDatalink Maestro interface (which included the steering wheel control adpapter for my installation). I don't like missing any of my music, so I programmed my "mute" button for two functions. A quick press mutes the radio in the drive-thru lane, while a longer press of the mute button pauses my song completely. It's really handy.

This degree of control 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.

What to expect during installation

Some vehicle-specific wiring harnesses that are available for car stereos we offer include a built-in connection for a compatible steering wheel control adapter. Purchasing the matching steering wheel control adapter will result in an simpler 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.

image of the Axxess ASWC-1 plugging into the module of a 2014 Chevy Cruze

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.

Connecting stereo wiring harness using Posi-Product connectors

Soldering is recommended for the most secure connection, and is required for many of these installations. 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.

You can see how both methods work in our article about connecting car stereo wiring.

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.

Let us take care of the wiring

If you don't feel comfortable with making the wire connections or perhaps don't have a lot of free time, we offer our Crutchfield ReadyHarness™ service. We'll connect most of the wires for you. Due to the nature of some SWC connections, you still may have to do a little wiring to complete the installation, but it's certainly a time-saver.

Tech support

Tech Support Advisors, like Cris, can help you figure out which wire goes where

Still having trouble finding the right interface?

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.

  • Roderick

    Posted on 12/28/2023

    I have a 07 silverado(new body) I'm wanting to install am after market radio. I have onstar aandi don't have the Bose sound system. Which Pac do i need to retain my steering wheel controls, bells and chimes?

  • Scott Autenrieth from Midland , NC

    Posted on 11/1/2023

    Alpine ilx w650 does not have nav however the crux adapter has a pink wire labeled VSS. Where should this wire be connected (2019 Tacoma)? One forum suggested connecting to ground, this does not work. With this wire not connected, I've lost cruise control and have a check engine light, code is vehicle speed sensor.

  • Joey Lynn from Lafayette, TN

    Posted on 2/20/2023

    Trying to install an Alpine double din radio in a 2013 Chevy 2500. Purchased from Crutchfield along with all the wiring harness PAC RP5- GM31 needed to do install. After installing it everything works great except the SWC controls. When you turn off the key it seems to lose memory and not work anymore till reprogrammed. Please help.

  • JoeRauh from Ranchita, CA

    Posted on 1/25/2023

    Being not that mechanically inclined, I decided just to purchase a new radio with Nav, CD, android auto and every bell I could fine. Kenwood seems to be out of stock for most of their high end radios, so I settled for a Kenwood DNX775RVS. The radio installation shop promised great things, but seems the person is unable to hook the radio to my steering controls. The best he could do (at this point) is have one button for volume up and another button for volume down. No other steering wheel radio buttons work. Even the phone connect / disconnect buttons are no longer functional. Is this something your tech support could help with? The car is a 2014 Subaru Forester Limited.

  • Noah from Los angeles

    Posted on 12/25/2022

    I am trying to set up dmx4707s on my 2003 g35. Do I need to buy a steering wheel controller? I wonder if it is possible to use it without steering wheel control?

  • Jack Robertson

    Posted on 4/11/2022

    I have Audi A4 B6 2002 (without Navi, without Bose) and I just installed a multi-functional steering wheel from A4 B7 2006. My receiver is Pioneer DEH-S420BT. Which one of these adapters should I use? Thank you.

  • Jacob Springer from Columbus

    Posted on 10/6/2021

    What do I need for a 2012 Hyundai Accent with Alpine ilx-W650? The car doesn't have steering wheel controls.

    Commenter image

    Alexander H. from Crutchfield

    on 10/11/2021

    Jacob, do you mean just vehicle integration gear? Give us a call and an Advisor will be able to help you get the right gear for installing that Alpine.
  • Mo from Modesto

    Posted on 6/7/2020

    I've got an International Lonestar big rig and finding a vehicle specific kit is out of the question. It only has Vol up/down and seek buttons with a 3 wire plug that goes to the OEM stereo. What can I use for this specific 3 wire control?

  • Randy Grengs from White Bear Lake

    Posted on 12/6/2019

    What wire do I cutt on the interface for my dual deck

    Commenter image

    Alexander H. from Crutchfield

    on 12/6/2019

    Randy, 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.
  • Isac from RAMSEY

    Posted on 11/17/2019

    I just installed a single din pioneer in my 2007 monte carlo ss along with a amp and subs. I didnt quite make it to the subs part because after connecting the new steering wheel adapter I purchased and color matching the loose wires from that adapter to the radio harness everything worked when turned on except for the sound coming through the speakers. The steering wheel will turn the volume up and down and phone bluetooths just fine to the aftermarket pioneer I just cant hear anything and I'm stumped. Is there something I should have done different I didnt know about?

    Commenter image

    Alexander H. from Crutchfield

    on 11/18/2019

    Isac, 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.
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