Clock spring

Tiny
BOBBY VIDRA
  • MEMBER
  • 2003 JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE
  • 4.0L
  • V8
  • 4WD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 85,000 MILES
I was wondering if all the clock springs in vehicles are the same like are they universal? Or do they need to be for the exact vehicle?
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Saturday, August 3rd, 2019 AT 10:08 PM

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Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
I've never seen any that interchange from one car manufacturer to another, but some will interchange between models and years within a manufacturer. This is going to be a question for the fine people at the dealer's parts counter. They are not universal, but you can't automatically say those from two different models or two years will be different. You can use web sites like for Rock Auto to see if the part numbers they list are the same for multiple vehicles, but this works best when you already have a donor vehicle in mind. (Look up your vehicle, then click on "Interior"). If you just want to find a list of all other vehicles that use the same part, visit any salvage yard. They all have large, very expensive books that list every part for your model and year, with a code number. You look that number up in the back of the book, and it will list every vehicle that could have used that part.

Be aware some optional equipment requires a different clock spring, so every vehicle listed using that one might not have it. The main thing is optional cruise control. If the vehicle came with that, there will be an extra circuit within the clock spring for those switches. On some vehicles as new as yours, all the many switches on the steering wheel are "multiplexed" through just one circuit, so those clock springs will be the same regardless of any optional features the car came with. When you're looking at one to compare to yours, once all the physical things look like they match, look at the number of pins in the connector. Typically you'll see four to six of them. If the replacement has more terminals, there may be a circuit in it that just isn't used in your car. It will still plug in. If the new one has fewer terminals, something is missing and you'll need to keep looking.

Besides optional features, you can often find identical vehicles with clock springs with different part numbers. Any time any modification is made to improve reliability, or sometimes if it comes from a different supplier, they will have different part numbers even though either one will work. This is why we have to go by application and not part numbers. If you buy a new one from the dealer, there's a real good chance it will have a different part number from what you're taking out.

Some clock spring housings will look the same, but the bright yellow or white plug for the air bag will have different key ways that prevent plugging them in. They do that to prevent using it in the wrong application when there is a valid reason to do so. Another difference has to do with how far the clock spring can be rotated from full-left to full-right. If, for example, you have one that makes a total of three revolutions from lock to lock, you don't want to use that in a vehicle with a steering wheel that rotates four revolutions from full-left to full-right. One way the ribbon cable will wind up tight, then get torn off at one end. The other way it will unwind too far, then fold over on itself at one end. The first way will destroy the ribbon cable instantly. The second way it will have to flex repeatedly before it cracks apart.

Also be aware new clock springs come locked in the centered position and it is absolutely necessary the steering system has to be centered when the part is installed. If the steering system is turned one way or the other, that ribbon cable is going to damaged. There's a plastic tape across the center hole to insure the assembly is centered. That tape is torn off when the unit is installed, but there will also be two lock buttons to prevent you from rotating the ribbon cable unintentionally. Those lock buttons are released by the steering wheel when it is installed and bolted tight. This is where most new clock springs are damaged by improper installation procedures by competent do-it-yourselfers, and even inexperienced mechanics. If the car is parked with the steering system off-center to either side, then the new clock spring, (which is centered), is installed, it is going to be off by one full revolution. No clock spring has that much extra ribbon cable to allow an extra steering wheel revolution. Either the ribbon cable is going to be torn off on one end the first time you turn fully one way, or it is going to unwind further than it is supposed to, and fold over on the end. Repeated folding like that will cause the ribbon cable to break in a few weeks or months, depending on how often you turn the steering wheel that far.

Many salvage yards will not sell used clock springs for multiple reasons. One is this is a critical part for a safety system. What you pay for a new one, that includes the liability insurance the manufacturer pays related to those systems. The salvage yards don't want to leave themselves open to a lawsuit if their used part fails. Another reason is they have to spend the time to remove the part, then they end up with a steering column they can't sell. If you find a clock spring at a "pull-your-own-parts" yard, check that the steering system is centered before you remove the clock spring. If you have a used clock spring with no knowledge of the condition of the vehicle it came from, since this is a rather time-consuming repair that you don't want to do again, you can take the cover off and watch the ribbon cable as you wind it one way, then the other way. There are usually a half dozen very small T6 torx screws to take the cover off. Once you have the ribbon cable centered, you'll see the two lock buttons that hold it locked in place until it is installed.

Look at the condition of the two-terminal plug that connects to the air bag. Those are usually melted from the burning rocket fuel when an air bag has deployed. Don't use that clock spring even if you are able to get the connector plugged in. No mechanic will risk a lawsuit or his reputation by using used parts in safety systems, especially once they've been in a crash. Same is true for crash sensors. Those will almost always test good, and will test good during the computer's self-tests it runs when you turn on the ignition switch. The fear is there is going to be an arced contact after a crash, and that bad spot is likely to be right where it needs to make contact during the next crash. This is why all the sensors get replaced during a crash repair. For vehicles up to the mid 2000s, there's another crash sensor inside the computer, so the computer gets replaced too, even though it looks like it's working okay. If you're in a crash, you want to be sure the sensor makes a solid contact as designed. Timing is critical down to thousandths of a second. That means the computer and all other sensors have to be mounted at the correct angles, and never modified in any way.
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Sunday, August 4th, 2019 AT 12:24 AM
Tiny
JIS001
  • EXPERT
Hello and welcome to 2CarPros. The answer to your question is no. Some clock springs have the steering angle sensor built into it. The software is also different. The fitment can be way different since turn signal and wiper switches attach to it on some manufacturers. SRS connectors will not fit and so forth.
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Sunday, August 4th, 2019 AT 1:11 AM
Tiny
BOBBY VIDRA
  • MEMBER
Thank you very much.
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Tuesday, August 6th, 2019 AT 8:41 AM

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