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Signs of a Bad Clock Spring

CarPart  ·  January 6, 2023

Signs of a Bad Clock Spring

The clock spring is a component that sits inside your steering wheel. It is critical for your safety because it keeps the driver-side airbag powered and connected to the rest of the vehicle. So, knowing the symptoms when a clock spring goes bad is crucial for all drivers.

When your clock spring goes bad, you’ll likely see the following signs: (1) airbag warning light flashing on the dashboard, (2) horn and steering wheel controls not working correctly, (3) noises when turning the wheel, (4) fuses blowing, and (5) airbag not deploying in a crash. 

You can confirm the problem by checking your onboard diagnostics (OBD2) for related fault codes.

A bad clock spring is extremely dangerous for you and your vehicle. So, read this guide to learn what it is, what it does, and what happens when it goes bad.

What Does a Clock Spring Do?

One of the best ways to know your clock spring is bad is understanding what it does when it works correctly. So, let’s briefly examine what a clock spring is and what it does.

Your car has plenty of springs, but we’re talking about the clock spring in the steering wheel. That spring is an electrical cable wound up in a spiral shape, concealed within the steering wheel.

Like any other electrical connector, its purpose is to connect the steering wheel’s component to the rest of the vehicle. But, more importantly, it does that even as you turn the steering wheel left and right during each drive.

Whenever you turn to one side or the other, the clock spring ensures that the cables connecting everything can lengthen to remain connected. Then, the clock spring will return everything to its original position as the steering wheel does the same.

The clock spring is critical because it keeps the driver-side airbag connected to the car’s computerised system. So, no matter what happens or what position you’ve got the steering wheel, the airbag will deploy if you get into a car accident.

Besides that, the clock spring keeps any steering controls or buttons powered and connected to the rest of the vehicle. That includes any volume controls or hands-free phone buttons built into the steering.

The clock spring is critical for your vehicle. So, when it goes bad, you must get a clock spring replacement as soon as possible.

What Are the Signs that a Clock Spring Is Going Bad?

The clock spring is concealed inside your steering wheel, so you can’t see if it's damaged or broken. Thankfully, you can look for other symptoms to know if there’s a problem.

Here are the signs that your clock spring is going bad:

1. Intermittent Horn or Steering Controls

Remember that the clock spring keeps all your steering controls powered and connected. So even if your car has no control buttons built into the steering, it certainly has a horn that is connected all the same.

When your horn or steering controls stop working or only work intermittently, that’s your first hint that the clock spring is problematic. The electrical connectors or cables inside are likely broken and unable to deliver power to your accessories reliably.

2. Warning Lights or Fault Codes

The clock spring also keeps your driver-side airbag connected and powered. Given how critical the airbag is to your safety, the car can sense a problem with it.

So, another symptom of a bad clock spring is a warning light on the dashboard. That warning light is typically the airbag system light, warning you that the clock spring isn’t keeping the airbag connected.

Besides that, you can also find the same warning through the onboard diagnostics system and its fault codes. But, of course, you’ll only see those codes if you connect a scanner or reader to retrieve them from the car’s computer.

3. Noise While Steering

Sometimes, the clearest sign of a bad clock spring is a sound that comes as you turn the steering wheel. A clock spring in excellent working order won't make any noise when you turn the steering wheel.

So, if the sound happens only when you turn the steering wheel, you should get the clock spring inspected by a qualified mechanic. They’ll be able to tell you if there’s a problem and if you need a replacement.

4. Blown Fuses

A bad clock spring can also manifest in other parts of the car's electrical system. For example, it can lead to short circuits or overloading that blows the fuses in your fuse box.

Blown fuses are normal, but you’ll know there’s a problem when specific fuses keep blowing, no matter how often you replace them with new ones.

So, note which fuses are blowing, how often the problem happens, and which accessories are affected. It all leads back to the clock spring in your steering wheel.

5. Failed Airbag

You'll hopefully never have to deal with this symptom, but it's a clear sign that your clock spring has gone bad. If you get into a collision, but the driver-side airbag does not deploy, it's likely because the clock spring wasn't working correctly.

Again, this symptom only becomes obvious after an accident happens. Still, it’s a reminder that there are other symptoms you must not ignore until it’s too late.

Suppose you get into a car accident, and the airbag doesn't deploy. In that case, that's already too late to prevent injury or, potentially, death.

Is It Safe to Drive with a Bad Clock Spring?

No, it is not safe to drive with a bad clock spring. A damaged or faulty clock spring is inconvenient and annoying because it prevents your horn and steering controls from working correctly.

But that’s not the biggest problem here.

A bad clock spring is dangerous to drive with because it can prevent your airbag from deploying if you get into a car accident. Sure, your seat belt will reduce the chances of death and injury, but it’s supposed to work alongside a deployed airbag to keep you safe.

So, if your clock spring is bad, you must drive (very carefully) to your preferred mechanic immediately.

They must replace the clock spring and ensure that your driver-side airbag system works correctly. Given that it's a matter of life and death, this is one part replacement you do not want to delay.

Need a new clock spring? Check out CarpartAU. You can submit a request through the Part Finder to get your hands on a new clock spring that fits perfectly in your vehicle. Better yet, you can use the Part Finder to compare offers from different suppliers and secure the best deal available!


By Ray Hasbollah

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