Steering wheel buttons are a bigger deal than you think. The Top Gear newsletter had a story back in 2022 in which they praised Volkswagen’s decision to replace capacitative buttons with ‘real’ steering wheel buttons.
People love these buttons because they place several functions at their fingertips. And if they stop working, you should check and troubleshoot the following:
1). The Wiring Is Faulty
Everything comes back to faulty wiring. The power from the battery reaches the various electrical components via wires. And if those wires break or come loose, the buttons won’t work because they don’t have sufficient power.
Check the connections between the dashboard and steering wheel. Look for frayed wiring and loose connections. According to Siemens, cars have 40 harnesses and more than 3,000 wires. That equates to 4km of wiring if you connect them to make one continuous line.
Therefore, finding the broken wire in a car with a malfunction is no easy task. You need an expert to narrow down the search to a particular location.
2). The VW Has A Faulty Clockspring
The clockspring matters because it maintains the electrical connection when you turn the steering wheel. It affects the airbags, horns, buttons, and various other components in the electrical system.
But it can fail over time because of wear and tear. Once that happens, the loss of electrical connectivity will interfere with the steering wheel buttons. Don’t ignore a faulty clockspring. The steering wheel buttons are the least of your worries. The airbag system will fail.
3). The Fuse Is Dead
The fuse defends against electrical spikes and surges. Unfortunately, it can also disrupt the electrical system when it blows. This problem has a simple solution. Replacing the fuse will restore the buttons’ functionality. However, you must examine multiple fuses to find the one at fault.
4). The Buttons Are Worn Out
You can only press the steering wheel buttons so many times before they fail. If the car is relatively new, you can blame dirt and debris. Proper maintenance can reduce the frequency of this outcome.
At the very least, keeping the car clean can help. But it can’t defend against wear and tear originating from overheating and electrical malfunctions.
5). The Steering Wheel Buttons Have A Glitch
Modern vehicles are more vulnerable to glitches than their older counterparts because they have numerous sophisticated features and functions. Some vehicles use a touchscreen as opposed to physical buttons.
Naturally, this makes them susceptible to software glitches, especially for consumers that forget to update their firmware. Most electronic devices are prone to glitches. Modern cars are no different.
6). The Steering Wheel Is Damaged
People hit their steering wheels in frustration all the time without realizing that physical blows can cause lasting damage, especially in modern vehicles with delicate electronic components. You will break some parts while misaligning others.
If you’re too cautious to mishandle your steering wheel, can you say the same for your mechanic? Many drivers leave their cars in the hands of cheaper, unlicensed, inexperienced mechanics who do more harm than good while fixing or maintaining your vehicle. Don’t be surprised if things go wrong.
7). The Control Module is Dead
Cars have modules that manage the inputs for buttons like the ones on your steering wheel. When those modules fail, the buttons can’t communicate with the electrical system. Therefore, pressing those buttons won’t do anything.
Like the wiring issue, you need a qualified mechanic to identify this problem because it involves taking the car apart.
How To Fix VW Steering Wheel Button That Isn’t Working?
Start By Checking The Battery
The battery is unlikely to be the culprit. If the battery were at fault, you would notice malfunctions in multiple electronic components. If the steering wheel buttons are the only parts that have failed, you can’t blame the battery. However, it doesn’t hurt to check. Replace the battery if you notice defects.
Replace The Clockspring
This component is too important for you to ignore. Ask a qualified mechanic to identify and install a suitable replacement. I suggest using your warranty to get a replacement.
If the warranty has already expired, you can still use the warranty repair paperwork to find the part number and cost of a replacement.
Watch this video if you want to replace the clockspring yourself!
Clean The Buttons
If the buttons are stuck because of dirt and debris, use contact cleaner spray to clean them. This means accessing the backside. Wiping the front of the buttons won’t do anything. If the buttons refuse to respond, replace them.
You can find a certified VW mechanic to do this job. But it might be cheaper to rely on a local expert that can locate third-party alternatives. Although, it is always better to use VW replacement parts.
Perform An Update
The easiest solution is to perform an update. Glitches can occur because of outdated firmware. If the glitch persists, reset the onboard computer. This usually involves disconnecting the battery, draining the residual electricity, and then waiting fifteen minutes before reconnecting the battery.
But you should check the manual to identify the procedure that resets your particular VW model.
Replace Damaged Wire
The only solution to damaged wires is to replace them. But finding the faulty wiring is easier said than done. Even experienced mechanics will struggle with this task. Focus your search around the steering columns.
Loose connections are easier to deal with because it is a simple matter of tightening them. But again, the challenge is finding loose connections.
Replace The Fuse & Fix The Steering Wheel
Find the fuse box, identify the fuse that blew, and replace it.
If the steering wheel is damaged, hire an expert to inspect the damaged steering wheel frame and fix the faulty parts.
Is It Safe To Drive With A Malfunction VW Steering Wheel Button?
It depends on the cause. Your biggest problem is buttons that refuse to work because of a broken clockspring. The clockspring affects the functions of the airbag system. You don’t want to drive a car with a questionable airbag system.