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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

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

Pros:

  • 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)

Cons:

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

iDatalink Maestro

iDatalink Maestro ADS-MSW

Pros:

  • 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"

Cons:

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

PAC SWI-RC

PAC SWI-RC

Pros:

  • Least expensive option
  • Works in many older vehicles

Cons:

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

PAC SWI-CP5

PAC SWI-CP5

Pros:

  • 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)

Cons:

  • 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.
  • 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. 

  • 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.
  • Maung from Wingdale

    Posted on 7/6/2019

    Hi, I just bought and installed Kenwood dmx-7706s on my Mitsubishi Outlander 2014. Also bought Maestro sw too. But I do not know how to wire maestro sw exactly to my new stereo and my car. Can you give me suggestion please. I read your article , and it only said blue and yellow wire. Doesn't it need red and black wires too. Please help me.

    Commenter image

    Alexander H. from Crutchfield

    on 7/9/2019

    Muang, give us a call. 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.
  • Cheryl Crow from WACO

    Posted on 5/26/2019

    I have the ASWC-1 to connect my Swc on my Mercedes to my aftermarket Kenwood DDX25BT. But I am missing the female part of the 3.5mm connector. Can I connect the single SWC wire another way?

    Commenter image

    Alexander H. from Crutchfield

    on 5/27/2019

    Cheryl, give us a call. If you bought your gear from Crutchfield, you can contact 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.
  • Jason from Lees Summit

    Posted on 4/23/2019

    I have a JVC head unit I'm repurposing for my boat with the blue/yellow wire and am trying to add a jvc wired remote but the 2 don't seem to communicate. Will one of these adapters allow that communication?

    Commenter image

    Alexander H. from Crutchfield

    on 4/25/2019

    Jason, give us a call. 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.
  • Bunn from Christchurch

    Posted on 3/13/2019

    Hi I have a 2008 corolla gx sedan. It doesn't have factory steering wheel controls, but i have purchased compatable ones for a 2099 onwards corolla. My question is, can I just replace replace the clockspring with a 2009 clock spring? So can I assume the nessary wires for the steering wheel controls would be already installed? As the scrrew holes for the steering wheel controls are there? many thanks in advance. Quinton

    Commenter image

    Alexander H. from Crutchfield

    on 3/14/2019

    Bunn, this may be a question for your Toyota service department. Our tech team won't be able to provide any helpful details about clock springs. Good luck!
  • Jeffrey McCarthy from Albury

    Posted on 9/19/2018

    A very good article Alexander. I'm on a learning curve and this has helped a lot. My project is to integrate the following: Pioneer DEH-88prs Reference series headunit (no external amplifier) with wired remote input jack PLUS a Classic 1970s car with an analogue "Radio Balance Control" (=fader) rotary knob built into the dash. I want to turn this knob into a volume control knob, it being easier to reach while driving than the (fiddly) headunit volume knob. I need to replace the analogue potentiometer behind the dash knob with a digital potentiometer or a "black box" that will translate a rotary knob into wired steering control language. Then program it to speak to the stereo. Do you think this is possible? I have completely restored the car and the Pioneer headunit is high quality and looks "classic" in the space where the old 8-track used to be. Any ideas anyone? Jeff, Australia

    Commenter image

    Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    on 9/19/2018

    Jeffrey, sounds like a very cool project, but you'll probably want to consult with your local car audio installer. I checked with one of our techs here and he pointed out that the original control would need to remain in use. Balance and fade are not operated via a steering wheel control input on the Pioneer. They are operated only in the menus and the SWC input does not have any commands for those two functions.
  • Commenter image

    Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 4/24/2017

    Enzo, yes, that's the only option that we carry if your vehicle doesn't already have factory steering wheel controls.

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