Vonada Web Site


Saturn Aura Clock "Spring" Repair


After over 200,000 miles my poor 1993 Saturn was rear-ended.  While I could have kept driving the car it really felt like time for a change.  I shopped around and found a loaded 2007 Saturn Aura XR for a price I could not pass up.  I was not looking for another Saturn, and I certainly was not looking for a 5.9 0-60 screamer, but I sure like it. 

The car was still under warranty when I bought it but my long commute quickly ran that out.  Of course 2000 miles later I was driving to work and there was a snapping noise from the steering wheel.  The airbag warning light came on, bells chimed, and the steering wheel controls were dead.  Rats.

I figured the problem was in the clock spring (or "SP Coil" as GM calls it).  This is a device which allows electrical power and signals to be passed from the fixed steering column to the turning steering wheel.  Obviously a wire will not work because turning the wheel would wrap the wire around the column.  So a long plastic strip with conductors inside is wrapped up in a big coil like a clock spring (thus the name).  The inner part turns with the steering wheel while the outer case is bolted to the column.  As the wheel turns the "spring" winds or unwinds a bit but not enough to matter.  Unless yours happens to be made by Delphi in China...

SAFETY WARNING:  When working with an airbag follow the manufacturers instructions for disabling the system.  For my car the manual said to disconnect the battery and wait for 1 minute.  But this can and does vary by vehicle type.

The hard part here was removing the airbag module.  The manual said to stick a small punch into this hole on either side of the wheel to release the catch.  I had no luck until my neighbor Bruce tried a longer tool.  A standard punch of this diameter is just too short.  Of course there is no picture in the service manual that shows the catch mechanism.
Here are the two catches (next to the B and E).  The tool has to go though and push on the two round vertical wires.  Not easy.
Here is a close-up of the tool installed.  The tool was made from a bit of old oven rack.  It is resting against the catch pin that releases the airbag.
With the wheel off you can see the clock spring assembly.  I removed the cover here (don't try this at home kids!) to verify the problem.  When I saw the damage I simply cut the front cover and electrical connectors off to make access easier.  As you can see the inside is all mangled and tangled.

To remove the clock spring assembly disconnect the electrical connectors from the back and remove the 4 screws you can see around the perimeter.

Here is the new assembly installed.   I actually got this from the Pontiac dealer near my house.  They grumbled a bit about how I should go to a Saturn dealer for the part but they could get it and I did not have to drive 30 minutes to order the part. 

The two yellow cables connect to the airbag.  The yellow handle-thingy is a clip to hold the clock spring in position until the steering wheel is installed.  After reconnecting all the wires it seems to work like new.