5 Symptoms of a Broken Clock Spring (& Replacement Cost)

The clock spring ensures that you can turn the steering wheel while having electrical functions integrated in it. Here are the signs to look for if you think it's faulty

Repair Airbag Clockspring

You may have wondered how all the electronic components in the steering wheel can communicate with the car, even when turning the steering wheel several times in each direction?

This is the purpose of the clock spring! The clock spring is also quite hidden, so most people are not very familiar with this part.

If you have looked at the steering wheel on a modern car, you probably got surprised by all the functions. Unfortunately, this also means many functions that could fail, like when the clock spring fails and becomes faulty.

In this article, we will discuss the most common symptoms of a bad clock spring and the cost to replace it. Let’s begin with looking at the signs you should look for!

The most common symptom of a bad clock spring is an airbag warning light on the dashboard. You can also notice issues like non-functional steering wheel buttons or a silent horn. In rare cases, you may also see a traction control warning light.

Here down below is a more detailed list of the 5 most common symptoms of bad or faulty clock spring:

Bad Clock Spring Symptoms

1. Airbag Warning Light

Airbag Light

Even if your car does not have a lot of fancy functions, one thing it most likely has is an airbag inside the steering wheel.

The airbag is a susceptible system, and the slightest fault will light up the airbag warning light. This is because even the slightest error in the airbag system can cause them to deploy, or in the worst case, not deploy at all in case of an accident.

This is why an airbag or srs light is the most common sign of a faulty clock spring, especially if the light occurred when you were turning the steering wheel.

RELATED: SRS / Airbag Light On – Meaning, Causes & How to Reset

2. Steering wheel buttons don’t work

Steering Wheel Buttons

In many car models, you have a lot of buttons on the steering wheel, like the cruise control or the radio volume buttons. If you have noticed that some of these buttons or all of them stopped worked completely, there is a huge chance that something is broken inside of the clock spring unit.

Try to press these buttons at the same time as you turn the steering wheel. If they work in a special position of the steering wheel, there is definitely a problem with the clock spring.

3. Horn or other functions intermittent function

Horn Car

The horn is something you don’t use every day – if you are not living in India. If you were about to use the horn, but no sound came from it when you pushed the button, it may be caused by a faulty clock spring.

Also, in this situation, you can try to turn the steering wheel while holding the horn button, and if you can hear an intermittent sound, you definitely have to replace the clock spring.

4. Steering wheel or traction control warning light

Epc Light

If you didn’t know about it, the cruise control is working together with both the traction control system and the electronic throttle control system.

This also means that if the connection to the cruise control buttons in the steering wheel becomes bad, it can also cause the traction control warning light or the electronic throttle warning light to light up. To determine if it is the clock spring causing these lights to light up, you have to check the trouble codes with an OBD2 scanner.

RELATED: Traction Control System (TCS) Light – Meaning, Function & Causes

5. Airbags Won’t Deploy

Airbags Deploy

In the absolutely worst case, if you ignore the airbag light – it can cause the airbags to not deploy in case of an accident. This is, of course, something you never want to experience, but it can be the reality if you ignore the airbag light.

Therefore it is super important to get the issue fixed when the airbag or srs light appears on your dashboard because as long as the airbag light is on – your airbag will not deploy.

The function of a clock spring

Airbag Clock Spring

The clock spring’s function is to send the electronic signals from the steering wheel buttons to the control modules in the car. It is also responsible for sending the signal to the airbag in the steering wheel if an accident occurs.

The clock spring is a very long cable or string twisted many turns inside the clock spring unit, making it able to turn the steering wheel without it getting damaged.

This is also why it is essential to either reset both the steering wheel and the clock spring to the middle before installing it. If you remove the clock spring and install it in the wrong position – you will snap it off when turning the steering wheel. This is a widespread issue.

Clock Spring location

Repair Airbag Clockspring

The clock spring is located behind the steering wheel, often integrated with the unit where the turn signal lever is installed.

To reach or even see the clock spring, you have to remove both the steering wheel and the covers around the steering wheel axle. Remember always to mark the steering wheel before you remove it to make sure you install it in the same position as before.

Can a Clock Spring Be Repaired?

The clock spring is not worth repairing. You could probably replace the wire or clock spring inside of it, but I cannot see it being worth the struggle to be fair. Finding just a clock spring wire for your specific car model is most likely not possible either.

It is not very common that the clock spring will go bad in the first place, and often, they are pretty affordable, so a much better option is to replace the whole unit if you ask me.

Can You Re-use a Clock Spring?

After a repair, there is no problem reusing a clock spring if you removed the clock spring correctly.

In most car models, you need to make sure the steering wheel is in the middle when you remove it. You should also mark the position on the steering axle compared to the steering wheel.

Many clock springs have a little locking mechanism that will come out when the steering wheel is removed, and this will cause it not to rotate until you install it again. However, many clock spring models do not have this function, and in this case, it is essential not to turn it once removed.

If you lost the counts of the clock spring turns, you can calculate it by turning it max to both directions and then calculate the middle, and make sure the steering wheel is positioned in the middle also.

Clock Spring replacement cost

The average clock spring replacement cost is between $100 and $800, depending on the car model and labor costs. A clock spring costs $50 to $500, and the labor costs $50 to $300.

The big difference in the price is because some car models have the clock spring integrated with some control modules for the steering wheel. This is very stupid, which can cause the repair to be very costly as you have to replace the whole unit.

In many car models, the clock spring is also integrated with the steering angle sensor, which has to be programmed and calibrated after the replacement. This can cause the labor work to become expensive because you often need special diagnostic tools.

However, luckily clock spring replacements are quite cheap on most car models, and you can expect a total replacement cost of $100 to $200.

Written by:

Magnus is the owner and main author of MechanicBase. He has been working as a mechanic for over 10 years, and the majority of them specialized in advanced diagnostics and troubleshooting. Certified Automotive Diagnostic Technician.