Fix a Cruise Control Switch--Olds Alero (and Others)

Picture of Fix a Cruise Control Switch--Olds Alero (and Others)
I drive a 1999 Oldsmobile Alero. This model in all years and three other General Motors cars (Oldsmobile Cutlass, Chevrolet Malibu, and Pontiac Grand Am) share many things. My Alero is equipped with Cruise Control. The On/Off switch on these cars eventually stops working and there are numerous requests on the Internet for help with this problem. 

(The photo is from Bing Images. It does show a 1999 Alero, but mine is bronze in color rather than red.)
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Step 1: The steering wheel with controls

Picture of The steering wheel with controls
The Cruise Control can be made to work by holding the switch button down, but as soon as it is released, the Cruise Control shuts down, which means it does no good for anyone. See the yellow text box on the left.

The switches on both the left and right side of the steering wheel are parts of one harness and are not sold separately. Internet prices for this switch harness combination come to about $53 (plus shipping and handling). Having these switches replaced at a dealership shop cost about $200 around 2007. The rest of my car still works well, but I do not want to spend that much money on a Cruise Control switch set for a twelve year old car with more than 100,000 miles on the odometer. And, should we replace the car, it will be easier to sell if the Cruise Control switch works properly.

I live in the USA and our automobiles have the steering wheel on the left-hand side of the car. When I use the phrase "driver's side" it means left side of the car. If I use the phrase "passenger side" it means the right side of the car. I realize that is not the scheme used in some other parts of the world.

rimar20003 years ago
Nice car! And excellent instructable.
Phil B (author)  rimar20003 years ago
Thank you. They look nice with red paint. For a couple of years I talked about having a red one. My wife said she would get mine painted red instead of bronze/tan. THEN, I noticed the red cars of this make were all driven by young teenage girls with bleached hair who talked on cell phones while they drive and do not always obey traffic laws. I immediately lost all interest in a red Oldsmobile Alero.

Because the car is so similar to a Pontiac Grand Am, General Motors decided to economize. They closed the entire Oldsmobile division. I now drive a car brand that is no longer available. Of all of the automobiles I have driven, this one has required fewer repairs than any other. Even with so many miles driven by it, the car is as good as it was when I bought it eleven years ago. I change the oil more often than the factory asks and I do all of my own repair work.
ussauto Phil B3 years ago
Hello. I can't tell from the photos but do you know what color the wires are for the two outer pins? I was going to bypass taking the column/wheel apart and just trace the wires in the harness then connect them together or put switch in.
Thank you for any help you can give
Phil B (author)  ussauto3 years ago
I no longer have the car or the Haynes manual I bought for it, but have sold the car to a friend whose commuter car lost its transmission, and I gave him the manual with the car. It looks from the photo as if one of the outer wires might be a tan color and the other a mauve or light purple color, but I cannot say for certain. It really is not a time consuming or difficult job to remove the air bag section from the steering wheel and look. You could even trace the wires with a continuity tester, in case the manufacturer changed colors after the commutator that allows the current to flow even though the steering wheel turns. I am sorry I cannot give you more help. Thank you for looking. If you have one of these cars and the cruise control is not working, you will enjoy the fact you fixed it yourself with so little effort and expense. I hope all goes well for you.
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Phil B (author)  DELETED_sjoshi23 years ago
You are welcome. Thank you for looking. I hope you can use it. When I see another Alero on the road, I always wonder if their cruise control works. Then I smile because I enjoy using mine so much.

If you have not seen it, you may want to look at the Instructable I did on replacing the ignition switch. My instrument gauges began to act up and I first thought the problem was related to electrical resistance or the stepper motors and did another Instructable first that is linked in the one on replacing the ignition switch. If you drive an Alero, you might want to look at those. They could save you a lot of money.
Ashemha3 years ago
Good detail, easy to follow. I like this kind of repair. Lots of intuition, a little initiative, and just a touch of manual reference. This information will be helpful for others with similar makes.
Phil B (author)  Ashemha3 years ago
Thank you for looking and commenting. I would have been lost without the Haynes manual, but tried to give all necessary information in the Instructable so anyone without a manual can do just fine. I am hoping someone who needs this will find it and be able to fix his cruise control. I appreciated your Instructable on the turn signal problems you had with a similar car.