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Adding steering wheel with audio controls?

basicblur

New member
18
3
3
Buick Ownership
2003 Buick Century
1st post here - new owner of a 2003 Buick Century.

It was my mother's car, and I was going to clean it up and sell it for her (she no longer drives), but the more I drove it the more I liked - I ended up buying it from her (42,000 miles, always garaged).

She has the OEM mid-level radio - I'm thinking about replacing it with the top level OEM radio (includes CD player) as I've found a shop that's adding your choice of an input plug OR Bluetooth to OEM radios.

I'd kinda like to keep it close to stock - if I do install the radio, I'm thinking about upgrading the steering wheel to one with audio controls.

Does anyone know if I'll run into problems with clock springs / wiring harness, or did Buick make 'em all the same and just not use the connectors if your steering wheel did not have audio controls?

Searching the forum, the only thread I could find with this same question was 2003 Buick Century Custom Steering Wheel with radio controls/Digital Temp Controls

Someone answered "I think the steering wheel is a direct swap, with the connectors already in the column for the radio." but there was not a definitive answer and no follow up by the original poster.
 

basicblur

New member
18
3
3
Buick Ownership
2003 Buick Century
Well I got a new leather steering wheel with the audio controls - not a bad price - the color matches & it is an upgrade from the rubber steering wheel - the leather rim at the top is also larger diameter than the OEM rubber one, which is also a bonus.

Got a refurbished (like new) OEM radio on the way from 1 Factory Radio - it will have the CD player and an added auxiliary input, which will be nicer than the unit that came with the car (mid-level radio / cassette).
He also has OEM radios with Bluetooth added (doesn't work with phones) - I wrestled with which one to get, but since the Bluetooth doesn't work with phones, I got the unit with the auxiliary input.

Yeah, wires are a pain, but the auxiliary input is a lot simpler than the Bluetooth unit (less to go wrong).

The radio is definitely going in - when the local stereo shop installs, they are going to check to see if existing wires for audio controls are already in the harness, or have to be added.
Will also check to see if the existing clock spring has all required wires.

I see Buick lists two different clock springs - one without accessories, one with accessories - I assume the one with accessories is for the radio controls, but the online parts shops don't elaborate.
I've got an e-mail into an online shop to see if they can clarify.

The cost of the steering wheel, radio upgrade and installation is not too bad - if I have to buy a new clock spring, it's started to get a little pricey.

Nobody else in this place every added the steering wheel with audio controls to a Century that came without?
 

CorvairGeek

3.8L Member
255
65
28
The Gem State
Buick Ownership
1996, 92 Buick Century
I would love to know, as I would like to add them to an older car, but I haven't gotten that far. My project might be TOO BIG of a retrofit.
Unfortunately, I've never found much on this subject in general across the GM family.
 

2007LucerneCXL

Full Member
2,835
851
113
Illinois
Buick Ownership
2007 Lucerne CXL. and 1995 Lesabre currently, past 1973 Riviera, 1968 Riviera
I'm sure someone has but may not be around. Depending on the year and make some people have just swapped entire columns to simplifie the process and all that needs to be changed is the ignition key. Looking in the sister car sites you may find more information on the Chevrolet or Pontiac forums, I know I found a bunch more mods for the Lucerne in the Cadillac DTS fourm.

Getting a good service manual with factory wiring diagrams really should be on the list as it will be a help in trying to figure out if you have everything to complete the task, good luck on your project.
______________________________
 

basicblur

New member
18
3
3
Buick Ownership
2003 Buick Century
I would love to know, as I would like to add them to an older car, but I haven't gotten that far. My project might be TOO BIG of a retrofit.
Unfortunately, I've never found much on this subject in general across the GM family.
I'll post updates in here over the next few weeks.

Radio should be in next week - the shop seems comfortable they can handle whatever needs to be done AFA adding wires from the radio to the steering wheel (if required) - the only "problem" is the cost of a new clock spring if required ($160).

Since I'm in this deep, I'll probably see it thru - it would cost me $20 or so to return the steering wheel, so that knocks the cost of the clock spring down to $140.

Guy at the shop says he's got a feeling I'm going to need wires run from the radio to the steering wheel since I've got the old dial Heat / AC controls.
If my Century had the digital environmental controls, he says he'd be willing to bet THAT OEM harness might just be Plug & Play AFA adding steering wheel audio controls.
 

basicblur

New member
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3
3
Buick Ownership
2003 Buick Century
A little bit closer...?

Went thru my Haynes Repair Manual tonight - chapter 12, sections 12-24 & 12-33 (Chassis Electrical System) both show the wiring to the steering wheel audio controls! I scanned both to PDF.

Still waiting on the radio, but think I'll drop by the shop tomorrow with both the new steering wheel and electrical schematics to let them eyeball 'em.
 

CorvairGeek

3.8L Member
255
65
28
The Gem State
Buick Ownership
1996, 92 Buick Century
Does the Century run the steering wheel switches to the DIM or IPM for conversion to serial data to communicate with the radio? IIRC it is the IPM, which may require programming. I can't recall without digging out my schematics, and my radio is from the LeSabre (my Avitar).
 

basicblur

New member
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3
3
Buick Ownership
2003 Buick Century
Does the Century run the steering wheel switches to the DIM or IPM for conversion to serial data to communicate with the radio? IIRC it is the IPM, which may require programming. I can't recall without digging out my schematics, and my radio is from the LeSabre (my Avitar).
Looks like it's the IPM if I'm reading the schematic correctly.

Went by the shop today to show 'em what I had so far (still waiting on the radio) - while the shop has done nothing like this thru the shop (although they have no problem doing so), the head installer has done something like this to a number of his older vehicles, although I think all of them were Fords.
______________________________
 

CorvairGeek

3.8L Member
255
65
28
The Gem State
Buick Ownership
1996, 92 Buick Century
It looks like the W-Body (Century/Regal, Impala, Intrigue, Grand Prix) uses a BCM/IPM that is also the Power Mode Master (PMM), unlike the LeSabre, from which I pulled my radio. It requires both a DIM (PMM) the and IPM to be functional. Hopefully, the simplicity will work to your advantage. It appears there is only a single part number for the Century BCM/IPM, though the programming can be different.
 

basicblur

New member
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3
3
Buick Ownership
2003 Buick Century
EDITED 7-12-19

Went by the shop today - looks like I need one more part - if anyone can help?

I have a new steering wheel with audio controls for my 2003 Buick Century (car came without steering wheel audio controls) and the shop says they need the FEMALE pigtail that plugs into my clock spring connector, probably located behind the driver side knee board.

It's a 4 pin connector - we can find the shell (12092163) but it has no pins / wires. There seems to be some confusion between the shop and Buick dealer AFA matching the pins.

Shop needs the FEMALE pigtail with at least 4" leads (so he can splice).

Attached is pix of my steering wheel showing the female connector needed.
2nd pix is where the plug is probably located - next to the yellow airbag plug.
 

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basicblur

New member
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3
3
Buick Ownership
2003 Buick Century
Success!

I found the female plug I was looking for at a local auto salvage yard.
They had 2 Buick Century's with steering wheel audio controls - rode out to show them what I was looking for, and darn if both of them didn't have the dashes torn apart and the female plug I was looking for hanging right by the airbag plug.

The female connector (4-pin for audio controls) was simply clipped to the orange piece hanging in front of the yellow airbag plug.
 

Waiex191

Active member
134
42
28
Poplar Grove, IL
Buick Ownership
2000 Century
Regarding finding what you need:

I needed a section of fuel line. On the last car, when I was out of time, I found this:
IMG_20190610_123106112_HDR.jpg

Somebody had cut off the rest of the line. I didn't even need any tools. Boy that felt good. The other thing is a lug wrench for my $500 Saturn.
______________________________
 

basicblur

New member
18
3
3
Buick Ownership
2003 Buick Century
Almost there!?

Installer called today - all steering wheel controls work with the original radio, but the steering wheel volume control will not work with the OEM replacement radio I ordered (with CD player & Auxiliary input).

Installer says some of these radios have servos etc. to control radio volume (verified by 1 Factory Radio), so maybe something is stuck / wasn't hooked up by 1 Factory Radio?

They're shooting me out another radio so I don't have to send my defective unit in first - hopefully it will be in before the end of the week.

Here's the radio I ordered:
www.1factoryradio.com/buick-lesabre-century-regal-1996-03-radio-am-fm-cd-cassette-w-aux-input-09373354/

Forgot to add - the installer had to run only 1 wire from the steering column wiring harness to the radio.
 

basicblur

New member
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3
3
Buick Ownership
2003 Buick Century
Replacement radio works!

Got the 1 Factory Radio replacement yesterday & dropped it off at the shop.
They plugged it in to verify all steering wheel controls work - the steering wheel volume control (along with all other controls) work with this replacement radio.

Only holdup now is having to modify the lower steering column cover - apparently there is a "weak spot" or bad molding on the cover. Probably just going to use a longer screw with a washer, but may need some type of sleeve inside the cover to keep from bowing the cover when tightening the screw as it will now have pressure from the outside of the cover instead of having the support bottom out against a solid object.

On the attached pix, in the lower left corner you can see where the support for the attachment screw has broken.

Only found 1 on eBay, and the same part is broken.
Went back to the local yard where I found the electrical plug I needed and found 1 cover, but it was gray instead of tan, and I gently wiggled the support and it crumbled just like mine. The center screw hole mount is solid.

Local Buick dealer to dealer network found one at another dealer, but they no longer make them in colors - you have to paint to match. Price was around $50 plus shipping, then I'd have to paint.

I may have taken a chance IF I knew the new dealer part would not crumble like all I've seen so far have a tendency to.
 

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CorvairGeek

3.8L Member
255
65
28
The Gem State
Buick Ownership
1996, 92 Buick Century
Congrats!
I wish some of these plastic parts would hold like they should or used to. When I was a kid I remember hearing "plastic is here forever when it is made".
 

2007LucerneCXL

Full Member
2,835
851
113
Illinois
Buick Ownership
2007 Lucerne CXL. and 1995 Lesabre currently, past 1973 Riviera, 1968 Riviera
If it's a choice to try to use it or get another you may want to try 2 part epoxy and a trip to the local hardware store. PVC and other plumbing materials may be a little out of the box thinking, but if going in the trash nothing is lost on trying.
______________________________
 

mikec6201

Full Member
207
5
18
Columbus Ohio
Buick Ownership
2005 Lesabre
Replacement radio works!

Got the 1 Factory Radio replacement yesterday & dropped it off at the shop.
They plugged it in to verify all steering wheel controls work - the steering wheel volume control (along with all other controls) work with this replacement radio.

Only holdup now is having to modify the lower steering column cover - apparently there is a "weak spot" or bad molding on the cover. Probably just going to use a longer screw with a washer, but may need some type of sleeve inside the cover to keep from bowing the cover when tightening the screw as it will now have pressure from the outside of the cover instead of having the support bottom out against a solid object.

On the attached pix, in the lower left corner you can see where the support for the attachment screw has broken.

Only found 1 on eBay, and the same part is broken.
Went back to the local yard where I found the electrical plug I needed and found 1 cover, but it was gray instead of tan, and I gently wiggled the support and it crumbled just like mine. The center screw hole mount is solid.

Local Buick dealer to dealer network found one at another dealer, but they no longer make them in colors - you have to paint to match. Price was around $50 plus shipping, then I'd have to paint.

I may have taken a chance IF I knew the new dealer part would not crumble like all I've seen so far have a tendency to.

Figure out the length of the mounting tube , go to a hobby shop and get the correct ( or close ) diameter plastic tubing , then grind off the old mount . You should be able to use some type of epoxy to glue the new mount on ...J.B. Weld ? .....Mike
 

basicblur

New member
18
3
3
Buick Ownership
2003 Buick Century
Figure out the length of the mounting tube , go to a hobby shop and get the correct ( or close ) diameter plastic tubing , then grind off the old mount . You should be able to use some type of epoxy to glue the new mount on ...J.B. Weld ? .....Mike
A simple sleeve will get me half way there - it will prevent the cover from bowing etc. but the screw head will still be on the surface of the column instead of recessed as from the factory.

In order to have the screw head recessed deep inside the cover, you'd have to have to machine a sleeve with a lip at the very top (where the screw head would sit). Maybe you could use a sleeve and glue a washer on top of it?

My brother is a gunsmith & has a nice machine shop - I often get him to make parts like I'd need, but he's down for a while with medical problems.
 

basicblur

New member
18
3
3
Buick Ownership
2003 Buick Century
Ran by the shop yesterday - wanted me to show them exactly where I wanted my power outlet installed - tying onto the OEM power drop under the passenger knee board.

I had previously purchased an OEM MOPAR 12v power outlet off eBay for $12 (Just like the one in my Jeep).
The shop had mounted it to a black plate - we decided to mount centered, below the ash tray, mounted at the rear of the ash tray dash piece.

Going to be a ways under the dash, but I'm trying to leave the hump open so I can put some type of floor console there.
It's a shame we couldn't come up with a way to mount it in the dash so it would look factory, but the dash has so many curves (lack of flat surfaces) and it appears about every piece has something behind it, preventing mounting the power outlet directly in the dash.

I originally had a Bluetooth transmitter with 2 USB ports plugged into the cigarette lighter, but had to leave the ash tray door open all the time.
The Bluetooth transmitter is going in the new power outlet & I'm running my Garmin GPS off one of the USB ports instead of having to deal with the Garmin power cord & it's large lump on the end.

I have a small 2 USB port charger that I'm going to put in the cigarette lighter - without the Bluetooth transmitter, it's small enough that I can close the ash tray door - just pull it open if I need to plug in my phone, etc.

Bluetooth Transmitter I've been using:
Amazon.com: IMDEN Bluetooth FM Transmitter for Car, QC3.0 Wireless Bluetooth FM Radio Adapter Music Player FM Transmitter / Car Kit with Hands-free Calling and 2 USB Ports Charger Support USB Drive.: Cell Phones & Accessories

2 USB port charger that's going in the cigarette lighter:
Amazon.com: Car Charger [2-Pack] RAVPower 24W 4.8A Mini Dual USB Car Adapter, Compatible with iPhone Xs Max XR X 8 7 Plus, iPad Pro Air Mini and Galaxy S9 S8 Plus, Edge Note Series and More (Black): Cell Phones & Accessories

I'll post some pix of the finished job when they're finally through.
 

basicblur

New member
18
3
3
Buick Ownership
2003 Buick Century
She's Done (I hope)!

Picked up the 2003 Century today - new steering wheel with audio controls (all seem to work) & upgraded the OEM radio to a refurbished OEM radio from 1 Factory Radio which adds CD player & 3.5mm auxiliary input (located at the volume control).

Lots of pix attached!

1st pix shows the new steering wheel & 1 Factory Radio along with the 12v power outlet located below the ash tray (it's tucked way back there).
I've added the black poly carpet Dash Mat to all my vehicles in order to cut out reflected glare in the windshield.
All windshields these days are at such a steep angle that they all seem to suffer from extreme reflections from the dash.

2nd pix - at's a pretty clean motor for a 16 yr. old vehicle!

3rd pix - windows have been tinted, crushed right side fender replaced (with GM fender), scratches polished out of right side.
I still have to get the scratches polished out of the left side (she scraped a lot of bushes) and will probably give Maaco a try on the front & rear bumpers.
Both have scratches, and she didn't quite punch a hole in the rear fender, but it's close!

Folks that did the fender want $500 per bumper - Maaco will do both for $500, so I'll probably give them a try, but after what I spent on the steering wheel / radio / 12v outlet upgrades, I'll probably put the bumpers off a month or two.

The steering wheel was pretty cheap, but it installation costs kinda spiraled out of control, and having to buy a new clock spring really hurt!
 

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