clock spring

Clockspring Problem, Replacement, Cost

Last Updated on Tuesday Apr 24, 2018

Clock spring (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 to make left and right turns. Regardless of the angle that you turn your steering wheel, you will always maintain contact between the airbag and the airbag control module. 

clock spring ribbon cable

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The cost to replace the clock spring at the dealer or auto repair shops ranges from $500-$1200. Did you know that most clock springs cost less than $150 when purchased online? Replacing the clock spring is very a straightforward procedure. It doesn't take more than an hour for an experienced mechanic and about two hours for most DIYers. If you work on your car, consider buying the clock spring online and install it yourself.  Note that some cars require that you perform steering angle sensor calibration after a clock spring is replaced. After you replace the clock spring, start the car and turn the steering wheel full left then right a couple of times. This will often reset the steering angle sensor. If that doesn't work you will need to carry out steering angle sensor calibration using a Level 2 OBD2 scanner such as Launch Creader.

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1. How does a clock spring work? 

In some cases, you may need a Level 2 OBD2 scanner to reset steering angle sensor.

  • IMPORTANT

Driver's airbag may not deploy if the SRS or airbag light is on due to due to a damaged clock spring which can result even from normal usage over time. The driver's airbag electrical circuit will trigger a high resistance fault code, potentially causing the driver's airbag to not deploy when involved in an accident. 

  • Integrated Steering Angle Function

clock spring locationIn vehicles that have stability control or traction control, the clockspring may have an integrated steering angle sensor. 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 full revolution the angle will be +/-360 degrees. 720 degrees for two steering wheel revolutions to the right and -720 for two full steering wheel revolutions to the left. 

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2. Symptoms of a bad clock spring

bad clock spring

Here is a list of some of the most common problems you may experience when the clock spring fails.  

  • Airbag light is on: The airbag or SRS light turning 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

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

  • what is an airbag clock springSteering wheel buttons don't work: Your radio or stereo may work properly 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. 

  • You hear rubbing noise when you turn the steering wheel: This 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 on the clockspring. 

How does a clock spring fail? 

The ribbon cable inside the clockspring gets crinkled or pinched and causes a short on the electrical connection. This is the most common failure with clock springs.   

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3. Where is the clock spring located? 

location of clock spring

clock spring replacementThe clockspring 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. 

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4. How much does clockspring replacement cost?

cost to replace clock spring

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. 

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5. Where to buy clock spring for any car? 

Don't pay $300+ for a clock spring when you can find new clock springs online for a lot less. For most cars, you can find a new clock spring in the $80-$250 range. In most cases, you can also install a used clock spring without any issue.

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6. How to replace a clock spring

dissasembly and replace clockspring

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

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

Step 1: Disconnect battery

Step 2: Remove driver's air bag

Step 3: Remove steering wheel

Step 4: Remove clockspring

Step 5: Install Clock Spring

install clock spring in car

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 neutral (center) position of the clock spring. You can do this by turning the clock spring all the way to the left and stop as soon as you feel slight resistance.  Then turn it all the way to the right and count the total turns. Let's say you get 6 full turns. Now dive the number of turns by two. Spin the clock spring three turns back and you should be in the center. 

Step 6: Calibrate steering angle sensor

clock spring replacement

You may need to use an OBD2 scanner to carry out steering angle sensor calibration if the ABS, traction control light turn on in your instrument cluster. 

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7. How to diagnose a defective clock spring


clock springTo diagnose the clock spring you will need a diagnostic scanner that is able to read multiple systems not just the ECU. Most generic OBD-II scanners only read the check engine light and are not able to read airbag or steering angle sensor data. There are a few scanners that you can buy on Amazon which cost between $150-$200 that are able to perform multi-system diagnosis. 

Watch the second half of the following video by Humble Mechanic to learn more on how to diagnose a bad clock spring. 

Related Resources

  1. Clock Spring Replacement - Toyota / Lexus Source: Youtube.com

  2. Airbag code =!driver squib circuit open! Source:justanswer.com 

  3. Repairing of short circuit in Airbag Spiral Cable Spring Source: Youtube.com

  4. How to replace an airbag clockspring Source: 2carpros.com

  5. Ford Quick Tips: #34 How Clocksprings Work and Fail Source: Youtube.com

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