Hacking The Radio Controls In Your Steering Wheel

[Gabe Graham] sent us this step by step process of building a dock for his Zune and hacking is steering wheel controls to work with it. Like many of us, he was not happy with the performance of those little radio transmitters that hook to your mp3 player. He remedied the situation by mounting a dock for his Zune onto the console and patching into his stereo. The sound quality was great, but controlling it was a pain.

He had one button left on his steering wheel that was not needed for anything.  He created a custom controller for the Zune that would issue different commands based on how long he held the button on the steering wheel. If the button was held for less than half a second, it would skip tracks, any longer and it would pause. Though he could possibly clean up the look of the LED sticking out of the console, the over all effect is quite well done.

9 thoughts on “Hacking The Radio Controls In Your Steering Wheel

  1. awe-man… I was really hoping he had figured out and documented the protocol used to communicate directly to the zune port.

    He could have just as easily polled the pins on the dock instead the IR transmitter.. it probably would have made for a much cleaner install (not to mention more useful to the Zune community) from the wired version of the remote I can tell you that there are dedicated pins specifically for remote functionality.

    kudos for a zune hack though… MS got the portable media player right IMO, I only ever bought one because it was $80 on sale and I figured I could hack around with it, ended up liking it so much I just started using it and my ipod just collects dust.

  2. “Though he could possibly clean up the look of the LED sticking out of the console”

    I doubt the LED can even be seen through the layers of dirt in that car. A look more consistent with the interior would have been to simply duct tape the Zune to the steering wheel.

  3. draeath, does the sansa and or the rockbox firmware support video and podcast management?

    those are the two features I use most on my players, I have a SageTV box that automatically converts certain shows for use on the zune and then the zune software knows to sync them whenever I plug in.. same with my pod casts.

    The two things I don’t like about the zune
    -lack of support for Linux
    -doesn’t interface with my car stereo like an iPod does.

  4. For those of you who don’t know, many cars these days use the LIN protocol to go from steering wheel controls to either the headunit or to a box that is connected to the cars internal CAN bus. If you try to find a single line that just pulses up and down like on his car, and fail, then you are going to be in for a much more “fun” hack.

    You will need to get a micro that supports CAN and or LIN, and then set it up to read those busses. Then you can basically watch the busses to see when a button strike causes data on the bus to change.

    (Your HAYNES or CHILTON’S guides will tell you which wires from the steering wheel are LIN or CAN)

    Also, the Zune and Sansa et al, are MTP devices, go to MS and search for “MTP documentation” and that will give you the entire protocol for basically every USB media player that isn’t an iPod.

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