The upgradation is easy for older factory car stereos, but there are some factors and complications:

  • Nonstandard head units
  • Steering wheel Audio controls ( It won’t work with a new head unit if the factory controls are still in place, where aftermarket solutions are “Best”)

Many car owners are often surprised to learn that the audio controls on the steering wheel found in newer cars might not be compatible with a new receiver purchased aftermarket. However, there’s an inexpensive adapter that can resolve this concern!

Suppose you plan to change your factory radio for a new aftermarket receiver. In that case, you’ll be happy to know a solution is available that keeps the full functionality and convenience of your original steering wheel audio controls at hand.

And if your vehicle doesn’t have these pre-existing controls? No problem! There are some adapters for those vehicles, so read and see what makes the most sense for your specific needs both now and in the future.

When vehicle speaker systems change, the speakers lose their connection to the car’s sound system. Even though many people think that a uniquely designed receiver wouldn’t suffer from this problem, they still need help connecting the two.

The audio control adapter is easy to set up and gives you access to additional features such as custom AM, FM presets, driver’s choice EQ, and more. Perhaps you’ve purchased a vehicle without factory steering wheel audio controls, or maybe you’re unsure if your car even has them, but if you’ve purchased an aftermarket receiver for your new car stereo, don’t toss out those controls since we carry several adapters for such vehicles depending on what brand of receiver you have.

It’s not as simple as RA, RB, and LA. You have to make plenty of choices before hitting the road with your new stereo system, but fortunately, we figured out which adapters work for each vehicle. You can search for your make and model on some websites to find all compatible products, but even better.

If you’ve been pondering whether to upgrade your older car stereo, it’s a safe bet that the choice is usually straightforward. However, new head units and steering wheel audio controls can complicate matters. In the case of steering wheel audio controls, you might be fearful of upgrading these components, as mentioned earlier, because you’re worried that the factory controls won’t work with a new head unit. Alternatively, aftermarket solutions for this issue are limited at best, if not entirely clunky.

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After memorizing the car’s steering wheel audio controls, the driver can control most of their basic audio needs with a slight movement of their finger. An excellent example of this is Volvo cars. Each preset will have its own “button” on a circle on your steering wheel, making it super easy to add or remove stations from all your presets by utilizing unique feeling haptic feedback. 

This type of functionality, along with all other preferences and controls regarding the order, speed, and volume mapping, are available from this advanced interface which shows you all your digital content, such as apps and maps, on one big screen.

While there are several things to consider when choosing the type of aftermarket car stereo one wants to install, it’s important to observe which features and functionality they offer. For example, while the actual installation process will be pretty straightforward, it is more challenging if we look at compatibility with steering wheel controls. We don’t want our hands on a controller unable to work with a four-year-old model car’s radio, as it would become useless.

Also Read: How To Build Subwoofer Box For Truck

Factors to Consider  

If you are worried about losing steering wheel controls when upgrading your car stereo, keep that from putting you off selling an aftermarket unit to them. In most cases, it’s possible to implement the original equipment manufacturer’s (OEM) hardware with your head unit. However, please note that not all car audio head units are created equal, so don’t be misled by universal compatibility claims- everyone must be sold on their own merits. After all, no customer likes being stranded without functioning car audio controls on their dashboard!

 A typical installation scenario often involves the purchase of a compatible steering wheel audio control adapter or a Comand module that facilitates the proper communication between your factory controls and your new head unit. Aside from purchasing a compatible aftermarket head unit replacement, it is also vital that you invest in the correct telltale adapter to facilitate communication between your factory controls and the new stereo in your car. There’s more compatibility out there than you might think, with only a handful of options to consider instead of dozens. Many hardware communication modules from wireless phone companies, hardware specialists, and universal system providers fit your needs.

With an aftermarket radio, can I control the audio without an adapter?

No, you can’t connect steering wheel audio controls to an aftermarket radio without the correct adapter. The exception is if your local car dealer or dealership stocks the system. Also, many different types of computerization are used in today’s vehicles, so you must first find out what works with the vehicle’s model year before time spent on an internet search.

In Mind Plans: Steering Wheel Audio Controls

  • Check different adapters and identify if it works with your vehicle or not.
  • An individual communication protocol is used by each vehicle ( Find a working adapter kit )
  • Check other head units and their compatibility with adaptors.
  •  Save labor time ( Install head unit and adaptor at the same time)

When you’re working on installing a new stereo in your car, one of the best things you can do is write up a plan before beginning installation. For example, when installing aftermarket audio controls on your steering wheel, planning out the different steps beforehand will ensure everything goes smoothly and there won’t be any missing pieces or wasted time.

The first step in this process is to check out the different plugs and identify a plug that works with your car. The critical thing to remember is that every vehicle has an individual connecting interface, so it’s essential to find a connector kit that works with your vehicle if you don’t have an adapter cable laying around your house.

Steering Wheel Control Types / Aftermarket Head Unit

When considering which type of steering wheel interface to use, there are two main types, SWI-JS and SWI-JACK, that offer a variety of features. For example, the systems used by Jensen and Sony head units do not have a removable faceplate or remote control jack, whereas the systems used by JVC, Alpine, Clarion, and Kenwood have both.

Suppose you want to keep your car’s steering wheel audio control options operational when replacing the stereo in your ride. You must find a replacement head unit with steaming AM/FM radio and CD inputs. After connecting all these components, you’re almost ready to enjoy great sound and talk radio in your sedan or sports car again!

Know When to Seek Professional Help

  • Not Plug and Play Devices
  • Vehicle-specific installation procedures
  • Factory wiring
  • Program each steering wheel button

Installing a head unit in your car can be quite simple, especially if you can find the right harness to ensure it works with your vehicle. In most cases, this is an easy change requiring the connector and a few minutes of wiring.

Installing steering wheel audio controls is a job most DIYers can do at home, but it is a little more complicated. Unlike other car audio components, these devices aren’t designed to be plug-and-play. There are typically vehicle-specific installation procedures, and you usually have to splice into some factory wirings.

Installing a car stereo is a job that most DIYers can do at home, but some have found it difficult because the installation isn’t as simple as it looks. Unlike other car audio components designed to be plug-and-play (especially these days), these devices aren’t usually compatible, so it can be hard to determine which device fits your vehicle.

You’ll want to splice into your factory wiring when upgrading. Still, unless you’ve done this before or understand the procedures involved in complicated upgrades, you should stick to something more fundamental than installing a steering wheel FM modulator/preamplifier.

Can I Retain Steering Wheel Controls After Installing an Aftermarket Stereo?

Yes, you can retain steering wheel controls after installing an aftermarket stereo. You can connect a new stereo to your car’s steering wheel controls using specialized interfaces or adapters. These adapters convert the signals, allowing you to keep the functionality of volume, track changes, and other controls while using the new stereo system.

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William is technical editor of Wooster Audio, an audio enthusiast passionate about cutting-edge technologies. He has been working with us for three years, meticulously reviewing and evaluating wireless (speakers & soundbars), hi-fi, and home cinema equipment, and has covered 1000+ audio products. His background is based in Audio engineering and he has an ardent passion for building home theater systems and audio systems and loves audio mixing, editing and sound designing. This allows William to share this knowledge on Wooster audio site. He provides the most comprehensive audio information available by tapping into his expertise and keen insights. He can guide you to audio excellence on Wooster Audio with his discerning ear and commitment to quality. Contact William for any question (