Buttons on the BMW steering wheel are explained

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Estimated reading time: 6 min

steering wheel controls
BMW started migrating core multimedia control functions from the dash onto
the steering wheel over two decades ago. For owners of 1999 BMWs E46 it
already meant the convenience of adapting the music volume through buttons
right at their fingertips or accepting phone calls without having to reach
into their pockets.

20 years on, the multi-functional BMW steering wheel compressed a whole lot
more control features, from adjusting your speed, through activating BMW
voice commands and self-heating to Android Auto and Apple CarPlay control
possibilities all elevating your daily trips.

Let’s see how the steering wheel buttons look like on a 2020 BMW X5 with
iDrive 7.0 and standard Dynamic Cruise Control.

NOTE: The availability and placement of BMW steering wheel buttons may
differ depending on your model and the technology package. 

Right side BMW audio control
Starting off at the right side you’ll find audio control buttons.

Right side BMW audio control
1. BMW volume control buttons allow you to adjust the BMW navigation voice
volume, the volume of your music and phone calls.
2. BMW radio selection buttons allow you to skip songs and change radio
3. Phone call button helps you answer phone calls coming through Bluetooth
or call the last person you spoke to.
4. Entertainment display button makes it possible to display your playlist
or the list of radio channels on the BMW head up display or if you lack it,
on the digital cluster. 
5. BMW voice command button engages the BMW Personal Assistant after a
single press, or activates Siri/Google Assistant when long pressing the
6. The rocker switch allows you to go through the tracks displayed on the
BMW head up display.

Do BMW steering wheel buttons work with Apple CarPlay?
BMW knows folks love having their phone apps at hand, so giving them the
possibility to access Apple CarPlay or Android Auto functions seemed like an
obvious step.

So how to skip a song on the BMW steering wheel when in Apple CarPlay or
Android Auto mode? Just as you’d go through, select or display your radio
stations on your BMW HUD or digital cluster, you can do the same with your
Spotify or YouTube music tracks with your right hand side buttons. And if you
don’t want to shift focus from your BMW head up display to the road, just
engage the BMW voice assistant button and let Google Assistant or Siri
control your favorite CarPlay apps for you.

With Siri/Google Assistant voice commands you can select playlists, call
people, ask about weather conditions or the nearest gas stations, set
navigation destinations and even dictate messages on WhatsApp all at a single
press of a steering wheel button and a quick call out Hey Siri/ Hey

How to enable Siri for Apple CarPlay if you don’t have one in your BMW?
Autosvs can unlock it for you with simple 15 minute iDrive coding.

Left side BMW cruise control
Now that we’ve covered the multimedia controls, let’s take a look at the
left side of the wheel and explain what is LIM on a BMW steering wheel or
what does the rocker switch do.

The left portion of the BMW steering wheel is where you’ll find your cruise
control buttons allowing you to lock the accelerator at your desired speed
and take your foot off the pedal.

This is how a configuration of these controls looks like in a 2020 X5
equipped with a standard Dynamic Cruise Control.

Left side BMW cruise control
1. The speed gauge button turns the cruise control on or off. When turned
on it lights a green cruise control gauge on your BMW digital cluster.
2. The set button allows you to set the constant speed when you reach the
desired limit.
3. The speed limit assistant button won’t allow you to exceed the desired
speed for a specific zone unless you initiate an extensive throttle input.

4. The rocker switch allows you to increase or decrease a set speed by 1
and 5 mph increments. If you’re equipped with BMW speed limit assist, the
system will recognize that the speed limit has changed and will propose the
new speed. To accept it, press the set button.
5. The cancel button temporarily deactivates the BMW dynamic cruise control
just as hitting the brakes.
6. The resume button allows you to return to cruising at the set

Keep in mind that the BMW steering wheel in models equipped with either
Active Cruise Control with Stop & Go, Active Driving Assistant or Ext.
Traffic Jam Assistant will include additional cruise control buttons. You may
take a look at them here:

How can BMW speed limit information improve your on-the-road safety?
Using cruise control straight from your BMW steering wheel is indeed handy
and can be enjoyable when on the interstate, but roads and speed limits
change fast, so it’s important to keep caution wherever you’re at.

BMW Speed Limit Information will make it easy to be sure of the speed limit
on every stretch of the road by adding a clear and easy-to-see indicator
right beside your BMW speedometer. Even with no speed limit signs in sight,
you’ll still know when it’s time to slow down, and when you’re free to push
the throttle without picking up a ticket.

Center How to turn on the heated steering wheel in a BMW?
How to turn on the heated steering wheel in a BMW

Heading over to the center portion of the BMW steering wheel you’ll see
every driver’s favorite the horn. Grand and loud speaks more than a thousand
words in critical situations, and for some, even acts as a perfect
replacement for a turn signal.

BMW steering wheel heating button

Right beneath it, you’ll find a BMW steering wheel heating button, which,
when pressed, activates the heating until manually switched off by another
press or turning the car off for more than 15 minutes. In some BMWs this
button is located on the left side of the steering column.

That would be about it for standard steering wheel equipment.

But if you’re in for some race track excitement, the electronic BMW M
Performance steering wheel is there to deliver the ultimate thrill loaded
GTA-like experience. Covering the M3 and M4 BMW models apart from the
standard controls it’s equipped with an additional gauge display that shows
off car performance data points depending on the driving mode you’re

Turn on the efficient dynamics and you’ll be shown the average fuel
consumption, average speed, the efficient dynamic index and water and oil
temperature that will allow you to keep your ECO driving style right on
track. Jump up to a more aggressive BMW sport or sport plus mode and you’ll
see a G-Force meter and gear shift indicator helping you maintain focus on
the road rather than your rev counter. Lastly, shift to a race mode and
you’ll be able to play with a lap timer, section mode, quarter mile race and
more features enhancing the playful rivalry experience.

If you’re not an owner of an M-Sport BMW but want to feel like one, check
how to make your BMW sportier on a budget.

What are M1 & M2 buttons on BMW steering wheel
The rest of M-Sport BMWs didn’t fall out of the line up when it came to
steering wheel enhancements. Although theirs do not light up like a Christmas
tree on a drag race they are equipped with two programmable M1 and M2 buttons
giving quick access to the more aggressive M BMW settings.

Each of these buttons can be configured in the BMW iDrive to a prefered
driving taste such as M1 for a back road and M2 for aggressive track events.
Head on over to ‘My Vehicle’ menu and you’ll be able to set their parameters:

* M xDrive (Dependent on model)
* Throttle mapping
* Chassis stiffness
* Steering weight
* Transmission shift time and aggression
* Head-up Display view

Check how to set those up in the video below:

But before you head on to a race, or even to a store for some groceries,
hold up for just a sec and set up the basics first like your steering wheel
position. You don’t want to start doing that in the middle of the road cause
your hands got wilted, right?

How to adjust the BMW steering wheel

To adjust your BMW steering wheel, reach out to the little switch on the
left side of your steering column and push it back ( on older vehicles you
will find a lever instead, which you have to press down). Now you can move
the wheel to the preferred height and angle to suit your sitting position.
Once you achieve the desired position pull the switch/lever back up to lock
the wheel in.

In some BMWs you may also find an anti-theft feature which locks your
entire BMW steering wheel when the engine is turned off. It may indeed be handy
when you’re not around, but when your engine is dead or you just don’t want
to start it, towing your car gets problematic.

So how you unlock your BMW steering wheel with a push to start when the
engine is not working is you push your auto start-top button once to turn on
the electrical components of the car without putting your foot on the
If you want your engine to start, put your foot down on the brake and push
the auto start-top button once. The steering wheel should be unlocked. In
some cars you may also need to wiggle the steering wheel a bit to both sides
to help it unlock.

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