Airbag Clock Spring: Symptoms and Replacement - Auto Care (2023)

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Airbag Clock Spring: Symptoms and Replacement - Auto Care (1)

A clock spring is a coil of flat wires looped into a steering wheel assembly. The exterior component has two parts: one follows the steering wheel and the other attaches to the steering column.

Depending on the vehicle and where you live, this component is known as a spiral cable, airbag clock spring, steering wheel clock spring, clock spring assembly, cable reel, or contact reel.

The clock spring isn’t really a spring at all, but the coiled ribbon inside the case gives it that name. This coiled ribbon resembles a spiral torsion spring in shape, but it does not compress and release stored energy like a real spring would.

(Video) How to Replace a Clock Spring (airbag light & horn not working)

The electrical systems for the airbag and steering wheel are connected at one end by a clock spring and at the other end by a conductive ribbon. Clock springs assist in the operation of systems such as turn signals, the horn, cruise control, and others. The circuitry engraved on the conductive ribbon allows currents to freely flow through the channels as the wheel revolves.

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Where can you find Clock Springs?

Clock springs are found between the steering wheel and the car’s steering column. They’re round discs with rolled-up electrical connections in the form of a conductor ribbon. The ribbon on the disc rolls up and down as the steering wheel rotates to the left and right.

Symptoms of a Faulty Clock Spring

Depending on the symptoms, diagnosing a faulty clock spring can be very simple. You may notice a number of seemingly unconnected faults, such as broken steering wheel buttons and an airbag warning light.

  • When the steering wheel is in one position, these components may work, but they will stop working as soon as you touch or turn the steering wheel. A flashing warning light or irregular, inconsistent operation could indicate an intermittent connection.
  • If the ribbon has disengaged from the terminals and is rubbing against the side of the housing, you may hear a rubbing, scraping, or grinding sounds from inside the steering wheel.
  • A frayed or broken ribbon cable could get lodged between the two halves of the clock spring’s casing, making the steering wheel a little more difficult to turn. It is important to address these symptoms as soon as possible if you detect them. More than malfunctioning volume controls can be the result of a damaged clock spring.
  • It’s possible that you’ll be left without cruise control, a working horn, and, most crucially, a working airbag. You wouldn’t be able to warn an inattentive driver in this case, and the airbag might not deploy in the event of a crash.
  • The angle of the steering wheel is also used by some vehicles for traction and stability control calculations. If these systems work at all, a broken clock spring will leave them in a deteriorated state.

Cost of a New Clock Spring

Clock springs are reasonably priced, with prices ranging from $50 to $200 depending on the car. Expect to pay up to $300 for labor, which is quite basic and should take 1-2 hours.

It’s critical to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for securely disabling the airbag if you attempt to replace the clock spring yourself. Failure to do so may result in an airbag detonation, which might result in serious injury or death.

For more information, consult your vehicle’s official service manual. At the absolute least, the instructions will tell you to unplug the battery and wait at least 10 minutes to guarantee the airbag system is disabled.


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Because some car models have the clock spring incorporated with some steering wheel control modules, there is a significant price variation. This is quite dumb, and it might make the repair very expensive if you have to replace the entire machine.

The steering angle sensor, which must be programmed and calibrated after the clock spring is replaced in many automobile models, is likewise incorporated into the clock spring. This can increase the cost of labor because unique diagnostic tools are frequently required.

How to Take Out and Replace a Clock Spring

Clock springs come in a variety of styles depending on the make and model of your car, but they are always removed in the same way. If you have a broken clock spring that needs to be repaired or replaced, there are a few easy ways to do so while maintaining necessary safety procedures.

  • While the car is turned off, unhook the negative battery cable, then the positive.
  • Allow at least 20 or 30 minutes for your car’s airbag system to lose its charge.
  • Disconnect the airbag from the wiring harness by removing the nuts that hold it in place under the steering wheel.
  • Place the airbag face up in a safe place.
  • Using a suitable size socket, remove the middle bolt.
  • Mark the location of the steering column and wheel with a pen to ensure that they are properly aligned when the wheel is replaced.
  • Remove the steering wheel (steering wheel puller may be required) and any bolts that hold the box on the outside of the assembly together. Remove the outside box from the equation.
  • Disconnect the connectors or electrical harness.
  • Remove the old clock spring and replace it with the new one, making sure to connect all of the wires.
  • Replace the steering wheel in the same position as when it was removed; do not turn the wheel.
  • Reattach the airbag and all necessary wires in a clean manner.
  • Replace the wheel cover and tighten all essential bolts and nuts.
  • Replace your battery and reconnect it.

Is it Possible to Repair a Clock Spring?

It is not worth mending the clock spring. To be fair, you could probably change the wire or clock spring inside of it, but I don’t think it’s worth the effort. It’s also unlikely that you’ll be able to get a clock spring wire for your precise automobile model.

It’s not very typical for the clock spring to fail in the first place, and they’re usually quite inexpensive, so replacing the entire unit is, in my opinion, a far better option.

Is it Possible to Reuse a Clock Spring?

If you removed the clock spring correctly, you should be able to reuse it after the repair.

(Video) How BMW clock spring works

When removing the steering wheel from most car types, ensure it is in the centre. You should also make a note of where the steering axle is in relation to the steering wheel. When the steering wheel is removed, many clock springs contain a little locking mechanism that will come out, preventing the steering wheel from rotating until it is reinstalled. Many clock spring types, however, do not have this feature, and in this case, it is critical not to spin it once it has been removed.

If you lose track of how many times the clock spring turns, you may figure it out by turning it to the maximum in both directions and then calculating the midpoint, making sure the steering wheel is likewise in the center.

Summary of airbag clock spring replacement

The clock spring is a special connector that allows a vehicle’s steering wheel to revolve while maintaining contact with the airbag, horn, and other electrical components. Between the steering wheel and the steering column is this unique component.

A clock spring is a flat cable twisted in a spiral pattern to resemble a clock spring.

The average clock spring repair job will take less than an hour.

The steering wheel cover will be removed during the repair process. The airbag will be unbolted and the electrical wires will be disconnected after the cover is removed. The entire steering wheel will be removed from the assembly once it is separated. When the steering wheel is removed, the clock spring can be accessed and replaced with a new component. After that, the entire steering column will be reassembled, and the mechanic will double-check that all of the connections have been done correctly.

What additional costs are there?

The steering column is usually repaired or replaced with this type of repair. If it needs to be fixed, expect to pay an additional $100 to $300. If your car is a unique model or design, you may have to wait for parts to arrive. The parts will be more expensive in this instance. In general, the higher the value of your vehicle, the more expensive the repair will be.

What are some ways that you can save money?

(Video) How The VW Clock Spring Fails

Try to stay away from any car dealership. Many of them charge two or even three times what a local mechanic would normally charge.

Consider speaking with a few mechanics in your region if you don’t have a technician that you go to whenever your vehicle needs repairs. The majority of mechanics will gladly supply you with a price over the phone if you know the clock spring has to be replaced.

Consider doing the job yourself if you have some vehicle repair experience. You can do it very quickly if you use Youtube as your sidekick. You’ll need a screwdriver and a wrench set if you want to do the work yourself. These are simple instruments that the vast majority of people already have in their homes.

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