My '01 Civic is intermittently making a ".

Tiny
BUMBLEBEEZY82
  • MEMBER
  • 2001 HONDA CIVIC
  • 84,000 MILES
My '01 Civic is intermittently making a "clicking" noise, coming from the steering column area, often when turning right (or when the wheel is going back after a left-turn). The noise sounds much like a playing card in the spokes of a bike wheel or the noise you get when trying to open a child-safety medication bottle without pushing down on the top.

I've taken it to the mechanic, but the can never get the noise to duplicate. Please help, I don't believe the car is driving "funny", but I worry about losing steering control.
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Friday, March 22nd, 2013 AT 9:55 PM

3 Replies

Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
That's a common symptom of the clock spring coming apart. That's a wound-up ribbon cable in a plastic housing under the steering wheel. It provides a solid electrical connection for the air bag, but since it's there, they also run the cruise control and horn switch wiring through it. Eventually you'll find the cruise control or horn won't work, or the Air Bag warning light will turn on. It can't get so bad that it locks up the steering wheel.
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Friday, March 22nd, 2013 AT 10:53 PM
Tiny
BUMBLEBEEZY82
  • MEMBER
Thank you so much for the quick response! It's great to know that I don't have to worry about losing control of the car due to this!

Can I safely assume that I don't need to have it replaced until I start seeing other symptoms, like the horn not working or the airbag warning light come on, or should I push the mechanic to replace the clock spring now?

Again, thank you so much!
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Friday, March 22nd, 2013 AT 11:33 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
No need to hurry. This could drag on for a long time as in many months or years. What is important to understand is you may never know when the horn or cruise control stop working unless you use them and they're dead, but the Air Bag system is a different story. Two of the wires are for the "initiator" circuit that lights off the pellet of rocket fuel. A break in either of those wires will be immediately detected by the computer. It will turn the system off, turn on the warning light to tell you it's turned off, and set a diagnostic fault code related to that. You won't harm anything by driving that way but the air bag won't deploy in a crash. If you sustain an injury that results in a lawsuit against the manufacturer, lawyers and insurance investigators will know from the computer which code was in memory and when it was set. You'll have to explain why you knowingly ignored a safety warning.

Also, just to cover all bases, we used to worry about accidentally popping an air bag when working around them but there are so many safeguards built in. In particular, when anything is disconnected, those connectors are shorted to prevent accidental deployment due to static electricity. When a wire breaks in the clock spring that break bypasses the safety devices. A nine volt transistor battery is strong enough to light off an air bag. When you walk across a carpet in the house and get a static electric shock strong enough to feel, that is at least 3,000 volts. Sometimes you can generate that much by sliding across the car seat. In actual practice you have to work pretty hard to fire an air bag. The only reason for mentioning this is to warn you of the tiny possibility of what could happen if the warning light goes ignored.
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Saturday, March 23rd, 2013 AT 12:39 AM

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