Smart Wheel. Innovations In Steering Wheels
The Smart Wheel is a popular choice on many vehicles today, including many motor homes. The term “Smart Wheel” is more a type rather than a brand. It is more the term used for any steering wheel that contains multiple built-in switches and control devices. But, today we will look at the Smart Wheel as it is on diesel pushers and mid engines that we have or see on many these motor coaches.
The Smart Wheel is installed at the chassis manufacturer’s facility on units that the coach manufacturer has specified. This generally is not an after delivery installation as it involves far more than just replacing the actual wheel portion. A great deal of wiring and internal column related hardware is required.
So what does it offer that the standard steering wheel does not? It provides a convenient grouping of select controls and puts them at the driver’s finger tips. It allows the operator to be able to control certain functions without the need to remove his or her hands from the steering wheel. This therefore offers an additional element of safety while underway. Adding to that, the Smart Wheel used on motor coaches has an identifying touch profile that can eliminate the need to visually confirm the desired switch choice.
Looking at the specific switch applications, we see that there are two control groups. One group is located on the outer portion of the left wheel web between the spokes and a mirror image on the right side. Adding to the “Smart” in its name, is how some of these control switches react and function. Some are a little smarter than a mere on/off selection. The following is what each are and how they perform.
Headlights and Cruise Control
* Used to engage the cruise control if off.
* Used to reduce the cruise speed by 1 M.P.H. per depress if cruise is active.
* Used to activate higher idle and/or adjust the high idle downwardly.
* Used to reactivate the cruise control at the previous speed setting. (Unlike your automobile, many motor coaches are programmed to retain the previously selected speed setting even after the ignition has been turned off. This can be a handy feature that can allow you to return to your preselected cruise speed after a stop for fuel, lunch or just a rest. Note: If your cruise control is not programmed in this manner it can be changed. This however, requires a laptop computer, an appropriate connecting cable and a suitable OEM software download.)
* Used to increase the cruise speed by 1 M.P.H. per depress if cruise is active.
* Used to activate higher idle and/or adjust the high idle upwardly.
* Cancels the cruise control engagement while leaving it still armed.
* Toggles the cruise and high neutral R.P.M. on or off. (Armed only)
* Depressing while headlights are off causes them to light while the button is held. (Used for
signaling vehicles that are over taking you or related visual message.)
* Depressed while headlights are on causes them to blink off while the button is held.
* (Used for signaling vehicles that are over taking you or related visual message.)
(Applies also to daytime headlights)
Windshield Wipers and Clearance Lights
* Washer fluid applied and wipers auto cycle and go off.
* Depressed once causes the wipers to make one sweep and park.
* Depressed a second time will cause the wipers to sweep at a the same time cycle as the
amount of time between the first depress and the second. This provides a perfectly
timed intermittent cycle when driving conditions require the same.
* This activates the windshield wipers on low speed upon one button depress.
* Depressing additional times will toggle the wiper speed from low to high.
* Depressing this button deactivates windshield wipers in all modes.
CLEARANCE LIGHTS (Symbol)
* Depressing this while running lights are off will cause the tail and clearance
lights to illuminate while the button is held. (Used for signaling vehicles that are
behind you or related visual message.)
* Depressing this button while the running lights are on will cause the tail and clearance
lights to go off while it is held.
Well that pretty well describes the ten steering wheel mounted controls found on today’s Smart Wheel. In the future it would be great if they added perhaps at least two more switches. Switches that could be user specified or programmed. Such wheel mounted controls for say, the Jake Brake and tag axle lift would seem very beneficial.
Could the future of the so called Smart Wheel be totally programmable to suit the individual owner’s preference; giving the owner total choice and ability to re-assign each switch function. This should be feasible as more and more equipment and options are ultimately controlled by the ECM or similar digital module.
So, if you could have two or even more items that you could control from the button groups on your steering wheel, what functions would you choose?
Just Pushing All The Hot Buttons - Lug_Nut - Peter Mercer