Clock Springs & Airbags
by Pat Goss
Many years ago, this was a typical steering wheel; but today, it couldn’t even legally exist on a car that’s driven on the road. Reason being, it doesn’t have an airbag. You see, with the advent of airbags, lots of things changed with the steering wheel design and the wiring that supplies the power to the airbag, and to the buttons on the wheel. You see, to have an airbag meet federal standards, it has to be hardwired into the electrical system of the vehicle. So that means we have to have something like we see right here; this is called a clock spring. And the inside of it turns with the steering wheel like this; it unwinds in one direction and it winds back up in the other direction. Now, here’s the drill – if you have anything on your steering wheel that doesn’t work, any of the buttons or if you have an airbag warning light, make sure the technician checks the clock spring first because it’s frequently overlooked.
Alright, what about the airbags themselves; you may be involved in an accident or maybe you’re buying a used car. Well, you want to make sure that the airbags in the car are in good functional condition. Now, in order to do that, you have to know whether or not the car has ever been in an accident. So, you want to do a vehicle history report and see if you can find out if the airbags have ever been deployed. And if they have, you want to take the car to a repair shop and have the technician use a scanner to see if the airbags are in the vehicle; most times, they can tell by doing that.
Now, why am I telling you this? Well, once this airbag has deployed, such as we see with this one over here, it can’t be put back together; you can’t put the genie back in the bottle. This airbag has to be replaced.
But, there are some unscrupulous people out there who have figured out that you can go out and you can buy this cover, and you can take the guts out of the inside of the airbag, put a new cover on it and there’s a way you can cheat the light so the light doesn’t come on. Well, you may be driving a car that has an airbag that well, it could be as big as basic as this; it could be filled with tissue. We’ve seen them with rags in them, with tissues in them, with all sorts of things, newspapers, you name it - anything to make a dollar. So before you buy that used car, or after you’ve had a repair on your car where the airbags deployed, make sure you have somebody check them to make sure that what’s in the car is really an airbag, and that it’ll really work. And if you have a question or comment, drop me a line, right here at MotorWeek.