A clock spring is a vehicle’s steering system component responsible for maintaining an electrical connection between the steering wheel and the airbag, horn, and other electrical components. It is a coiled wire wound around and housed in a protective casing. As the steering wheel is turned, the clock spring uncoils and recoils, allowing the wires to stretch and contract without breaking. Over time, the clock spring can wear out or become damaged, leading to issues with the steering column’s airbag or other electrical components. One of the most common symptoms of a faulty clock spring is the airbag light staying on all the time.
What does the clock spring do?
A clockspring (clock spring) 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. You turn your steering wheel; you will always maintain contact between the airbag and the control module.
How much does it cost to replace a 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.
How do I know if my clock spring is broken?
Clock springs frequently fail on all makes and, as a result, cause the airbag light or SRS light to come on. When you run a full system scan on your vehicle, you will almost always have a fault code that directly or indirectly points to a faulty clock spring. In the example below, fault codes point to open circuits for the driver’s airbag and the circuit for the steering wheel control buttons. These fault codes were all caused by a defective clockspring.
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 is 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, 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.
- A 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 clockspring will break.
- ESP / ETS / TCS light on – These systems require steering angle position, and on certain vehicles, that function is integrated inside the clockspring.
The clockspring may be defective if you have one or more of these symptoms.
Can a clock spring be repaired?
Most clock springs can not be repaired successfully. In addition, the proper operation of the airbags is dependent on a working clock spring. Therefore, most auto repair shops will not repair a faulty clock spring. Instead, once the clock spring fails, it is recommended to replace it.
Since clock springs are inexpensive parts, we don’t recommend trying to repair a failed clockspring. Plus, you don’t want the clockspring not to function properly if you ever get involved in an accident.
Where is the clock spring located in a car?
The clock spring is located in the steering column and is mounted right underneath the steering wheel. 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?
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. Sometimes, you may need an OBD2 scanner to reset the steering angle sensor. The clockspring may have an integrated steering angle sensor in vehicles with stability or traction control. The steering angle sensor function determines the steering wheel’s position.
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 to Replace a Clock Spring
Our auto repair videos show many examples of how to replace the clock spring on a vehicle. Note that these instructions vary depending on the make and model. Always disconnect the battery and wait 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.
- Disconnect battery
Remove driver’s airbag
Remove steering wheel
Install Clock Spring. To properly install a new clock spring, see our guide: The Right Way to Set a Clock Spring.
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 turn 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 divide the number of turns by two. Spin the clock spring three turns back, and you should be in the center.
Calibrate the steering angle sensor. You may need to use an OBD2 scanner, such as the YOUCANIC Full System Scanner, to calibrate the steering angle sensor if the ABS traction control light turns on in your instrument cluster.
You will need a diagnostic scanner to read multiple systems, not just the ECU, to diagnose the clock spring. The YOUCANIC Full System Scanner can read multiple systems of any vehicle. Most generic OBD-II scanners only read the check engine light and cannot read airbag or steering angle sensor data. We hope you find the Clock Spring guide helpful. Check these troubleshooting and repair guides for more help on your vehicle.
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