Clock Spring

Clock Spring – Symptoms, Functions, Fixing, Replacement Cost

Paul Hadley

This article was recently reviewed by car expert Paul Hadley to ensure it is as accurate and helpful as possible.

Have you ever questioned how the steering wheel’s buttons can still interact with the vehicle’s computer when you turn the wheel in any direction, without the steering wheel getting locked up? When the driver clicks these buttons, the clock spring receives their command and alerts the onboard computer.

For smooth operation, it is concealed on the steering column. Because of this, it is unknown to most car owners, drivers, and do-it-yourself mechanics. You’ll notice multiple buttons when looking at certain cars’ steering wheels.

These buttons are all controlled by the clock spring. And this implies that when it fails, numerous system components will be disabled. Here, we will go through the signs of a bad clock spring as well as how to fix it. You’ll also be aware of the price of replacing one.

Clock Spring

A clock spring is a collection of flat wires twisted inside the steering wheel’s small, spherical housing. The wires transmit electronic signals to the car’s control modules whenever you push a button on the steering wheel. The wrapped cable inside the enclosure is where it gets its name.

The cable is wound into a coil that resembles a spiral torsion spring. Every time you move the steering wheel, the housing is attached to the steering column and steering wheel, allowing the wires to wound and unwind. You will learn why it breaks, what occurs when it malfunctions, and how to tell if your clock spring is broken in this article.

Function Of A Clock Spring

The wire coil inside it winds and unwinds as you spin the steering wheel, preserving an electrical connection for the airbag and steering wheel controls.

No matter how much or in whatever direction you spin the steering wheel, you always maintain a link between the steering wheel airbag and the airbag control module, the radio and its steering wheel controls, the horn button, and the automobile horn, and any other buttons or controls on the steering wheel and what they do.

The steering wheel does not return to its neutral position because of it, despite what you may believe. The caster angle of the vehicle, not the clock spring, is what causes a steering wheel to return to its center position once you let go of the wheel.

Positive caster angles are common in automobiles. A positive caster angle causes the front tires to try to return to their neutral position, facing straight ahead when the front wheels are turned.

This centering force impacts the steering wheel because it is physically connected to the tires. In addition, a true spring this small would probably not be able to overcome the steering assembly’s inertia in most automobiles.

Clock Spring Location

Clock Spring

The clock spring, which is usually included in the same component as the turn signal lever, is situated between the steering wheel and the steering wheel column. It cannot be accessed or even seen without removing the steering wheel and the coverings that protect the steering wheel axle.

To guarantee that the steering wheel is fitted again in the same spot, mark it before removing it. For a deep dive into the innards of the steering column, do head over to our write-up on the steering column replacement cost.

Why Is The Airbag Clock Spring Important

Behind the steering wheel, inside the steering column, is an airbag clock spring. This is just a flat ribbon cable harness that has been spirally twisted to simulate a spring. It allows your steering wheel to swivel while keeping all of your gadgets connected to their respective power sources and untangled.

Have you ever pondered whether the buttons on your steering wheel are connected to anything to function, why nothing gets tangled when the steering wheel rotates, and other questions?

The airbag clock spring, a crucial component behind the steering wheel, prevents your wheel gadget’s wiring from being tangled as you turn the wheel from side to side.

Your steering wheel’s bell housing contains a spirally wound flat ribbon wiring harness that will unstressfully contract and retract, keeping your cabling connected to its source socket without becoming tangled.

Clock Spring Repair

The wiring ribbon within your clock spring will break if installed incorrectly, requiring you to replace it again. Once it is correctly linked and installed in the bell housing, proceed as directed below:

  • It should first be completely spun to one side until you feel the stress.
  • It should then be completely spun to the opposite side while being counted. Stop once you experience that strain once more.
  • Divide the total number of rotations in half. Then, while halting in the middle, spin it back by the resulting fraction.
  • Without putting any strain on your flat ribbon wiring harness, this should give you plenty of turning access from one side to the other.

Clock Spring Replacement Cost

You should spend between $100 and $700 on parts, and the clock spring repair cost. The service fee will be between $50 and $400, while the part will cost between $50 and $300. Though expensive, it’s at least cheaper than the typical replacement cost for the entire airbag unit.

It is crucial that you follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for securely disabling the airbag if you decide to replace it yourself. Failure to do so could result in the detonation of an airbag, which could be fatal or seriously hurt someone.

For more information on this operation, consult the manufacturer’s service handbook or a set of auto repair manuals for your car. The instructions will probably, at the very least, advise you to unplug the battery and wait for at least 10 minutes to guarantee the airbag system has been deactivated.

Bad Clock Spring Symptoms

There are various additional symptoms that it frequently brings, some of which are more problematic than others. Some of the most typical signs of a bad clock spring include the ones listed below.

1. The Airbag Light

Although your car might not have many high-tech features, the steering wheel airbag is almost surely present. Due to the airbag’s vulnerability, even the slightest malfunction will cause the airbag warning light to come on.

This is because, in the event of a collision, even a minor malfunction in the airbag system might prevent them from ever deploying. But because of this, an airbag or the SRS light is the most visible sign of a broken one, particularly if the light turns on as you rotate the steering wheel.

For more insight on this issue, check out our guide on how to reset the airbag light, in addition to when did air bags come out, as well as what does ‘service airbag’ mean.

2. Defective Steering Wheel Buttons

Most contemporary vehicles include a large number of buttons on the steering wheel that you can use to adjust the radio volume, the cruise control, the horn, and many other features.

There is a high likelihood that some or all of these buttons won’t function if something malfunctions inside them. If this occurs, you can test the buttons’ functionality by turning the steering wheel while pressing them. It will be clear from this that there is a problem with it.

3. The Electronic Throttle Warning Light Or Traction Control

The electronic throttle control and traction control systems in your car are in tandem with the cruise control option (you can learn more in our explainer on does cruise control save gas, as well as how to save gas, and the ‘main cruise’ issue on a Honda). The electrical signals sent by the buttons on the steering wheel are disrupted when it snaps.

The electronic throttle and the traction control light may turn on because of this. This issue needs to be identified with an OBD-II scanner. Otherwise, though there are some benefits of turning off the traction control (and learn how to turn off traction control), driving with the light turned on all the time isn’t a good idea.

4. Airbags Fail To Inflate

The airbag warning light should never be ignored when it appears on the dashboard. The airbags may not deploy following an accident in the worst-case situation due to a defective clock spring. Of course, you wouldn’t want this to take place. As soon as your SRS or airbag light illuminates, have the problem rectified.

5. Sparks And Smoke From Electrical Sources

A short circuit between the steering column and the steering wheel may result from faulty wires detected inside it. Sparks and smoke may fly out as a result of this. It is a sign that there is a problem with the clock spring. To diagnose the issue, you must turn the automobile off.

6. Unfunctional Horn

If you intended to blow the horn, a broken clock spring might be to blame, but nothing happened when you pushed the button. In this situation, you might also try spinning the wheel while depressing the horn. It’s time to change it if you occasionally hear a noise.

7. Blown Fuses

While operating the vehicle, a faulty clock spring may occasionally cause some fuses to blow. Pick a test light and check the fuses if you notice that one or more of your car’s gadgets aren’t functioning.

These can be discovered in a fuse box in the engine compartment or on one side of the dashboard. You’ll have to swap out the blown fuses and the clock spring to solve the issue.

8. Weird Steering Wheel Noise

Clock Spring

Sometimes, a broken clock spring will make “rubbing” or “grinding” sounds. This noise results from unexpected friction within the steering column of a car, which is brought on by one or more related parts that are out of alignment.

These parts drag across one another in ways that would not otherwise be feasible as the steering wheel is rotated. This might be what causes that odd clunking noise when turning, the grinding noise when turning, a popping noise when turning, or if your steering wheel makes noise when turning.

Clock Spring Failure

A car’s usual wear and tear are typically blamed for its failure. This results from the ribbon of wires in a clock spring moving with each turn of a car’s steering wheel. Therefore, some deterioration is unavoidable.

Wear continues to increase until a failure eventually takes place. Any time a vehicle’s steering linkage is severed, failure can also happen due to the steering wheel over-rotating. Simply put, the turning radius of a vehicle’s wheels usually imposes a restriction on the steering wheel’s ability to rotate.

However, this restriction is abolished when a vehicle’s steering connection is detached, allowing the steering wheel to turn indefinitely. It’ll be harmed if a steering wheel is turned more frequently than it permits. The clock spring will need to be replaced to restore electrical operation fully.

Can The Clock Spring Be Reused

If it was properly removed prior to repair, reuse is not a problem. When removing the steering wheel from the majority of car types, you must make sure that it is in the center. Mark where the steering wheel is in relation to the steering axle as well.

When the steering wheel is removed, a little locking mechanism on many clock springs pops out, preventing rotation until the spring is replaced. Many units, nevertheless, lack this feature, so it’s crucial to avoid turning those when they’ve been removed.

If you’ve forgotten how many times it has turned, you can calculate it by rotating it the most in both directions before calculating the middle. Also, make sure the steering wheel is centered.

How Does The Airbag Effect The Clock Spring

When it malfunctions, your airbag won’t deploy because it relies on the air bag sensor that connects via wire. Therefore, if your clock spring breaks and your airbag warning light illuminates, it is essential to fix it so that you may be sure your airbag will function.

It’ll also impact your airbag if it needs to be fixed because you need to remove the steering wheel to fix it, which requires removing the airbag.

How Is A Clock Spring Diagnosed

It is quick and easy to identify a broken airbag clock spring. It may be difficult to remove from the steering column if you’re doing it for the first time. In the following part, we’ll go over how to do that. But first, let’s discuss how to test one.

  • It should be taken out of its place and put on a table.
  • Set your digital multimeter to read resistance when you get it.
  • Touching the two probes of the multimeter together will test them.
  • Check for continuity at the clock spring connector. You ought to receive a reading nearly identical to the one you previously recorded.
  • As you test it, rotate it. While spinning it, the reading ought to rise and fall. If you don’t receive these results, it’s broken.

How To Repair A Faulty Clock Spring

If a proper diagnosis reveals that you have a broken one, replacing the subpar parts is the best course of action. Depending on the issue’s root, you could choose to fix the clock.

  1. Disconnect the vehicle’s negative and positive battery terminals before turning it off.
  2. Step away from the car for 20 to 30 minutes to reduce the airbag’s electric flow.
  3. Remove the wheel assembly.
  4. Unplug the airbag sockets and remove the clock’s mounting nuts.
  5. Place the airbag in a secure location.
  6. Loosen the central bolt using the proper socket.
  7. Mark the direction in which the steering wheel and column point with a marker.
  8. Take the steering wheel off.
  9. Remove the wires from the connections.
  10. Remove the broken one and replace it with the replacement component.
  11. Attach the electrical harness.
  12. Reinstall the steering wheel and double-check its alignment.
  13. The airbag and electrical harness should be reinstalled.
  14. Replace the steering wheel cover and retighten all of the screws.
  15. Battery terminals must be connected.

Driving With A Broken Clock Spring

Driving a car with a damaged clock spring is not advised. This is because a few crucial vehicle safety components are grounded and powered by it. These include the horn and airbag on an automobile. As a result, risking one’s safety by operating a vehicle with a faulty one.

Can A Clock Spring Be Repaired

It is occasionally possible to fix a broken clock spring on a car. However, total replacement is widely regarded as the gold standard of repair. This is because it’s rather sensitive and frequently challenging to fix properly. It is also worth noting that it facilitates the operation of safety-related components such as the horn and airbag.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is A Clock Spring

A clock spring is a collection of flat wires twisted inside the steering wheel’s small, spherical housing. The wires transmit electronic signals to the car’s control modules whenever you push a button on the steering wheel. The wrapped cable inside the enclosure is where it’s named.

What Does A Clock Spring Do

A clock spring, sometimes known as a clockspring, is a spiral-wound unique rotational electrical connector used in vehicle steering systems that allows the steering wheel to turn while maintaining an electrical connection between the horn, other devices, and the vehicle’s electrical systems.

Is It Safe To Drive With A Broken Clock Spring

It is not recommended to operate a car with a broken clock spring. This results from a few crucial vehicle safety functions receiving power and ground from a car’s clock spring. These include an automobile’s airbag and horn.

How To Reset A Clock Spring

Start the vehicle, then let it idle for a while. Completely turn the steering wheel to the right, then to the left. Repetition of step 2 is required. Drive for ten minutes. The clock spring will rest. If the aforementioned procedures do not solve your problem, an OBD-II code reader can be used to quickly reset one. Scan the vehicle by connecting the scanner to it. To reset the steering angle sensor, adhere to the instructions. Programming is rarely necessary for it.

How Much Does It Cost To Fix A Car Horn

Horn replacement typically costs between $145 and $163. The cost of labor is expected to be between $70 and $89, while the cost of parts is $75. Taxes and other costs are not included in this range, nor are your particular vehicle or geographical area taken into account. Additional repairs may be required.

What Causes A Clock Spring To Break

When performing maintenance on the steering column, clock springs may break or fail due to normal wear over time. Additionally, it might malfunction if the gearbox, coupler, or rack and pinion are removed. For instance, while removing the rack and pinion gear, the wheel will spin freely if you don’t station it. As a result, it’ll snap, and an airbag light will appear on the dashboard. Other lights, such as the traction control light, might be seen. Additionally, the horn can stop working.

How Much Does It Cost To Replace A Clock Spring

A replacement unit will cost between $80 and $150 in parts; however, if a qualified mechanic replaces the clock spring for you, the typical job would cost between $200 and $400.

How To Test A Clock Spring

The clock spring should be taken out of its place and put on a table. Obtain your digital multimeter and set it to read resistance. Touching the two probes of the multimeter together will test them. Check for continuity at the clock spring connector. You ought to receive a reading that is nearly identical to the one you previously recorded. As you test it, rotate it. While spinning it, the reading ought to rise and fall. You have a bad clock spring if you do not achieve these outcomes.

How To Tell If Clock Spring Is Bad

The airbag warning light turning on is one of the most clear indications that your clock spring is malfunctioning. If it’s sprung, you can also experience problems with your steering wheel buttons or car horn not working at all or just operating in certain directions. If it’s acting up, you can notice occasionally working horn or steering wheel media controls, as well as flickering or irregular warning lights.

What Happens When The Clock Spring Goes Bad

One may frequently find that their vehicle’s steering wheel-mounted controls are no longer functional when a clock spring dies. Often, this entails using the radio or cruise controls. The actual wires that supply power and ground to each of these operations are divided, which results in this lack of operation. Unfortunately, the only way to make the clock work again is to replace it.

Where Is The Clock Spring Located

The clock spring, which is usually included in the same component as the turn signal lever, is situated between the steering wheel and the steering wheel column. To reach or even see it, you must remove the steering wheel and the covers that protect the steering wheel axle.

How To Install Airbag Clock Spring

Turn the ignition to the LOCK position after straightening the steering wheel. Doing this may make you confident that the steering wheel will remain in the proper place until you’re through. Turn the repaired unit slowly in the other direction until it stops. It should then be rotated 2.75 times in the other direction. The mark on the clock spring should line up with the mark on the outside housing as the clock spring is centered. It will be the same procedure you used to take it out, except in reverse.

Will Airbag Deploy With Bad Clock Spring

Replace the clock spring to prevent the airbag from failing to deploy when you need it. Please leave it to the experts to handle this. You’ll get into trouble if you don’t have the correct equipment and understand how to turn off the airbag before you begin drilling into the steering column.

What Will A Bad Clock Spring Do

Your car may experience a variety of issues as a result of a bad clock spring. The typical signs are airbag warning lights, power steering issues, and broken windows. There are a few things you may try to identify the issue if you think it’s not functioning properly.

Clock Spring: Final Verdict

Clock Spring

It is a clear indication that there is an issue if you notice that the volume of your car stereo changes or flashes only when you turn the steering wheel. Because the airbag light on your dashboard prevents airbags from deploying in the event of a collision, a broken clock spring can pose a severe safety risk and should not be disregarded.

If you have any of these problems, it is crucial to have your car inspected by a skilled mechanic as soon as possible if you have any of these problems.

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