Using the factory stereo. I feel that the perfect steering wheel for our cars is the Leather 4-spoke wheel with redundant Steering Wheel Controls (SWC) for the audio unit that comes optional on the '96 and later Monte Carlo! It is thicker than most of our wheels and has finger grips on top as well as grip areas on the sides. It is perfectly shaped and proportioned so as not to interfere with reading the instrument cluster, and the feel in the grip areas is so much better.
There are 8 buttons on the wheel. On the left side is a large rocker button which is labeled "Seek", and which goes up or down. There are also smaller "Preset" and "AM/FM" buttons below the "Seek" rocker button. On the RH side there is a larger "Volume" rocker button, which goes up or down, as well as smaller "Play" and "Mute" buttons just below.
Besides being able to change stations or CD/Tape programs without taking your hands off of the wheel, the SWCs feature an item that is not even on the radio itself, a MUTE button! This is one of the best features of this mod, now when somebody is talking, or I pull up to a toll booth, I can just move my thumb and hit the mute button without taking my hands off of the wheel. Another touch and the previously selected volume level is restored.
There have been two different types of Steering Wheel Control (SWC) systems in GM vehicles. The first was an optical system that was used mostly on vehicles without airbags. This system used an optical coupling ring in the steering column and sent data to the radio. The newer system is Analog in nature and uses the SIR (Supplemental Inflatable Restraint = Air Bag) coil in the column to additionally pass a voltage to the radio. In each system the connection to the radio was only a single wire.
The analog steering wheel controls in the Monte Carlo wheel interface perfectly with the '95-'96 Impala radios, and the wheel is black leather which looks much better than the stock gray wheel (plus it does not show the dirt). The horn works better than the '94-'95 style horn setup, and just about as good as the new membrane type dual bugle '96 setup, and the air bag has a Chevy logo of course.
This wheel is a direct bolt-in, all that is required is an F-car SIR coil, which has the extra wires for the radio controls. The radio controls are also backlit, which looks really cool at night.
I can say that the controls work beautifully, as I used to own a later model monte SS with the wheel mentioned above. I have been a big fan of radio controls on the steering wheel. Even other manufacturers are finally catching on to how cool these are.
Here are the relevant part numbers:
Steering Wheel - 16759678
SIR Module (Air Bag) - 16756546
SIR Coil - 26050811
One problem is (or can be) the cost, NEW the wheel is about $400, the airbag is about $600, and the SIR coil is about $100. If you have to purchase these parts new, it will run you over a grand.
Remember that you do have to buy the F-car SIR coil to be compatible with the new wheel, as it connects the wheel radio controls down through the steering column, where it ends in a 4-pin connector. As far as connectors go, you will have to improvise as I have not yet researched the part numbers of the mating connectors.
You could also purchase a complete used wiring harness out of a '95 Trans Am to get the appropriate connectors for this and several other mods. With the donor harness you be able to use all of the correct factory mating connectors and of course even the wires are the correct gauge and colors!
Bolting on the wheel itself on is very straight forward, it goes on exactly like the stock wheel. To wire up the radio controls you will have to connect the wires in the 4-pin connector at the end of the coil harness to:
- Steering wheel control terminal (C3 pin 14) on the radio
- Hot in ACC/RUN source
- Dimmer circuit (the controls are illuminated!)
They are not necessarily connected in this order, and if you want a factory looking job you will need to purchase the mating connector for both the SIR coil and the radio.
The '95-'96 Impala radios have the analog SWC feature built-in, all that is needed is to connect the switches to the SWC terminal on the radio for it to work. The switches work by connecting a pull-up resistance value between a voltage source and the SWC terminal on the radio. By reading the voltage present on the SWC terminal the radio can be made to change stations, volume, etc. The switches and resistance values are as follows:
SW1 RH - Volume UP / 1270 ohms
SW2 RH - Volume DOWN / 294 ohms
SW3 RH - Play / 348 ohms
SW4 RH - Mute / 475 ohms
SW5 LH - Seek UP / 715 ohms
SW6 LH - Seek DOWN / 1180 ohms
SW7 LH - AM/FM / 2370 ohms
SW8 LH - Preset / 6980 ohms
Using this information one could build a remote control switch for placement elsewhere in the car, such as in the trunk. All of the 8 switches should be wired in parallel with each other, such that when any one of them is pressed, it will complete a series circuit with the specified resistance level between the ignition voltage source (12v) and the SWC terminal on the radio.