The air bag (or “airbag”) clockspring is a key component of the supplemental restraint system (SRS) in your vehicle. Sometimes called the “airbag system”, the SRS is a passive system to protect the occupants of a vehicle. The system is composed of many parts, the main components being an array of sensors to detect a collision, a control module, and several strategically-placed inflatable airbag modules.
One of those airbag modules is mounted in the driver’s steering wheel. Unlike other airbags that remain stationary in the vehicle, the driver’s airbag must be able to turn with the steering wheel. After all, it is mounted directly in the center of the wheel. The airbag clockspring is a mechanism that connects the driver’s airbag to the steering column. The device ensures that a constant electrical connection is maintained between the airbag module and the SRS control module.
The way the airbag clockspring does its job varies from one vehicle model to another. Some clocksprings contain a long series of small wires wound up in a spiral between a pair of plastic plates. When the steering wheel is turned, the wires wrap and unwrap in both directions. One end of the wires is connected to the airbag, and the other end is connected to the SRS wiring harness in the steering column. Another type of clockspring relies on electrical contacts rather than internal wires. In either case, the clockspring is located ahead of the steering wheel at the head of the steering column.
The clockspring serves other purposes as well. For instance, since it is responsible for keeping the airbag wiring in constant contact with the rest of the SRS, it can also do so with other electrical connections, such as the horn, audio system, cruise control, or other features. When the clockspring goes bad, often as a result of a worn or broken wire or poor contacts inside, any one of the functions it serves might no longer be operational from the steering wheel controls.
Your airbag clockspring might be bad if you notice any one or more of the following signs: