Clock Problems

Most Common Clock Problems
Compiled from Actual Customer Records

Customer Description of Problem:  "I think I overwound the clock. It's wound all the way and the clock won't run."

Most likely problem: In actual fact it is almost impossible to overwind a clock.  Once the coils of a flat mainspring are in firm contact with one another, than the spring can not be physically wound any tighter.  The only way to truly overwind a clock spring is to turn it so tightly that the spring actually breaks.  The most likely problem that ellicits that customer comment is that the lubrication on the mainspring has failed due to age.  As a lubricant ages, it's viscosity slowly rises (it gets thicker).  Eventually a lubricant no longer acts like a lubricant and gets tacky. This causes the coils of the mainspring to physically stick together. In actual fact, it's time for a cleaning /overhaul to remove old lubricant and accumulated dirt, and replace it with fresh lubricant specially designed for clocks.  

Customer Description of Problem:  "My clock used to run a full week on a winding but now it will only run for a day or two."

Most Likely Problem:  The same answer as above.  A clock that only runs a few days on a winding when it should run a week, likely has lubrication problems, although not usually the mainsprings.  It is likely that the lubricant found in each bearing surface of the gears has failed and likely, there is a buildup of dirt and grime attracted by the lubricant.  Time for a cleaning.

Customer Description of Problem:  "My clock was just cleaned and it won't run for more than a few minutes even when fully wound. Also, I checked it with a level and it is level on the wall/mantle"

Most Likely Problem:  My first suspicion when I hear this comment is question whether the clock is in beat.  A clock being in or out of beat has nothing to do with a clock being level.  First, to explain what "in beat" means.  A clock is in beat when ticks and tocks occur with the same time interval between each tick and tock.  You can listen to a clock's ticking and make a pretty close approximation of an "in beat" condition.  If you have trouble hearing the difference between in and out of beat, purposely tilt the clock slightly left or right of level.  It's easier to hear different time intervals when the out of beat condition is exaggerated.  Sometimes, a clock can be knocked out of beat by overswinging the pendulum. Also, moving a clock from one location to another without immobilizing the pendulum can knock a clock out of beat.  After a clock is serviced, I always give my customers a reproducible method of setting up a clock so it will automatically be in beat when set up in the home.  Most times, this means setting the clock up to be in beat when it is perfectly level. I will even supply a bubble level to help the customer level their clock in the home.  Some wall clocks have a degrees scale attached to the clock behind the tip of the pendulum. In such cases, I will set the clock up to be in beat when the tip of the pendulum is centered on this convenient scale. 

Customer Description of Problem:  "My clock stops once an hour."

Most Likely Problem:  Does the clock stop every time the hands are overlapping?  If this is the case, then the most likely cause is that the hands are interfereing with one another. 

Customer Description of Problem:  "I was winding my clock and I heard a loud bang and now the clock won't wind."

Most Likely Problem:  In this case, the problem is usually related to one of two possible causes.  Either the mainspring has broken, or, the ratchet pawl on the mainspring has failed.  The ratchet mechanism is responsible for preventing the mainspring for unwinding as you wind a clock.  It is the clicking that you hear as you wind.  It is important to check out the rest of the mechanism after an explosive release of a mainspring as there is often other damage that occurs.  Bent arbors and bent or missing teeth are the most common problems seen when a mainspring or ratchet fails.

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