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DIY: Do It Yourself
Post here to share or improve your wrench turning skills! All BMW E46 DIY tips, tales, and projects discussed inside. Learn to work on your car and know the right BMW parts you will need!

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Old 05-10-2013, 06:25 PM   #1
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Join Date: Apr 2013
Location: edmnton
Posts: 4
My Ride: 2000 323ci
clock spring REPAIR

About a month ago I was a dummy when putting my steering wheel and column back together and didn’t line up the clock spring and as I am sure you know it was only a few days before I heard the clock spring ribbon snap, resulting in the loss of my mf controls on the wheel.

I did look up he cost of a new one online after finding out how expensive they were at the dealer and was fully prepared to just order one and replace it but I had the day off and was bored so I took on the challenge.

If you are handy with a solder kit and have basic electrical skills and knowledge this is actually a fairly simple DIY so hopefully this comes in handy for someone down the road.

You will need:
Solder kit with a fairly small tip
Box cutter
5 small flat head screw drivers ( I used a bunch of different ones )
Electrical tape

If you do not know how to remove the clock spring there are several simple DIYs out there to start.

NOTE: record, take a picture or remember the orientation of the clock spring from when you took it out. If you took it off with the wheels straight ( which you should have ) then there should be the plug for the MF buttons and the airbag on the top. Always use this as your orientation, well because its easiest. lastly try to touch the ribbon as little as possible because it is lubed and will need to stay lubed.

Once you remove the clock spring first remove this tab with a small screwdriver to make your life easier:

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with that clip removed you will be able to turn the front half of the clock spring inside the rear half depending how twisted up the ribbon is inside.

NEXT, locate this plastic...lets call it door, on the side. Looks like this when its on.

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and it looks like this when you take it off.

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Now you will get your first look at what is all going on inside, dont get worried just yet.

NEXT you can either get a hold of the ribbons through this hole and string it all out like shown below or just leave it in, doesnt matter. My ribbon had snapped clean off so it all freely came out as you can see. If yours doesnt dont panic. DONT yank the ribbon out either it should pull out easily if both are broken clean off.

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If your ribbon didnt come all the way out or you opted to not pull it out the NEXT thing you need to do is get all 5 of your small screwdrivers and place them as seen below. You will see the tabs that you are trying to pry out move easily out of the way using the screwdrivers as wedges.

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I did this by myself so you dont actually need five hands, the screwdrivers should be applying enough force to the tab that it should hold itself up.
With the last screwdriver in place wiggle the top half apart from the bottom as gently as you can.. be ready, all of the screw drivers are going to fly everywhere if no one is holding them.

NOTE : as separate the two halves of the clock spring pay attention to how it comes apart, but MORE importantly look at the ends of the two ribbons attached to (or supposed to be attached to) the top half as well as the two ribbons attached to (or supposed to be attached to ) the bottom half. If you were lucky and have a way to tell which ribbon attached where mark the ribbon and where it went or make a note of it somewhere.

NEXT lay out the ribbon so it is not in the way and do what you must to keep your workspace organized and remember what parts go where.
THEN you will have to remove the white plastic rings pictured below by popping them into the inside of the top half or bottom half. Hard to explain but they pop down and rotate slightly to come off. Set them aside and DO NOT FORGET TO PUT THEM IN DURING REASSEMBLY.

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NEXT while still keeping track of what ribbon attached where, you can remove the pin assembly from the plastic moulding of the clock spring. picture below.
Depending on where your ribbons broke you may only have to remove one of the pin assemblies ( in my case I only had to remove the one that the cr plugs into aka the bottom one ) this does take some force but it does come off with some prying and screwdriver use. Once out you can remove the two plastic ribbons from the clip that holds them again noting orientation. ONCE the pin assembly is completely isolated it does carefully come apart.
pictured below is the pin assembly being removed, removed with the plastic ribbons being removed and the pin assemble separated.

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NOW that you have al the required parts isolated and marked where to reinstall them (or remembered) you can go ahead and clean up any broken bits left on the pin assembly.
THEN comes the first delicate part, you need to cut the two pink ribbons (ONCE YOU KNOW EXACTLY WHERE THEY GO) so you have a clean edge. Then take your box cutter, lay the ribbon flat on a smooth hard surface and VERY carefully scrape off the pink plastic coating so you get what is pictured below. Obviously cut off a s little ribbon as possible to maintain length, as well i promise you this is much more tedious than stripping a regular old wire but mess up once or twice and you will become very good at it trust me.

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NOW very carefully match up the ribbon ends, again trust me, take your time here to be sure the ribbons are going in the same place they came from and that your ribbon does not have any twists in it if you left the other end attached. Once you are positive use the solder and iron to reconnect the copper strips. Be sure to not create a short by letting two of the copper ends touch or anything like that. When your done hopefully it looks a lot better than mine does (below) , A because I had to do it three times (stupid) and B, because my iron is a minimum of 10 years old and should have been thrown out a while ago.

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I aslo figure that it would be best to tape the areas I had soldered as shown below, not essential but if you can keep it neat it will go back in no problem still and further secure the ribbons.

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NOW re connect the pin assembly and re clip on the plastic ribbons, THEN reinsert it carefully back into the rest of the clock spring being sure that you still have no tangles in the rest of any of the ribbon. Dont forget to also put the clear plastic ring back on the opposite of how you took it off.

ONCE you have the pin assembly back in and the clear plastic ring, lay out you ribbon and arrange it in the clock spring as shown below going "out" that same.. um I think I said door, that I mentioned earlier. This is also your last chance to make sure you have no twists in the ribbon and although none of the two pink ribbons and two clear ribbons are the same length, they still overlap nicely and could be layed flat with no twists or one ribbon crossing over the other, this will make sense how important this is in a minute. Dont worry it may look like a mess but do everything you can to keep it organized.

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With the ribbon coming out of that door like shown take the top half of the clock spring in one hand and hold it in place above the botom half and use the other hand to take the ribbon coming from the top half pin assembly and line it up out that same door again and hold the rest of the ribbon out of the way.

NOW pop the two halves back together, making sure that the plug is on the top and that the bottom half is all exactly the way it was when you took it off the car. This should go fairly easy but pay attention to what you are doing of course.
ONCE it has popped into place you can feed one end of the ribbon in slightly to get it started and you should just be able to turn the top half of the clock spring separate from the bottom half and wind in the ribbon slowly watching still for twists. If you get a twist or a sudden realization that the ribbons are in the wrong order or the ribbon seems to be catching and is not even close to in all the way, just get the screw drivers back out and pop the two halves apart again and see what went wrong.

If it all wound in nicely you should get something similar to this. If i remember correctly the ribbon stopped winding in at this point also, in which case just tuck the rest of it in as neat and far as you can.

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If all went well you can now center or align the clock spring by using the plug on the front aka top as a reference and spinning only the top carefully all the way in one direction till you feel it catch, then turn it all the way in the other direction till you feel the same catch. The number of rotations in each direction should be the same or relatively close ( within half a turn )
Now rotate it back the opposite direction you just turned it but only half the number of turns it took to catch. This is the midpoint of the clock spring and this is how it must stay when being reinstalled. Thankfully BMW has that neat little clip that you took off very first in the first image that hold it in place for the most part. You can now reinstall that clip and the "door" and you should be good to go. If you are getting a little bit of a plastic on plastic noise when you rotate the clock spring that is the lack of lube I mentioned at the start so it will require more but thats based on your opinion.

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In summery if you want to save yourself a little bit of money and are up for the challenge it is fairly simple as long as you keep the parts and ribbon organized and record or mark what went where during the process of taking it apart. There are very little consequences to doing this DIY wrong. If it doesn't work well you tried so just order a new one and problem solved. if you get the ribbons put on the wrong pins is not the end of the world, you will get an airbag light for starters (which was probably on to start with if you have a clock spring issue) and unfortunately your horn will always be on when you put the key in... Speaking from experience... If this does happen however you know exactly how to take it apart again and how to switch the ribbons and your horn problem will be solved. the air bag light however will have to be reset at the dealer or indy shop.

If this helps absolutely no one... well oh well


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mattknop is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-10-2013, 09:42 PM   #2
Yewzer B Lewzer
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Join Date: Jan 2013
Location: St. Petersburg FL
Posts: 2,271
My Ride: 2003 325i
clock spring REPAIR

Dude nice write-up but I think you are hearing crickets because its a rare problem.

Well done tho

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Old 05-13-2013, 04:09 PM   #3
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Just been told I need a new one matt,how much are clock springs to buy new?? Or second hand? Ty
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Old 05-13-2013, 04:13 PM   #4
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I'm sure this will help SOMEONE out there, but brilliant write up mate.
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Old 05-14-2013, 11:12 AM   #5
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Location: edmnton
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My Ride: 2000 323ci
Before fixing mine I did look up how much they were online and if memory serves me right they were 150-200... double check tho. I believe carid sells them and a few other online places like tuner and the likes. just go to the realoem and find the part number or search clock spring or slipring on the online stores of your choice, it shouldnt take too much looking. As for an used one.. depends where you are and who is selling it. In my area there were a few guys parting out E46s and some of them wanted 25 bucks, others wanted closer to 100 bucks. Just have to see what you can find.

hope that helps

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Old 05-14-2013, 12:21 PM   #6
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Yeah thanks Matt got one online very decent price!
Do you know if they Are hard to fit mate ?? Thanks
Much Apreciated.
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Old 05-14-2013, 01:28 PM   #7
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NAh it is pretty straight forward. you could probably find a youtube video on it or even a DIY on here. Once you remove airbag from behind the wheel you should have access to the air bag and mf plugs as well as the big center bolt holding on the wheel. once the wheel is off you just have to unsnap the clam shell from around the steering column to reveal the four torx screws on each corner of the clock spring. Other then that you just have to unplug the plug ins on each side and the bottom, take off the signal and wiper stick, switch them to your new clock spring and reinstall everything. It will make plenty more sense once you have the part in your hands and can see what is what.

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Old 05-14-2013, 02:58 PM   #8
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Smile Clock spring

Thanks matt very much Apreciated! Cheers
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Old 08-01-2013, 09:54 AM   #9
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Awesome repair! I will now do the same one to the snapped slipring I have to keep it as a spare!
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Old 08-22-2014, 08:23 PM   #10
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I'm about repair mine, thanks to you. Cheers!
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Old 02-27-2015, 08:40 PM   #11
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Location: Nashville, Tennessee
Posts: 2,107
My Ride: 2002 330ci
What is the lube used for the clock spring.
Tri flow dry lube

Any ideas. I thing mine is going out due to being dry. I can hear it rubbing plastic on plastic.

Last edited by glhx; 02-27-2015 at 08:49 PM.
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