Why is there a crackling noise coming from what seems like the steering column? This may also be the cause to why the lights on the steering wheel controls are burned out.
Steering Column on 2005 Chevrolet Avalanche 1500
If the other elsectical functions releated to the steering wheel are ok - the horn and the air bag - then I would think that the cracking noise is not releated to the lights being out. You may have a proplem with the steering upper intermidiate shaft - they tend to make what is normaly refered to as a "popping" noise.