What Does The Airbag Clock Spring Do? (Your Complete Guide)

Most of us drive vehicles with airbags in our steering wheels, not to mention many extra buttons on the steering wheel for easier driver access. Buttons like cruise control, radio controls, even the horn actually take a wiring harness that runs to the computer system.

However, you may wonder how they all stay untangled when the steering wheel has to spin from side to side? If you’d like to find out, keep reading!

What Does The Airbag Clock Spring Do?

An airbag clock spring sits behind your steering wheel inside the steering column. This clock spring is just a spirally wound flat ribbon wiring harness that acts like a spring, allowing your steering wheel to move from side to side while still keeping all of your steering wheel gadgets untangled and connected to its original power source.  

Have you ever wondered if all of those buttons on your steering wheel have to be attached to something to work, why things don’t get tangled when the steering wheel moves and more? If so, keep reading for more useful facts!

The airbag clock spring is the key mechanism that sits behind your steering wheel that keeps all of your wheel gadget’s wiring from getting tangled up while you turn it from side to side.

Using a spirally wound flat ribbon wiring harness inside a bell housing, inside your steering wheel, the wiring harness will unstressfully contract and retract, allowing your wiring to all stay connected to its source plug without getting tangled.

Does Clock Spring Affect The Airbag?

Does Clock Spring Affect The Airbag?

Since your airbag uses a sensor that uses a wire, your airbag won’t deploy when the clock spring goes bad.

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So, if your clock spring goes bad and your airbag warning light comes on, it’s best to fix the clock spring just so you know your airbag will work.

One other way your airbag will be affected by your clock spring is if it has to be repaired, as you have to remove the airbag to get the steering wheel off to fix the clock spring.

Why Do Clock Springs Fail?

Clock springs are like any other part in your vehicle that’s used regularly- failure is just inevitable from wear and tear. They shouldn’t fail often or quickly/low miles, but they will fail on their own for no special reason.

Another reason you might have a clock spring problem is if your airbag has been deployed. If so, your clock spring should also be replaced.

What Are The Symptoms Of A Bad Clock Spring?

Two of the biggest signs that you have a worn-out or bad clock spring is if your steering wheel controls are faulty or not working at all, or warning lights on your dashboard will come on (i.e., Traction Control, Airbag, Cruise Control, etc).

Does The Clock Spring Control The Horn?

Your horn does get its electrical power from the flat ribbon wiring harness inside the clock spring, so if your horn doesn’t work, this could be a clock spring problem.

However, it should be noted that horns themselves go bad as well. So if your horn isn’t working, but all of your other steering wheel gadgets are, then you may have a worn-out horn.

Do You Need To Replace Clock Spring?

Technically, your vehicle will still run fine with a bad clock spring, but you’ll lose all of your steering wheel functions, and if you find them very convenient, you would have to replace them to regain those functions.

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How To Repair An Airbag Clock Spring?

How To Repair An Airbag Clock Spring?

If you install your clock spring incorrectly, the wiring ribbon inside will break, and you will be replacing it again. Once you have connected the clock spring correctly and placed it in the bellhousing, follow these directions below:

First, you want to spin your clock spring all the way to one side until you feel the tension.

Next, spin the clock spring all the way to the other side while counting the rotations. When you feel that tension again, you need to stop.

Divide your full number of rotations in half, and spin the clock spring back by the divided number while stopping in the center. This should give you plenty of turning access one side to the other without putting any stress on your flat ribbon wiring harness.

Is A Clock Spring Covered Under Warranty?

If your vehicle is under warranty, then your clock spring is definitely covered. Since your airbags won’t work if your clock spring doesn’t work, by NHTSA law, your clock spring has to be covered under warranty.

Will A Bad Clock Spring Deploy An Airbag?

A bad clock spring won’t deploy your airbag, in fact, it will make sure your airbag does not deploy.

So if you have a bad clock spring and you’re in one of those unfortunate situations where the right requirements are met for airbag deployment, a bad clock spring will ensure that the airbag does not employ.

When Should I Replace My Airbag Clock Spring?

There are only two different reasons you should have to replace your airbag clock spring, the first being that if it actually does wear out from wear and tear, and the second is if your airbag had to be deployed.

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If you have no problems with your steering wheel gadgets and no warning lights on your dashboard, there should be no reason to tear out your airbag and steering wheel for a part that still works.

What Is Another Name For An Airbag Clock Spring?

What Is Another Name For An Airbag Clock Spring?

There could be a couple of different names someone refers to as an airbag clock spring: steering wheel clock spring, clock spring assembly, cable reel, contact reel, spiral cable, or simply a clock spring.

Overall, it just depends on what type of vehicle it is and what part of the country/world you’re from.

To learn more, you can also see our posts on how to disable airbags, what are advanced airbags, where is the airbag sensor located, when did airbags become mandatory, and if you can sell used airbags.


Clock springs are very important to the deployment of your airbags, and may be very important to you if you enjoy the steering wheel gadget control comfort.

Clock springs will wear out from many miles of usage, and should be fixed within a reasonable amount of time when they do wear-out. Your vehicle can run with a broken clock spring, but it’s not recommended because of the airbag situation.

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