Driver airbag replaced and now horn and steering wheel controls do not work

Just purchased a 2015 VW Passat and immediately found out about a recall on driver airbag. Took car in to VW they fixed in 40 minutes. When I left I noticed my horn and steering wheel phone/radio controls no longer worked. Called them back and took back in on the same day and they looked at it and said that another “part” coincidentally failed at the same time and is not covered under warranty. Seems a little too coincidental to me. Service manager said they do these airbags all the time and this never happens. They are going to look at it again tomorrow (said they need it the entire day, will not charge the diagnostic but couldn’t promise anything after that) I’m just wondering is it possible that the service tech did something wrong to cause this malfunction after the airbag replacement?

If the shop manager and the mechanic were qualified and honest they would never have returned the car to you in that condition.

The problem could be as STUPID as the accessory harnesses being left unconnected but also they may have installed an airbag with a different multi function connector that required some rewiring.

I’d suggest locating another nearby VW dealership.


Or press the issue with your dealer. Be nice about it but don’t just accept the answer. Especially since they didn’t test the controls to make sure they didn’t mess anything up while replacing the airbag. If they dig in their heels, contact the VW zone office as well.

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Why would they need it the entire day and offer to waive the diagnostic fee, if they’ve already (as they claim) determined exactly what part “coincidentally” failed? In other words, there shouldn’t be any further diagnostic time if they already know what failed.

This is super fishy. I would press them for very specific details on what part coincidentally failed. If they can’t tell you that right now, then I would shoot back with, “Well if you don’t know what part failed, then how do you know your technician didn’t accidentally break something”.

I would give these guys one more chance to come clean, and then take it up the chain with the regional manager. No sense giving this dealership extra time to concoct an even more elaborate fabrication.


Is it just me, but do these kinds of problems seem to come up with VW cars / VW dealers more than the norm? There’s a lot to like about many of VW’s cars, but I’ve heard stories like this for decades and have yet to buy a VW, mainly because of them.

The connections in the clock spring were probably weak, moving the wire when disconnecting the airbag may have caused the failure.

Did this recently purchased car come with any warranty?

I see many inoperative steering wheel switches when replacing airbags, it is best to spot the failure before replacing the airbag so the vehicle owner can’t blame the technician.

They did actually say it was the clock spring that coincidentally failed. The service manager also said that the tech that did the work “forgot” to mention that the horn was not working prior to airbag replacement, which is not true. I always used my steering wheel functions and the horn always worked too. So, you have a good point about the diagnostic fee. We’ll see what happens tomorrow!

Take it up the chain. The service manager works for the general manager. Try the service manager again, and insist that it was not like that when you left your car with them. If you don’t get satisfaction, talk to the GM and explain the problem. You seem level-headed, and I probably don’t need to remind you to stay calm and behave professionally. Oops, I did it anyway! Good luck, and tell us what happens.


Thank you all your responses helped me to stand my ground. VW still has car today, they kept it overnight as they said they were knee deep in wires, today they ruled out that the clock spring failed and says the failure is in the switches on the steering wheel. They still claim this is no fault of theirs from replacing aibag, but are taking care of it anyway because they want me to be happy. ( I failed to mention that the day my car initially went in for recall repair we purchased another vw from them that same day for my daughter). They are still keeping car one more day to get parts in and fix and providing me a rental (no charge) until fixed. Hopefully all will be resolved by tomorrow.

Good luck and please let us know.

I expect the truth is somewhere in between, the air bag work did cause the other problem, and if the air bag work hadn’t been done there would be no other problem. But it is also the case that disturbing 4 year old wiring components during the air bag job could have contributed to the failure too. VW was definitely at fault for not pointing this problem out before returning the car to you however, so imo they should fix whatever is wrong at their expense for making this unnecessary and unseemly customer-relations mistake. As they are doing just that, I say good for VW for standing behind their work.

They may be right about the clockspring but I would suggest that a fuse may be bad. It is possible.

All was repaired at no charge to me and car returned this morning. They installed new switches in steering wheel. Thank you all for your comments.


Hey 2015 vw Passat, same service. Airbag light came on a few days later and they said it was not possibly their fault. I laughed. Lucky for them the airbag light went off the next day.

I’ve had several other issues with this south Baltimore dealer lying to me over the course of the 50k vw care but it’s not worth bashing them. I don’t think there are good service centers in the budget car ranks.