Each time you turn your car on, the vehicle's computer will do a check of the system. In most occasions, the airbag light (or SRS light) will stay on for a few seconds, then turn off after the check is complete. However, sometimes this light doesn't turn off, and that indicates that you've got an issue with your airbag system.
Much like a check engine light, this isn't something you should just shrug off. When the safety system displays this light, it often means that your car's airbags will not deploy in the event of an accident, putting you and your passengers at risk on the roads. Let's look at a few different reasons this safety feature can go awry, and what you should do to fix it.
Why Do I Have an Airbag Warning Light On?
There are a few common reasons why you'll see an airbag light on. The most obvious is if you've had a recent collision where the airbags deployed. In order to fix it, you'll need to get the airbags replaced and the crash sensors reprogrammed. Most service centers and auto repair mechanics should be able to handle this no problem.
Most people will experience this light even though their airbags have never been deployed. In this case, there's likely an issue in the computer system somewhere. For example, if the airbag sensors have experienced corrosion from water damage, they will not function properly. Additionally, wiring could have come dislodged. Many of these wires are located below the front seats, and in particular, under the front passenger side. Moving these seats forward and backward or having trash stuffed under the passenger seat is enough to knock some wires or connectors loose, and it could easily set off the light. You'll want to go over these wires and make sure they're all connected.
A depleted car battery can also throw these codes. Even though the system may function correctly, having a lack of power to the computer will make it think the system is at fault, even if it's not.
Sometimes, the seat belt pretensioners or sensors can be faulty. Since the vehicle is unable to detect if you've got the seat belt fastened, it will display this light to inform you that there is an issue.
Lastly, the airbag clock spring has been known to wear and fail over time. This spring coil is located throughout your steering wheel, and it's designed to communicate directly to the driver's airbag. This defect is much more common in earlier model vehicles, as they've had more time to wear out.
How to Fix an Airbag Light
If you get a supplemental restraint system (SRS) or airbag light that pops up and you still can't find the issue, it's best to take your vehicle to the dealership or an auto repair facility. Here, they have scanners that can diagnose the trouble code that's causing the light to pop up. If you own a newer vehicle, this type of repair will likely be covered under warranty.
On the chance that none of the issues above are causing the airbag light, you may need to have the airbag ECU replaced, and having an experienced shop do the work is much more recommended than a DIY job.
While you can buy airbag scanner tools online, most people will not readily have this tool available. It's much easier to take it to someone who has done this type of work in the past, so you know everything is getting done correctly. You'll know everything is functioning correctly when the airbag light goes off and stays off.
It should be noted that if the airbag light stays on, you should avoid driving your car anywhere. This is simply due to safety concerns, so it's best to handle it as soon as possible. Most of the time, it's a simple fix, so don't stress about it. That said, don't drag your feet, and be sure get it checked out by a professional if you can't fix it on your own.
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