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Old 08-03-2022, 09:26 AM   #1
Join Date: Nov 2019
Posts: 69
Yet another smart steering wheel failure thread?

I know some of you who have attacked me in the past for my "perpetual malcontented bashing" of the quality of parts and "engineering" in the RV industry will just love this little note.

Late last year my wipers and cruise control features, along with my horn, all started to have intermittent reliability issues. Of course a search here yielded many theories, along with some redirects to dead links from former OEM suppliers. The likely culprit it seemed was the "clock spring" mechanism under the steering wheel. It's basically a big winding of automotive grade computer ribbon, that contains 6 copper connectors. As the steering wheel is moved from full travel clockwise, to full travel counter clockwise, the multiple windings in the ribbon, either coil or uncoil to keep the connection between all of the switch functions on the smart wheel and the wire harness that carries the inputs to those components or computers that control the components. Things like your cruise control, aux lighting, windshield wipers and horn functions...

Well the darn thing finally just quit. Every input other that steering itself, just stopped working. Tore into over the past few days and found that in the manufacture of the clock spring device chosen by Freightliner(?) who wont admit having built or installed it, nor will the motorhome manufacturer... anyhow inside the clock spring device, there is a "double back" folded into the ribbon. The fold and routing stresses the copper pathways. Ultimately that's right where it failed. There are google search returns that say just replace the unit "they are cheap". I couldn't find an RGT 455089 for less than $700!!!!! At a very affordable $275/hour shop rate that’s likely a $1500 repair for this poorly designed system should yours fail.

When I called around to find the part, the parts advisor and my local big truck Freightliner service center asked me if I wanted to know the price of a replacement. Like I told him what difference does it make?! It's unsafe, maybe illegal to drive the vehicle without the smart wheel functions working. As per usual, they didn't have the part anyhow. So? I dug into it myself.

Although I don't have any photos of my repair inside of the clock spring device, I basically re-soldered the pigtail that plugs into the switch module on the steering wheel onto the ribbon itself. Tedious soldering for anyone with aging eyes. Had to shorten the ribbon by about 2” of the 40”+ contained in the plastic coil housing, but a fresh cut of the ribbon's end eliminated the folds that previously aligned the ribbon as the OEM builder had designed. After it was soldered up and tested for continuity, I encased the new connections in epoxy and laminated them to the center of the inner spool of the clock spring. I still retained 3 and a half plus rotations in each direction before travel limit tightening of the ribbon. I encased my new output pigtail in epoxy resin too and reinstalled the whole mess once everything had cured. Bang, problem solved. In doing so I wonder if the designers of this often failing component have any clue that copper "work hardens" with repeated flexing, thereby making it brittle and prone to stress failure?

Anyhow, here's a few photos of the repair. Most notably, removing the wheel requires 1) removal of the main nut and likely 2) use of a steering wheel puller, but Freightliner has chosen 7MM X 1.25 holes into the steering wheel. This is, by design… built in a way so that nobody can fix it other than Freightliner. If you can't bang or otherwise remove your steering wheel, just drill those stupid holes out once you’ve removed the main retainer nut and re-tap them with a common size like 5/16-18… as NOBODY in North America inventories the bolts that FREIGHTLINER set the wheel up for. Planned obsolescence layered under proprietary access?! We all know wear components fail, but these people need to be publicly shamed: 1) for their lack of understanding of mechanical properties 2) for designing something that makes repair so difficult and 3) for price gouging. This is a $65 part at best.
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BlueWaterSUX is offline   Reply With Quote
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Old 08-03-2022, 01:27 PM   #2
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Join Date: Jun 2021
Posts: 390
Nice fix!

Clock springs should, IMHO, last the lifetime of the vehicle. I have a Ford Excursion with ~335K on it and no issues. I would say all vehicles have this if they have any form of buttons on the wheel. I would think that would include the horn and certainly the connection for an airbag.
2007 HR Scepter 40 PDQ
400 ISL, ~67K on the clock....for now
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Old 08-03-2022, 01:39 PM   #3
Join Date: Nov 2019
Posts: 69
So happy it is fixed! No waiting & better no paying for a repair part. I drove it back to storage this afternoon 'cuz I'd done a genset oil change and some other routing maintenance at my shop after reinstalling the repaired clock spring. I actually needed the restored function of wipers and lights in the thundershowers. Fortunately I didn't need to use the horn

Oh one last thing, in talking with the national F-liner tech support center, the helpful fella I spoke with suggested that it was likely the RVM...I asked him "What exactly is an RVM?" He put me on hold for a long while and came back saying multiplexer...I knew he was grasping for straws at that point. Glad that hasn't gone out yet as it's $1600 part. One thing is for certain, if it does fail I'll be tearing it apart before I take it in...
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Old 08-20-2022, 12:27 PM   #4
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Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Bayville, NJ
Posts: 26
easy clock spring trouble shoot, Freight liner chassis,

You will have to disconnect the 4 pin connecter under the horn pad, and the P1 connector @ the VIP controller.

Measure for continuity of SP332 (yellow circuit) pin A at column connector to pin 1 @ VIP connector

Measure for continuity of SP331 (brown circuit) pin b at column connector to pin 2 @ VIP connector

0 ohms of resistance is what you’re looking for.

Then put a paper clip across pins 1 & 2 @ the VIP connector. Then put you 2 leads in pins A & B at the column connector.
You should see OL or O ohms of resistance.
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