Add comfort and safety with a multifunctional steering wheel!

Add comfort and safety with a multifunctional steering wheel!

A multifunctional steering wheel is a convenient feature in every car, enabling comfortable operation of several functions without having to take the hands off the steering wheel. With both hands on the wheel and the eyes on the road, optimal driving safety is guaranteed – a multifunctional steering wheel is therefore an effective contribution to enhanced security in the car.

As several switches are within reach of the thumb, the steering wheel is held firmly in both hands. The positions of the separate switches is memorised easily enough. No need to lower the eyes, but keeping them steadily on the road instead.

Possibilities of a multifunctional steering wheel

Possibilities of a multifunctional steering wheelA multifunctional steering wheel is equipped with buttons and switches for control of the available and additional functions of the car. The usual functions are:

radio volume
– channel search
– source selection (CD/MP3/radio)
– cruise control
– menu control for multifunctional display (Navigation, communication, entertainment)
– and many more

Ideally, the car is ordered including a multifunctional steering wheel ex works. However, this is quite expensive and therefore not done as a rule. Buyers of used cars generally do not look at these features first and therefore a lacking multifunctional steering wheel is initially taken for granted. If it is available, it enhances the value of the car. For those who do not wish to forego on this comfort & safety feature, the industry offers retrofitting sets.

Is every car suitable?

how to upgrade a car with multifunctional steering wheelWhen retrofitting a car with a multifunctional steering wheel, everything depends on what you want to accomplish. If it concerns only the safe and comfortable control of dashboard functions, the retrofit is relatively simple. Not until you wish to retrofit a multifunctional steering wheel including cruise control, the project requires careful assessment.

how to upgrade a car with cruise controlRetrofitting a car with cruise control ideally requires an electronic accelerator. If the car is equipped with a cable-controlled mechanical accelerator, the retrofit is still possible, although it implies installation of additional servomotors, which complicates the project and makes it expensive.

only mechanical accelerator is suitable forTherefore we particularly recommend motivated DIY’ers with limited budget and experience to stick to cars with an electronic accelerator.
This retrofitting project will always be a real challenge.
Chances are, the motivated DIY’er will overplay his hand when attempting to install cruise control in combination with a mechanical accelerator.

Can anybody do it?

multifunctional steering wheel challengeEven though manufacturers say the opposite, this project requires a great deal of skill and experience.
Retrofitting a multifunctional steering wheel cannot be compared to replacing a car radio or retrofitting LED lighting.
Remove and install airbagReplacing and retrofitting a steering wheel implies the disassembly and correct assembly of the airbag. If you make an error here, you run the risk of serious injury or in case of damage a malfunction of this safety feature. We therefore recommend to correctly assess one’s competences and in case of doubt, employ a professional for the installation.

We therefore accept no liability for errors occurring as a result of imitating this description. The actions and steps described here are general guidelines and do not represent an actual installation manual.

Procedure of modification

how to install multifunctional steering wheelWhen installing a multifunctional steering wheel, proceed according to the following steps:

1. Disconnect the battery.
2. Modify the cable harness.
3. Modify the control unit.
4. Remove the trim of the steering wheel.
5. Disassemble the airbag.
6. If necessary, disassemble the steering wheel.
7. Install the retrofitting kit.
8. Assemble everything.
9. Re-program the control unit.

  • The conditions for modification of cable harness and control unit vary according to manufacturer. Many retrofitting sets supply a simple plug-in module. Other solutions require cutting cables of the harness and equipping them with additional plugs.
  • In any case it is recommended to read the installation manual carefully prior to the retrofit. Furthermore, browse the internet on the retrofitting kit. Other users are very likely to have met with errors and malfunctions and are happy to share their experiences with others.
  • For example, the brake electronics of a VW Golf can cause an error message at installation of a multifunctional steering wheel as the steering angle is no longer recognised. This can quickly be resolved with the right expertise and tools – though as a user you have to know first what to look for.
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Costs of a multifunctional steering wheel

The retrofitting kit for a multifunctional steering wheel costs ca. 150 – 300 EUR (± £132 – £264), depending on type and brand. A kit includes:

– a control pad or a complete steering wheel
– modification kit for the wiring harness
– tie wraps or stickers
– extensive manual

A new airbag is not included in the kit. A garage needs 2 – 3 hours for professional installation, meaning another 200 EUR (± £176) working fee. In view of the complexity of this operation, this step is emphatically recommended. Due to the many things which can go wrong in this project, you are always on the safe side with a professional installation.

Retrofitting paddle shifters

how to retrofit paddle shiftersWhen the steering wheel is already disassembled in order to facilitate the installation of the multifunctional buttons, it might be worthwhile considering installation of gearshift paddles. These are large tumbler switches, placed directly behind the steering wheel and can be operated with the index finger. In semi-automatic or automatic gearboxes they enable gear shifting. As the paddles are connected to the steering wheel, they always rotate along with the wheel during steering manoeuvres.

Gearshift paddles enable a particularly dynamic and sporty driving style. Just like the multifunctional steering wheel they considerably contribute to driving safety as you no longer need to take your hands from the wheel to shift gear.

Costs for retrofitting gearshift paddles

Retrofitted gearshift paddles are amazingly expensive compared to the retrofitting kit of the multifunctional steering wheel. As a new component they cost 300 – 400 EUR (± £264 – £352) for the complete set. Even as a used component it is rarely available for less than 150 EUR (±£132).

Prior to installation it should be checked if the car is eligible for installation of retrofitted gearshift paddles. Depending on type and brand the steering wheel and the control unit must be replaced as well. This makes the project even more expensive.

For retrofitting gearshift paddles our clear recommendation is the execution by a professional garage. The ideal moment is the occasion of retrofitting the multifunctional steering wheel. Most steps are similar for both modification projects.

Value enhancement, safety and comfort

Multifunction steering wheel as investmentIf you are prepared for the expense and decide for a complete retrofit of the steering wheel, you will be greatly rewarded. The car will be safer, more dynamic and more comfortable as a result.

As those features, and particularly the gearshift paddles are not self-evident, they always generate interest of potential buyer, strengthen the car’s market position and boost its resale value. Nevertheless a receipt of the garage is very helpful, giving the buyer the guarantee that these modification works have been correctly executed.

Foto: irin-k, ZoranOrcik, rumruay, otomobil, Holyshyn Oleh, Memory Stockphoto, anatoliy_gleb, Gargantiopa, nikkytok, Aleksey Korchemkin /

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