The clock spring is such an essential part of the car, that it becomes extremely difficult to drive if it gets damaged. WheelZine enlightens you about the need for and the working principle behind a car’s clock spring, and also provides a guide to change your car’s clock spring all by yourself.
Clock Spring or Clockspring?
Both “clockspring” and “clock spring” are correct ways to spell this word. As a matter of fact, this car part is called by a number of different names, including spiral cable, coil assembly, clock spring coil, cable reel assembly, contact reel, and coil spring unit.
While taking your car out for a spin, have you ever wondered how the various electrical systems in your car, right from the horn to the headlights, indicators used while turning, cruise control, and even the airbag mysteriously manage to remain in constant contact with your steering wheel even when you are turning it?
The key to this conundrum lies with a heavily underestimated device known as a clock spring. The clock spring is located between the steering wheel and the steering column. Its spring coil unwinds in one direction, and winds back up in the other, based on the rotation of the steering wheel.
Ours is an era of rash drivers, and road accidents are commonplace. Thankfully, to mitigate the dangers that drivers face each day, it is now mandatory to have an airbag in your car that meets federal standards, and which is constantly in sync with the car’s electrical system. Clock springs have a big hand in this too, as they act as the bridge between the electrical wiring of the car and the car’s steering wheel, wherein the airbag is located. In addition to ensuring our safety when we are inside our automobiles, these springs are quite heavy-duty and rarely need to be replaced.
Let us take a closer look at the principle behind the working of this indispensable device, followed by our guide to changing your car’s clock spring if needed.
How It Works
The principle behind the working of a clock spring is hardly complicated.
♦ The clock spring of a car basically consists of a loaded spool around which a cable or ribbon of conductive material is wound. The whole setup is enclosed in protective casing.
♦ The nature of the spring is such that when the steering wheel is turned in any direction, the spool starts feeding the cable to the system against the direction of spring pressure.
♦ When the steering wheel is turned in the opposite direction, the cable is retracted, and the spring goes to its rest position.
♦ One side of the clock spring’s cable (or ribbon) is connected to a socket inside the steering wheel, while the other is connected to the wiring of all the electrical systems that are associated to the steering wheel (the horn, direction indicators, and so on).
How to Change the Clock Spring of Your Car
One of the primary causes of a non-functional car horn and/or a flashing ‘check airbag’ light (even though your airbag has never seen the light of day―a testimonial of your superb driving skills) is the fact that your car’s clock spring needs to be replaced.
It is imperative to immediately change a clock spring that has been damaged. If you try to drive a car with a faulty or broken clock spring, you will experience a lot of difficulty when you try to rotate the steering wheel, and what’s more, if you prolong this, it will cause damage to other parts of your car too, not to mention putting yourself, as the driver, at risk.
It is generally suggested not to venture getting your clock spring repaired even though it may be less expensive to do so, in the interest of your complete safety. It is also advised to allow a mechanic to do the job, as you may inadvertently set off your airbag prematurely, causing you injury. However, if you wish to do it yourself, here are the steps to be followed.
- Keep in handy the user manual of your car, as well as the manual that came along with the replacement clock spring you bought, so that if a detail regarding either of the two raises its head, it can be immediately cross-checked. If your car manual includes a procedure to change your spring coil, follow it to the letter.
- First turn your steering wheel to the upright position, and turn off the car.
- Tightly wrap the steering wheel with tape over the slot where the airbag is located, so that in case it accidentally gets set off, its impact can be controlled at the very least.
- Disconnect the car battery, and wait for a good three or four minutes to allow the residual power that is connected to the airbag-launching mechanism to drain.
- Look for the screws, or nuts and bolts, that hold the steering wheel in place, and carefully remove them. They could even be located on the underside of the steering. Detach the steering wheel with the help of a puller tool. In the steering column, you will find the clock spring.
- Disconnect the faulty clock spring, and replace it with the new one. Follow the instructions in the manual if you need specific directions regarding how to connect it. Rotate the clock spring clockwise to the maximum extent possible, and then repeat in the opposite direction. After locking the pins in place, rotate the clock spring in the counterclockwise direction again so as to get the arrows to line up.
- Before you reinstall the steering wheel that you removed, connect the wires for the horn, airbag, and other systems on the clock spring to the respective ones on the steering wheel. The process of putting back the steering wheel is the exact reverse of removing it.
In this manner, you can change your car’s clock spring all by yourself.
It is truly humbling to think about how integral one spring can be to the proper functioning of our beloved car. Drive safe, and never ignore it if your clock spring needs to be replaced. We hope you found our little guide helpful.