How to Replace a Turn Signal Switch

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Turn signal switches have gotten complicated over the years. What once was simply a lever to activate the turn signals has added other functions: headlight dimmer, lights flashing, and even the horn button. Other stalks have also sprouted from the steering column, including wiper control and cruise control. Each addition has made changing the turn signal switch just a little trickier.

When the turn signal switch fails, it will probably be hard to use at first. It might seem to be loose, or stop returning when you complete a turn. The turn signals may stop working, or the headlight dimming function will become intermittent.

When the turn signals stop working, you need to troubleshoot before you start replacing expensive parts. If the switch is flopping around in your hand, it needs to be replaced, but other problems may originate elsewhere in the system.

Materials Needed

  • ½ inch drive breaker bar
  • Marking pen
  • Safety glasses
  • Screwdrivers, Phillips and flat head
  • Socket wrench set: ½ inch drive and ¼ drive
  • Steering wheel puller
  • Torx bits
  • Workshop manual

Part 1 of 2: Removing the steering wheel

disconnecting the battery

Step 1: Disconnect the battery. If your radio has an anti-theft security code, make sure you know what it is before proceeding. Put on your safety glasses, then loosen the battery ground cable clamp (usually a 10-12 mm nut) and disconnect the cable.

This is necessary to prevent setting an airbag code when you remove the steering wheel.

airbag removal

Step 2: Remove the driver’s side airbag. Most cars have torx fasteners holding the airbag to the steering wheel that are accessed from the side of the steering wheel that faces the dashboard.

Usually you can just unscrew these fasteners, pull off the airbag insert, and disconnect a small electrical connector at the back of the airbag.

  • Warning: Airbags can be dangerous! Be sure to consult your workshop manual for the proper airbag removal procedure. Some models require that you do a deactivation sequence of some kind, while others are no more complicated than removing a horn button. Whatever it is, be sure to follow all the safety instructions for removing and handling the airbag.

pulling the steering wheel

Step 2: Remove the steering wheel. Remove the nut or bolt in the center of the steering wheel. Set the steering wheel straight ahead. Mark the steering wheel and the shaft with a marking pen so you can reinstall the wheel exactly as it came off. Then try to wiggle it off.

Sometimes a few raps with the heel of the hand are sufficient. Other times you will have to install a steering wheel puller to produce enough force to get it off.

When it does come loose, carefully pull it off the shaft while watching for any electrical connection that must pass through the steering wheel.

removing trim

Step 4: Remove the steering column trim. How much of the trim has to be removed varies from car to car, but the lower half of the steering column trim almost always has to come out.

Removing the steering wheel may have exposed some screws, or all the screws might be accessed from the bottom of the column. Keep track of the screws and the positions they were in.

clock spring

Step 5: Remove the clockspring. The next part you encounter will be the clockspring. It is a plastic housing covered with warning labels.

It contains a ribbon of wire that is wound up like a loose spring that enables the steering wheel to turn full lock right and left and still maintain a hard connection to the airbag controller.

The clockspring may be screwed down to the steering column or it may just snap in. It will be keyed to the steering column so that it turns with the column. The electrical connector to the car is usually under the center of the column. All the connectors in the airbag electrical harness are yellow or orange to make it easy to distinguish them from other systems in the car.

Disconnect the harness connector and pull the clockspring straight off. Set it somewhere where it will not be disturbed. You don’t want the center of the clockspring to turn at all while it is off the steering column. Some cars have a hole in the clockspring for the insertion of a pin to keep it from moving while it is off the car.

Part 2 of 2: Replacing the turn signal switch

turn signal switch

Step 1: Remove the turn signal switch. The turn signal switch may be held on by a few screws or a pinch bolt around the column.

It might be a massive multi-function switch assembly, or the different switches may be discrete little boxes that come off separately.

The column switch might disconnect right at the back, or there may be a wiring harness that extends down the column. Look at the back of the switch to see what the arrangement is. There should be enough slack that you can pull it back some and leave it hanging.

disconnecting the harness

Step 2: Disconnect the harness. Sometimes the harness connector will be located within the steering wheel trim. On some cars, you may find that the harness goes all the way down the column into the dashboard. If that is the case, you will need to take off the lower cover panels under the dash to access the connectors.

At this point the harness may just drop out of the bottom of the column, or you might need to pull it out and draw it through an opening. Pay close attention to the location of the harness and how well it is secured. Many cars with tilting steering columns allow the wires a certain amount of movement and you don’t want them to get caught on anything.

installing the switch

Step 2: Install the new switch. Fit the switch back into the column and reinstall the screws. Install any other switches that you might have had to take off as well.

  • Note:If there were hidden fasteners on the steering wheel trim, be sure to reinstall the trim before going any further.

Part 2 of 2: Reinstalling the steering wheel

clockspring

Step 1: Reinstall the clockspring. The clockspring should not have been disturbed while you had it off, so you can simply slide it straight down on the shaft, making sure that the flats on the shaft properly engage the center of the part.

  • Note: If you had a pin in the clockspring, make sure to take it out.

steering wheel

Step 2: Reinstall the steering wheel. Line up the match marks that you made on the steering wheel and shaft and fit the steering wheel back onto the splines, threading the airbag wire through the appropriate holes at the same time. Install the bolt and tighten it with a torque wrench.

  • Note: The workshop manual should have the factory specification.

installing an airbag

Step 2: Install the airbag. Reinstall the airbag the way it came off, making sure to connect the small two wire terminal at the back.

If there was a deactivation procedure, reactivate the airbag by reversing the procedure according to the workshop manual.

Step 4: Test the turn signal switch. Start the car and try all the switches: turn signals, headlight dimmer, wipers, and horn. Take the car for a test drive and check the cruise control.

Make note of whether there is an airbag warning light on the dashboard. If you disconnected the battery before you began work, and did not reconnect it until the airbag was plugged in, there should not be a problem. An airbag code will come up if at any point you had the key on while the airbag was disconnected and can only be reset with the appropriate scan tool.

The turn signal switch can be a handful, because everything in the steering column is packed very close together. Plus there is the added complication of dealing with the airbag system. If you’re worried about working with the airbag or the clockspring, or getting the steering wheel misaligned, YourMechanic can send a technician to your home or office to service your turn signal switch.


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Recent Turn Signal Switch Replacement reviews

Excellent Rating


YourMechanic Turn Signal Switch Replacement Service

Average Rating

4.8/5

Number of Reviews

129

Rating Summary
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Richard

11 years of experience
600 reviews
Richard
11 years of experience
Mercury Grand Marquis - Turn Signal Switch - Las Vegas, Nevada
RIchard was very good. He messaged me that he was running late and arrived , with the delay exactly when he said he would. He was communicative and explained what was being done. HE finished well within the time frame which was estimated, really knew what he was doing. I can only say that my dad, who was a mechanic and dealership service manager for 50 years would have been impressed by Richard. I will have no reservations about asking for him for any future service that I might require.
Audi TT - Turn Signal Switch - Henderson, Nevada
Richard did a great job and also helped me plan out the service my car really needed, instead of what other mechanics told me. He saved me a great deal of time and money, and I truly appreciated his kindness and expertise. I have the rest of the work scheduled for next week. Thank you Richard! :)

John

17 years of experience
136 reviews
John
17 years of experience
Chevrolet Cobalt - Turn Signal Switch - Georgetown, Texas
Gave good tips on things to consider- on time- good at the task at hand- good recommendations-would hire him again
Chevrolet Trailblazer - Turn Signal Switch - Liberty Hill, Texas
Best car repair service I've ever had, booking was easy, got the text John was on his way, loved the tracking to know when he would be here. He was very friendly and polite, did the repair and had me check it out and showed me the recommendations of things he saw before leaving. An overall great repair experience!!

Eric

10 years of experience
230 reviews
Eric
10 years of experience
Honda Accord - Turn Signal Switch - Raleigh, North Carolina
Eric has helped me twice now and I've been impressed with his work both times. He replaced the starter, and later the exhaust manifold, on my 2006 Honda Accord. My car runs like a dream thanks to Eric. He is a great guy, easy to work with, and his work was high quality. Excellent experience. I highly recommended Eric and his work.
Ford Taurus - Turn Signal Switch - Raleigh, North Carolina
I was notified before he arrived that he was on the way. He was on time, explained what parts he had and what work he was performing. Polite and courteous, HE SHOWED UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! My last booking person did not show up nor call, i had co-workers and friends book with Daneil and experienced the same, no call now show. this put a bad mark on your business, but after today i am likely to recommend your company but i will indeed let them know not to book a appt with your mechanic Daniel, I will not put my name nor reputation on the line for this person.

Lee

36 years of experience
81 reviews
Lee
36 years of experience
Pontiac G6 - Turn Signal Switch - Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Lee Crowder is very easy and pleasant to work with. He is extremely professional and knowledgeable and explained everything in detail. He gave me a great sense of confidence that I had made the right choice for my service. I would give more than 5 stars if more were available.

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