Image of a clock spring

Understanding clock spring

The clock spring is one very important but frequently disregarded component. Most people are unfamiliar with the clock spring because it is also relatively hidden. Unfortunately, this also means that numerous operations could malfunction, such as when the clock spring breaks or develops other problems.

Image of a clock spring

The clock spring makes sure that the steering wheel can be turned while still having electrical functions built into it. However, the ability of the steering wheel’s electronic components to interact with the vehicle while being turned repeatedly in both directions may have baffled you. Well, the clock spring is used for this.

Today you’ll get to know the definition, function, symptoms, replacement cost, and how to fix the clock spring. You’ll also get to know the frequently asked questions about clock spring.

Read more: Reasons why a car horn malfunctions and the easy way to fix it

Let’s get to it.


What is the clock spring?

A clock spring is an assembly with a flat-ribbon spiral cable that can be extended and retracted as necessary to keep the circuit functional. In cases where the wiring for a specific circuit needs to move continuously, devices of this kind are used. Wiring in any other configuration would quickly deteriorate under such circumstances.

Read more: Understanding blend door actuator

The function of the clock spring

Numerous electronic car accessories that are controlled by a non-stationary controller perform more efficiently thanks to a clock spring. In order to accommodate a non-stationary circuit, a clock spring simply extends and retracts as needed. Currently, the design of the modern automobile steering wheel takes advantage of this.

The steering wheel buttons’ electronic signals are sent to the car’s control modules through the clock spring. In the case of an accident, it is also in charge of alerting the airbag in the steering wheel. The steering wheel may be turned without causing any damage due to the clock spring, which is a very long cable or string that has been twisted numerous times inside the clock spring assembly.

Read more: Things you need to know about car sensors

What causes the failure of a clock spring?

In most cases, typical wear and tear are to blame for a clock spring’s failure in a car. This results from the ribbon of wires in a clock spring moving with each turn of a car’s steering wheel. As a result, some wear and tear is inevitable. Wear continues to increase until a failure eventually takes place. Any time the steering linkage of a car is damaged, the clock spring can fail as a result of the steering wheel over-rotating.

A vehicle’s steering wheel can typically turn only as far as its wheels can turn. The steering wheel can turn indefinitely when a vehicle’s steering linkage is detached since this limitation is removed. The clock spring of a steering wheel will be damaged if it is turned beyond the range of revolutions permitted by the spring. To fully restore electrical operation, the clock spring will need to be replaced.

Read more: Lists of best OBD2 scanner

Location of the clock spring

The clock spring is located between the steering wheel and the steering wheel column and it is frequently part of the same assembly as the turn signal lever.

Location of the clock spring

You must take off the steering wheel and the covers covering the steering wheel axle in order to access or even see the clock spring. Always mark the steering wheel before removing it to ensure that it is reinstalled in the same location.

Symptoms of a bad or failing clock spring

Below are symptoms of a bad or failing clock spring:

Airbag warning light

Your car may not have many high-tech features, but it almost certainly has an airbag in the steering wheel. The airbag is a vulnerable system, and even the smallest failure will cause the airbag warning light to illuminate.

This is due to the fact that even a small flaw in the airbag system could prevent them from inflating at all in the event of an accident. However, this is why the most obvious indicator of a broken clock spring is an airbag or SRS light, especially if the light came on while you were turning the steering wheel.

Read more: Everything you need to know about a car SRS light

The buttons on the steering wheel are inoperative

On the steering wheel of many car types, there are numerous buttons, such as those for the radio volume or the cruise control. There is a very good chance that something is damaged inside the clock spring unit if you’ve discovered that some of these buttons, or all of them, have completely stopped working.

Try to operate these buttons simultaneously by turning the steering wheel. There is unquestionably a problem with the clock spring if they function only in a specific steering wheel position.

Warning light for traction control or the steering wheel

The traction control system and the electronic throttle control system both work with cruise control. This implies that the traction control warning light or the electronic throttle warning light may also illuminate if the connection to the cruise control buttons in the steering wheel breaks. You need to use an OBD2 scanner to check the trouble codes in order to determine whether the clock spring is what is causing these lights to come on.

Horn and other features won’t function

A broken clock spring may be to blame if you were going to use the horn, but it remained silent when you pushed the button. In this case, you can also try turning the steering wheel while pressing the horn button. If you hear a sporadic sound, the clock spring needs to be replaced.

Failing to pay attention to the airbag light may prevent the airbags from deploying in the event of a collision. If you disregard the airbag light, this might actually occur, which is obviously something you never want to experience. Therefore, it is crucial to have the problem fixed as soon as the airbag or srs light shows on your dashboard because your airbag will not deploy while the light is on.

Read more: Most essential names of car parts and their functions

Can you drive a car with a bad clock spring?

It is not recommended to drive a car with a damaged clock spring. This is due to the fact that a few essential vehicle safety features are powered and grounded by a car’s clock spring. A car’s airbag and horn are examples of these. Therefore, driving a car with a defective airbag clock spring may potentially pose a risk to one’s safety.

Clock spring replacement cost

The clock spring replacements on the majority of car models are relatively affordable; you may anticipate paying between $130 and $222 for the entire replacement. A clock spring will cost between $80 and $150 in parts only; however, if a qualified mechanic replaces the clock spring for you, the typical job will cost between $200 and $750.

Read more: How to get the best deal on car insurance?

How to fix a broken clock spring

Here’s how to fix a broken clock spring.

Remove the negative battery cable from the terminal and give the capacitors at least 10 to 15 minutes to drain. (Note that simply removing the battery terminals from the car will not cause the airbag light to turn off.) Hold the center of the wheel (where the airbag is located) in place while the wheels are straight and look for the screws. After that, unscrew them. Pull the airbag out of the way and unplug the connectors to remove it (you may use a pick to slide the yellow clips out when doing this). The screws holding the steering column trim in place are also visible while turning the steering wheel from left to right.

Mark the location between the steering wheel and steering column trim with two pieces of painter’s tape when the steering lock is engaged. When later putting the steering wheel back in its original position, this reference point will be useful. Use a breaker bar to loosen the steering wheel nut without completely removing it. Once the wheel is free, take off the nut and wheel to assess the clock spring. Disconnect the harnesses at the bottom or back to remove the clock spring.

Install a new clock spring in its place. Bend the tab until it snaps, then break it off. When reinstalling the steering wheel, use your tape marks as a guide to align it correctly. Install the harnesses and the airbag after tightening the steering column nut with a torque wrench (or your hands and a breaker bar). Reconnect the negative battery terminal and reinstall the trim piece on the lower steering column. After completing the last step, your airbag light should stop flashing.


What does a clock spring do?

A clock spring is a spiral-wound unique rotary 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.

How much does it cost to replace a clock spring?

Cost of Replacing a Clock Spring

The cost of replacing a clock spring often ranges from $200 to 750 dollars.

How do I know if my clock spring is broken?

  • Ineffective buttons on the steering wheel.
  • Airbag warning light illumination.
  • The steering wheel is emitting smoke.
  • The horn is not functioning.
  • Unusual sounds are coming from the steering wheel.
  • Warning light for the traction control.
  • Blown fuses.

What does a clock spring do with an airbag?

The driver’s airbag, horn, and other electrical steering wheel-mounted devices can all be operated while the steering wheel is rotated thanks to an assembly called an airbag clock spring that incorporates a spirally wound flat ribbon.

Why do clock springs fail?

Electrical ribbons and their connections can wear out with time, which can lead to clock springs becoming unreliable. If they are not changed after a car crash in which the airbag was deployed, they are also susceptible to failure. Common signs of a faulty clock spring include: SRS/Airbag light illumination

Will the horn work if the clock spring is broken?

The horn will stop functioning if the clock spring fails because it is also connected to it. To find and address the root cause as quickly as possible, this should warrant immediate attention. Until you fix or replace the clock spring, the horn will not work even if you replace it with a new one.

Do you have to replace the clock spring after airbag deployment?

Any impact sensors that melted or suffered damage from the collision must be replaced, as well as the clock spring. This is necessary for the airbag module to reset and function properly going forward.

Is it worth fixing a car with airbags deployed?

Even if the damage is minimal, getting into an accident is annoying; however, safety should always come first. Even if it appears unnecessary, getting your airbags reset or replaced is definitely worth the cost if the car hasn’t been totaled.

Do airbags still work after 20 years?

Generally speaking, no matter how long you own the car, your airbag won’t wear out or need to be replaced. Airbags do need to be replaced after 15 (or even 10) years, as several automakers used to insist on labeling their vehicles.

Will a car still run if the airbags deploy?

Yes, you can still drive a vehicle after its airbags have been deployed. There is no rule against driving with deployed airbags; it is absolutely legal to do so.

Is a clock spring necessary?

Clock springs are crucial to the proper operation of many systems in any car, including the horn, traction control, cruise control, and more.

How long does it take to replace a clock spring?

Average clock spring replacements take less than an hour to complete. The steering wheel cover will be taken off during the repair. The airbag will be unbolted and the wiring will be disconnected once the cover has been taken off. The entire steering wheel will be detached from the assembly when it is disconnected.

When should I replace my airbag clock spring?

If the clock spring is damaged during improper service on the steering system or, in some situations, if the car is involved in an accident and the driver’s airbag inflates, it may be necessary to replace it.

That is all for this article, where we discussed the definition, function, symptoms, replacement cost, and how to fix the clock spring. We also discussed the frequently asked questions about clock springs.

I hope you learn a lot from the reading. If you do, kindly share it with others. Thanks for reading; see you around!