Symptoms Of Bad Clock Spring - Spotting & Replacing

Date Posted: 18 October 2022 

Symptoms Of Bad Clock Spring  - Spotting & Replacing  main image Symptoms Of Bad Clock Spring  - Spotting & Replacing  image

Clock springs are an amazing part of your car. While ordinary wire would become twisted and break if used inside your steering wheel, clock springs are perfectly made for the job. Because your steering wheel relies on a healthy clock spring, it's critical that your clock spring is in excellent operating order. Read on to discover how to spot telltale signs that your clock spring is breaking or broken, and how to replace it.

What Are Clock Springs?

A clock spring is a coil or cable of flat wires looped inside a steering wheel assembly. The exterior assembly is divided into two parts: one that follows the steering wheel and the other that connects to the steering column. Your clock spring isn't actually a spring, but it got its name from the appearance of the coiled ribbon within the casing.

The coil of wires within the clock spring wraps and unwraps as you spin the steering wheel, allowing continuous power to ensure your airbags and steering wheel function. Irrespective of how much and in whatever direction you turn the steering wheel, a link is maintained between the airbag control module and the steering wheel airbag, the radio, your horn, and any other controls on your steering wheel.

Can You Drive With a Broken Clock Spring?

While it is possible to drive with a broken clock spring, it is not recommended. If your clock spring is damaged, the link between your steering wheel and your airbags has potentially been severed. This is particularly dangerous since it means that in the case of a collision, your airbag may not activate.

If you try to drive a car with a defective or broken clock spring, you will have a lot of difficulty turning the steering wheel, and if you do this for too long, it may cause major damage to other elements of your vehicle, like the horn and radio controls, not to mention placing you, the driver, in danger.

What Are The Symptoms Of A Bad Clock Spring?

So what happens when your clock spring goes bad? There are a few things you can be on the lookout for to make sure you don’t risk driving with a bad clock spring.

Your Airbag Warning Lights Will Activate

Even if your car does not have many sophisticated features, it almost certainly contains an airbag within the steering wheel. The airbag is a critical system, so even the slightest flaw in your clock spring will activate the airbag warning light. This is because even with the most minor fault, the airbag system may fail to deploy or deploy too late in the event of a collison.

Your Horn Is Not Working

Another sign of a faulty clock spring is a broken horn. When your horn button is pressed, an electrical charge runs from the battery via the clock spring to the horn. If the clock spring breaks, the electrical current is disrupted, and the horn will not be activated.

Your Turn Indicators Are Not Working

Another indicator of a faulty clock spring is broken turning signals. Switches on the steering wheel control your turn signals. These switches deliver an electrical charge to the front and rear turn indicator lights of your. If the clock spring fails, the electrical current cannot reach from the switches to the indicator lights, leaving you without turn signals.

You Are Having Issues With Your Power Steering

Power steering issues are another sign of a broken clock spring. This is because the power steering system relies on hydraulic fluid delivered to the steering rack through a pump. Crucially, this pump is powered via a current through the clock spring. If your clock spring isn’t working, the fluid cannot travel through the steering rack, making it significantly harder to turn your car.

How to Replace a Bad Clock Spring

To ensure your total safety, it is typically advised not to risk fixing your clock springs by yourself, even if it is less expensive to do so. Allowing a mechanic to handle the work is also recommended since you may accidentally set off your airbag, resulting in injury. If, however, you want to learn how to do it or are interested in knowing what process your mechanic will follow, these are the recommended steps.

  1. Move your steering wheel to the upright position, then turn off your car.
  2. Wrap the steering wheel securely with tape over the slot where the airbag is positioned so that if it is unintentionally activated, the impact can be mitigated somewhat.
  3. Remove the car battery and wait at least 5 minutes for the remaining power attached to the airbag-activation system to drain.
  4. Locate and gently remove the screws, nuts and bolts that secure the steering wheel.
  5. Using a puller tool, remove the steering wheel and locate the clock spring in the steering column.
  6. Disconnect the faulty clock spring. How to do so may vary between cars and clock spring models, so you may need to refer to user or owner manuals.
  7. Get your new clock spring, and rotate it clockwise in position as far as possible before repeating this motion counterclockwise. Ensure that the pins are locked and the clock spring is aligned with any arrows or marks on the outer housing.
  8. Reconnect the cables for the horn, airbag and so on to your new clock spring.
  9. Reattach the steering wheel, replacing any nuts, screws and bolts you removed.
  10. Replace your car battery and you should be good to go.

Don’t Risk It: Replace Your Failing or Broken Clock Spring

A broken clock spring or cable can cause several serious problems in your car. However, there are many signs that can alert you to wear and tear to your clock spring. If you spot these signs, it’s best to act fast. Get in touch with your mechanic and have your clock spring replaced. Just be sure to save money on repairs by grabbing a replacement clock spring from Machter.

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