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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Chrysler Sebring Clockspring

More bad news about my Chrysler Sebring. It's beginning to look like I should have paid the shop to replace the engine in the beginning rather than try to fix it myself. OK, it might have been the smart thing to do, but shelling out $4500 all at once just wasn't something I was willing to suffer.
    My first attempt at repairing the engine ended up costing me about a grand, and we actually fixed the car. It ran fine for maybe a month before it cratered again. The second go round cost me another grand, and while the car started when we got done, it was obviously not going anywhere. That episode was a complete waste, other than the educational experience it provided my son. I'm sure he'll appreciate it. Some day. When I'm gone.
    So after two attempts at fixing it myself, I relented and turned it over to the shop. I found a used engine in Toronto and had it delivered for just under a grand. The shop charged $1200 to install it, plus $300 to fix the stuff that me and my gang had busted. So now we're up to $4500, the price Eric originally quoted me. Well, live and learn.
    I've been driving the car for a few months now and everything seems to be fine, except a few little minor things, like the cruise control doesn't work, and an air bag warning indicator is illuminated on the instrument panel. I took it in for an oil change the other day, and asked them to take a look at some of these niggling little problems.
    Come to find out that the clockspring is probably broken and it will cost $275 to replace it. What!?!?! What clockspring? It's a car, not a clock. What's a clock spring got to do with anything?
    Calm down lizard breath and I'll tell you. You might be familiar with rotating electrical connectors, where one part has a ring of copper, and the other part has a contact that rubs against this ring. One part rotates, and the other part is fixed. This way you can turn the steering wheel around and around and still maintain an electrical connection. That worked fine when all you had on the steering wheel was a horn button, but these days you can find a whole arsenal of buttons and gadgets on the steering wheel, and while it might be possible to build a multi-track rotating connector that could accommodate all 27 separate circuits, that's not the Detroit way.
     Some wise guy noticed that steering wheels do not turn endlessly, they only make three or four complete revolutions and that's as far as they go. So they took a bunch of wire and wrapped it up in box and it allows you to make those three or four turns of the steering will, and those 27 circuits all stay connected. They call this box with its mess of wires a 'clockspring', presumably because of the way the wires are structured.
    This 'clockspring' is dependent on the steering mechanism not making more than three or four complete revolutions. This is not a problem when the steering wheel is connected to the steering mechanism. The steering mechanism will only go so far.
    If you take the steering column out of the car, or you drop the front suspension out from under the car (like I did. Twice.), well, the two parts aren't connected anymore. Now if someone were to give the steering wheel a little spin while it is disconnected, well then, Blooey! goes the clock spring. And you won't even know anything is wrong until you get the car back on the road and the cruise control doesn't work. And the Air Bag warning indicator lights up.

P.S. Here's a YouTube video that shows you how to replace the clockspring.

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