How Clock Springs Work in Cars

The airbag and steering wheel electrical systems connect through a clock spring at one end and to the conductive ribbon at the other. help operate the systems needed for turn signals, the horn, cruise control and more. The conductive ribbon is imprinted with circuitry which allows currents to move freely through the channels as the wheel rotates.

Where are Clock Springs Located?

Clock springs are located between the steering wheel and column of the car. They are circular disc devices that contain rolled up electrical connections in the form of conductor ribbon. As the steering wheel rotates to the left and right, the ribbon roll-ups and unrolls on the disc.

Signs Your Clock Spring Needs Repair

Clock springs may become faulty with age due to electrical ribbons and their connections wearing thin. They also are likely to fail if they are not replaced after a car crash in which the airbag was deployed.

Common signs you have faulty clock spring include:

  • Illumination of the SRS/Airbag light
  • No sound when hitting the horn
  • Noises coming from the steering column

Removing and Replacing a Clock Spring

NOTE: Never attempt to work on the steering wheel or airbag system without disconnecting the battery first.

Clock springs vary in style based on the make and model of your vehicle, but they generally are removed the same way. If you have a faulty clock spring and are in need of repair or replacement, there are simple ways to remove it while taking the proper safety precautions.

  1. Disconnect the negative battery cable while the car is off, then disconnect the positive.
  2. Allow your car to diminish its charge to the airbag system for at least 20 or 30 minutes.
  3. Remove the bolts that keep the airbag in place under the steering wheel and disconnect the airbag from the wire harness.
  4. Store the airbag safely, face up.
  5. Remove the center bolt with an appropriate size socket.
  6. Make a mark with a pen where the steering column and wheel are to ensure they are properly aligned when you replace the wheel.
  7. Remove the steering wheel (sometimes requires steering wheel puller) and take out any bolts that hold together the box on the outside of the assembly. Remove the outer box.
  8. Disconnect the wiring harness or connectors.
  9. Remove the old clock spring and replace with the new one, connecting all the necessary wires.
  10. Replace the steering wheel exactly as it was taken off, do not turn the wheel.
  11. Reattach the airbag and the needed wiring neatly.
  12. Put the cover back on the wheel and tighten all necessary bolts and nuts.
  13. Reconnect your battery.
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