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Which Sides for Steering Wheel Audio and Cruise Control Are Correct?

When I occasionally drive my wife’s 2008 Mini Cooper Clubman S, there are a few adjustments I need to make to my driving style. For starters, it’s an automatic, and I’ve been driving a manual every day for the past three years. Sometimes I still reach for the clutch when starting the Mini. The next biggest thing is the steering wheel, which has the audio controls on the left and the cruise control on the right, which is the opposite of what I’m accustomed to.

This doesn’t sound like a big deal, but in practice, it can be infuriating. To hit plus and minus buttons and have nothing happen to the volume of my music really throws me off — and then I need to go through the laborious effort of either reaching for the volume knob or using my left hand to adjust the volume on the steering wheel.

Yeah, I know, #firstworldproblems. But isn’t that frustrating? Have you ever been driving someone else’s car and experienced this? It’s surprisingly hard to get used to, and I didn’t even think I used steering wheel audio control that much — but I must, if it’s this challenging for me to switch sides.

Incidentally, new Mini and BMW models have the opposite configuration as my wife’s R55. At some point in the past decade, they’ve moved the audio to the right and the cruise to the left. Is this BMW’s way of saying they were wrong? Is cruise on the left and audio on the right indeed the correct way?

Perhaps the idea is that since your right hand adjusts the stereo in the dash, that should be the hand that controls the audio on the steering wheel. In every car I’ve driven with non-steering wheel cruise control, the cruise control has been on the left stalk of the steering wheel, so I guess that’s the established cruise control hand.

I don’t really have a dog in this fight — but if I were to take sides, I would lean towards the cruise left/audio right side of the aisle. It’s mainly just because that’s what I’m used to — but I don’t think my life would be too difficult if I were to make the switch.

What do you think? Which side serves what purpose on your multi-function steering wheel? If you feel strongly enough about these buttons to make it to the end of this article, then you must have an opinion on the matter. Proceed to argue about it in the comments below.

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Eric Brandt
Eric Brandt
Eric Brandt is an author specializing in Oversteer content, new car reviews, and finding the best car, truck, and SUV deals each month. Born and raised in Wisconsin, Eric can often be found exploring the north woods on his 1983 Honda Gold Wing when the weather allows it. Father of four, husband of one, and unapologetic minivan enthusiast. Eric mastered driving stick by having a 3-cylinder Chevy... Read More about Eric Brandt

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  1. I always assumed it was better to have audio on the left because you’re going to use it more than cruise control, so it encourages you to keep both hands on the wheel more often. 

  2. On a 2017 Jeep Cherokee I rented recently, the audio is on both sides – two rockers behind the wheel, roughly where you’d expect paddle shifters to be located in sportier vehicles. One rocker is for volume and the other is for changing tracks.

    So it’s not just left/right 😛
  3. I have owned several Toyotas of differing models. Regardless of where the audio input is, the cruise is a separate stalk at the 4 o’clock position behind the steering wheel. My wife’s Sienna has soooooo many buttons on the steering wheel. It’s as if they wanted to one-up Ferrari by moving buttons to the wheel. 

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