Clock Spring - How it Works, Problmes

Clockspring (clockspring) is a device that contains a wound-up wire (ribbon cable) inside and allows the airbag, horn, and steering wheel buttons to stay connected as the steering wheel is rotated as you turn the steering wheel left and right.

clock spring

You turn your steering wheel; you will always maintain contact between the airbag and the control module.

How much does clockspring repair cost?

cost to replace clock spring

The typical cost to replace a clock spring can range from $500-$1200. To save money, replace the clock spring yourself.

You can buy a replacement clockspring for most cars online. Replacing the clock spring is a simple procedure.

Symptoms 

bad clock spring

Clock springs frequently fail on all makes and, as a result, cause the airbag light or SRS light to come on. Here is a list of some of the most common problems you may experience when the clock spring fails.

  • Airbag light is on  A common problem often caused by a defective clock spring. If you scan the airbag system using a diagnostic scanner, you may get any of the following errors:
    • Driver Airbag Squib Circuit High Resistance
    • Airbag circuit resistance too high
    • Driver Side Air Bag Circuit High Resistance or Open
    • Driver squib circuit open!
  • Horn doesn't work  In some cases, a bad clock spring can cause the horn to stop working. 

  • The cruise control switch does not work  On models where the cruise control is mounted on the steering wheel. If that's the case, the cruise control wires are routed via the clockspring.

  • Steering wheel buttons don't work – Your radio or stereo may perform adequately, but you can no longer change volume, change stations or control the radio from the steering wheel. You can no longer answer phone calls or hang up using your steering wheel buttons.

  • Rubbing noise when you turn the steering wheel is one of the early warning signs that the clockspring is starting to fail. Eventually, the clockspring will wear, and the ribbon inside the clock spring will break.

  • ESP / ETS / TCS light on  – These systems require steering angle position, and on certain vehicles, that function is integrated inside the clockspring.

Where is the clock spring located in a car?

The clockspring is located in the steering column and is mounted right underneath the steering wheel.

location of clock spring

The clock spring has wires that connect to the airbag and steering wheel buttons and, on the opposite side, has an electrical wire harness plugged into it.

How does a clock spring work?

In some cases, you may need an OBD2 scanner to reset the steering angle sensor.

The driver's airbag may not deploy if the SRS or airbag light is on due to a broken clock spring, resulting from normal usage over time.

The driver's airbag circuit will trigger a high resistance fault code, potentially causing the driver's airbag not to deploy if involved in an accident.

clock spring location

In vehicles with stability control or traction control, the clockspring may have an integrated steering angle sensor.

The steering angle sensor function is to determine the position of the steering wheel.

This data is used by traction control or ABS and other systems such as ESC / ESP / TCS.

The steering wheel position is reported in degrees, and if you turn the steering wheel one complete revolution, the angle will be +/-360 degrees. Seven hundred twenty degrees for two steering wheel revolutions to the right and -720 for two complete steering wheel revolutions to the left.

 

How do you replace a clock spring? 

what is an airbag clock spring

The following video series shows you how to replace the clock spring on a vehicle. Note that these instructions vary depending on the make and model.

Remember always to disconnect the battery and wait for 5 minutes before replacing or disconnecting airbag restraint system components.

Once the clockspring has been replaced, you may need to clear the airbag module codes if your SRS/airbag was on.

  1. Disconnect battery 

  2. Remove driver's airbag

  3. Remove steering wheel

  4. Remove clockspring

  5. Install Clock SpringTo properly install a new clock spring, see our guide: The Right Way to Set a Clock Spring.

    install clock spring in car
  6. The last step is to install the clock spring. Make sure the wheels are pointed straight forward before you remove the old clock spring. Find the center position of the clock spring. You can do this by turning the clock spring to the left and stop as soon as you feel slight resistance. Then turn it to the right and count the total turns. Let's say you get six full turns. Now dive the number of turns by two. Spin the clock spring three turns back, and you should be in the center.
  7. Calibrate steering angle sensor You may need to use an OBD2 scanner such as this Foxwell Scanner Steering Angle Calibration to carry out steering angle sensor calibration if the ABS traction control light turns on in your instrument cluster.

    clock spring replacement

 

You will need a diagnostic scanner to read multiple systems, not just the ECU, to diagnose the clock spring.

Most generic OBD-II scanners only read the check engine light and cannot read airbag or steering angle sensor data. Yoengine light and cannot read airbag or steering angle sensor data. You can buy a Multi-system OBD2 Scanner online. Most cost between $150-$200 that can perform multi-system diagnosis.