The Character Wheel is a feature introduced to the Grand Theft Auto series in Grand Theft Auto V. The wheel shows the protagonists of the game and gives the player the ability to switch between playable characters.
The wheel is divided into four quarters, each one for Michael, Trevor, Franklin, and the Online Player. Below each character is a number indicating how many missions are presently available for that individual. In free roam of Story Mode, the player can switch between characters at any given time, and when doing so, the player will occasionally find the chosen character in sometimes comical situations, including discovering the character inebriated or with a wanted level and being chased by police (these mostly occur with Trevor). When switching to the GTA Online character, the player will either find the character at a location defined in the Settings menu. If they are in a living space (i.e. Apartment or house) then the player may be in bed or in the shower.
In many missions in Story Mode, the slot of a character other than that being controlled by the player will sometimes flash white or red. If the slot flashes white, the player is required to switch to that character to progress the mission, is already at a meeting point, or just to simply show that the highlighted character is available to play as. If it flashes red, that character is in danger and the player must either switch to that character and wipe out the source of the threat or use another character to help him. A buzzing sound will be heard when an alert comes up on the character wheel. It can be heard here.
Character switching is disabled if one of the protagonists has a wanted level, during side missions or in missions, (unless these require two or all playable protagonists, such as Blitz Play), or if the player as Michael or Trevor enters Los Santos after finishing Minor Turbulence and before Monkey Business since they are being hunted by Martin Madrazo's men.
- Michael De Santa
- Franklin Clinton
- Trevor Philips
- GTA Online Protagonist
- Chop (only during the missions Chop and Predator, the player cannot control Chop)
- There is a trick to swim in the water without drowning by using the character wheel. When the player character is about to drown, switch to another protagonist and then switch back, and the original character will have his health restored.
- If the player damages or gets blood or mud on their vehicle, they can fix it for free by switching to a different character, and then switching back. This double switch also fills the health meter to max and fixes visible gunshot wounds or cuts on the player.
- Sometimes this trick doesn't completely restore the vehicle (i.e if the windows were broken, upon switching back they will still be broken), so the only way of fixing it is by either repairing it through Los Santos Customs, or save it in a garage and wait a couple of in-game hours. Quick-saving and loading after it also works.
- If the vehicle is too damaged, specially if one of the tires has been shot, upon switching back to that character that was driving the vehicle will instead appear at the hospital, and the vehicle will have disappeared. It sometimes happens when the player is severely injured (i.e. after being shot during a wanted level).
- If the player switches characters while the Invincibility Cheat is activated, it will instantly be disabled.
- At one point in the storyline Steve Haines will show up and ask Franklin to kill Trevor and at another point, Devin Weston will show up and ask him to kill Michael. Choosing any of these options will result in the player losing Michael or Trevor as a playable character. If the player tries to switch to the character killed, their slot will be faded out and they cannot be played with anymore.
- Michael and Franklin's slots will be faded out after completing Mr. Philips and before completing Friends Reunited after the events of The Jewel Store Job. This marks the only time that Franklin's slot is faded out.
- Michael has his slot faded out more than once during free roam.
- The first time is after completing Mr. Philips and before completing Friends Reunited as he is laying low after the jewel heist like Franklin.
- The second time is after completing Caida Libre and before completing Minor Turbulence as he escapes Los Santos into hiding with Trevor.
- The third time is after the events of Bury the Hatchet and until before completing Fresh Meat as he has been abducted by Cheng's Henchmen.
- The fourth time is if the player chooses to kill Michael.
- Trevor also gets his slot faded out more than once like Michael.
- The first time is Caida Libre and before completing Minor Turbulence as he escapes Los Santos into hiding. It should be noted that his and Michael's slots are both faded out while the player can only play as Franklin.
- The second time is if the player chooses to kill Trevor.
- If the player switches from one character to another and soon switch back, they'll find the original character in a situation that logically follows from the state in which he was left. For example, if a character switch takes place whilst one protagonist is driving on a freeway, if the player switches back to the original protagonist they will be a little further down the road. If the player flies a plane into a building and switches right before the crash, switching back takes the character to the hospital. Interestingly, the player will not lose hospital expenses.
- Sometimes, if a plane, a helicopter or a Blimp is crashed, they won't spawn at the hospital. Instead they will spawn mid-air with or without a parachute (killing the player instantly).
- Sometimes, if the player using one character switches to another character while the previous character is driving a vehicle and switches back to that character (i.e., playing as Michael, switches to Trevor and/or Franklin and back to Michael), that character will still be driving the same vehicle. Also, if the player character alights from that vehicle, that vehicle will be parked nearby during the short cutscene that is being played when switching characters occassionally replacing that certain character's default vehicle. For example, when playing as Trevor, the player destroys or abandons Trevor's Bodhi and steals another vehicle, switches to either Michael or Franklin and after a while switches back to Trevor, the same vehicle that the player (using Trevor) has stolen can be seen parked nearby, replacing Trevor's Bodhi during the short cutscene that is being shown when switching characters. This is easier if the characters that the player has switched to from the original one is not killed or arrested.
- If the aforementioned vehicle is a semi-trailer truck (such as the Phantom) with a trailer attached, the trailer will not appear, only the truck.
- If the player is close enough to another character in free roam to allow them to observe the previous character, the characters have interesting idle animations. Most of the time, the character the player just switched from will keep standing in the same place and pull out their phone and appear to be texting on it. Other times, they might pull out a cigarette and smoke it, including putting it out on the ground when they have finished it.
- Similarly, when the characters are really close (e.g. Blitz Play), player-activated switching happens nearly instantaneously, with the world slowing down for a split second so the player can reorient before rejoining the fray. To showcase the speed of these transitions, the player may fire a rocket with Trevor and then switch immediately to Michael or Franklin. Before the rocket even reaches its intended destination, they are in full control of the new character.
- If all three characters meet in the same area, one of them may turn invisible until switched to. They may also teleport to a different location in some cases.
- If two of the characters meet in a place, the character being followed will warn the player controlled one not to follow him. After some time, the character is being followed will kill the player controlled one even if the Invincibility code is activated. Michael and Franklin will punch the player controlled protagonist while Trevor will headbutt instead.
- A rare bug may occur if the player switches from one character to another, then switches back to the previous character: the car the character was in will sometimes transform into the default personal car. For example, when playing as Franklin and stealing a Comet, switching to Michael, then switching back to Franklin, instead of driving the Comet he just stole seconds ago, he'll be driving his personal vehicle. This is a rare bug which cause is unknown.
- Sometimes when switching to a protagonist character while in Grand Theft Auto Online, the game will switch to one of the other two instead. For example if Trevor is selected, the game will instead go to Michael. Whether this is intentional or a glitch is unknown.
- There is a glitch upon switching to Franklin. Rarely if Franklin is switched to and he's in traffic, the screen will show a very low-poly building and will freeze on that image, though the minimap still works. The only way out of this glitch is to get wasted or busted.