Did you ever wake up, get in your car and suddenly notice there is some warning sign on your car dashboard? You probably have, considering it is a pretty common incident. Whether you’ve faced it or not, it does happen. Your car warns you if something is wrong with any of the parts. A standard warning light sign is the airbag one.
Airbags are one of the safety measures built in your car. They inflate to protect you when there is an impact. The front airbags can reduce the chances of fatal injuries in a car accident. According to some studies, your airbags can reduce the risk of driver fatalities by almost 29%. They can minimize passenger fatalities by nearly 32%. If you’re in an SUV, your side airbags can reduce your risk of death by 52%.
Your airbags are one of the best safety measures your car has. But sometimes airbags malfunction too. That’s when you get the airbag light on to indicate the problem. If your airbag is malfunctioning, it might trigger open when you don’t need them. Or, for a worse case, the airbags may not open when you need them. It is why you should pay attention to it.
Airbag malfunctions can happen out of nowhere. Since it is almost a life and death concern, you’ll have to detect the problem as quickly as possible. You’ll have to solve the problem after catching it, and then you can go back to driving. The problem is that there can be multiple reasons for getting your airbag warning light.
“Why is my airbag light on?” When you ask this question, the answer can be more than one. How would you know which one is it? Well, we’re here to help you with that. This article will cover the reasons for airbag warnings, the solutions, and some frequently asked questions. Let’s get into it.
- Why Is it On?
- SRS Malfunction
- Seatbelt Problems
- Blinking Light
- How To Reset
- Driving With It On
- Replacement Cost
Why Is My Airbag Light On
Your airbag light works as an indicator for faulty systems. If the airbag light is on, there is a problem in your car system, and you need to solve it. The problem can be in the engine, seatbelt, or the sensor itself. The interesting part is, sometimes, your airbag light can be on when you don’t have any problems.
You’ll often see your airbag light turn on when you start your car. When your ignition kick-starts the engine, the system turns all the warning lights on. It is a routine troubleshoot for the system to check if the sensors are working. The airbag warning light should stay on for about 6 seconds after the system startup. It is something you can’t fix because it is a system feature. Your car is programmed to check the system every time you start it.
If the airbag light stays on for more than 6 seconds, you should ask, “Why is my airbag light on?” and check for other issues.
Your airbag light can turn on because of multiple reasons. It can be an SRS malfunction, water damage, or faulty wiring. In most cases, the culprit turns out to be an SRS malfunction. The other reasons may be rare, but they aren’t uncommon.
The most common reason for them all. SRS covers a big chunk of equipment, so it may take some time to detect precisely where the problem is. But first, you have to know what it is.
Your car’s airbag sensors and other components are connected in a system. It is called the supplementary restraint system or the SRS. This system overlooks everything related to your airbags. So, you’ll get an airbag warning light if there is a problem anywhere in this system. The SRS module can be entirely faulty, but that’s a rare case. The problem is usually one of the sensors or the airbags themselves.
1. Sensor Problems
The SRS module has two major sensors: the crash and the airbag. Both connect directly to the car’s computer and warn the driver of potential issues.
The crash sensor gets triggered when the car computer decides a collision is coming. The sensor itself only detects the deceleration of the car’s speed. The crash sensor sends a signal to the SRS computer if there is a rapid deceleration of your car’s speed. The computer checks the signal and other factors like the seatbelt sensor.
If the signals match its algorithm, the SRS system deploys the airbags to protect the driver. It is the regular case. But if the sensor has a problem, it can send false collision signals. The other factors won’t add up to that, so the airbags won’t be deployed. But you can get an airbag warning since the crash sensor went off.
Another problem can be the airbag sensors themselves. Sometimes the airbag sensors can be out of service. When your car starts and performs the routine sensor check, it won’t find the airbag sensors responsive. That will trigger the airbag warning light.
2. Airbag problems
Your airbags themselves can have problems too. If they aren’t entirely functional because of this, you’ll see the airbag light warning turn on.
Airbag clock spring
One cause of your airbag problem can be the clock spring. The clock spring is like a connect and control mechanism. It makes your steering wheel rotate and works as the connection between the steering wheel and the airbags. The clock spring wiring uses very thin cords for the inner mechanism. Since the cords are thin, they get brittle with time.
If you’ve used your car for a long time, the airbag clock spring can wear out and possibly break. It ruptures the connection between the driver’s seat and the airbag. The driver’s seat sends a soft error signal, triggering the airbag warning light.
If you’ve been in a car accident, your crash sensor will go off, and the airbags will deploy. Most of the time, the SRS module equipment is one-time use only, so when the airbags go off once, they need resetting. It has to be done by a mechanic with experience. They repair the airbags, change the parts and reset them.
Sometimes the repair shops can forget to reset the airbags. If that’s the case, your airbag light will stay on while you keep thinking, “Why is my airbag light on?”
Another reason for this can be more minor accidents or fender-benders. If you’re in a minor accident where the airbags didn’t get deployed, you can have your airbag sensors on. It happens because of the crash sensor. The airbags may not go off, but the crash sensor still sends a signal for collision. And since the airbags have to reset after every collision, the light stays on until you do an airbag light reset.
Your seatbelts can be another reason why the airbag warning light is on. The SRS module receives inputs from the driver’s seat sensor with other sensors. The sensor will send a signal to the SRS if your seatbelt has any issue. The SRS will consider this a safety issue and turn the airbag warning light on.
A seatbelt issue can be anything. A stuck seatbelt, a loose one, or even a seatbelt sensor issue counts as a seatbelt problem for your car computer.
You’ll receive an airbag warning if your seatbelt doesn’t properly close. You run the chance of having a seatbelt that isn’t working properly if the writing underneath your driver’s seat is in any way a bit off. To put it another way, buckled perfectly.
3. Electronics And Wirings
The issue isn’t always seatbelts or sensors. Sometimes it can be something completely different, like faulty wiring. Electronic issues are a completely different story. The car’s main computer (ECM) and the SRS module are connected with many other elements. A tiny problem in the connected elements can toss up the airbag warning and leave you wondering, “Why is my airbag light on?”
You’ll get an airbag warning if your car battery is in a not-so-good position. If you’ve recently drained your car’s battery, that can cause this. When you drain the car’s battery, it can also drain its airbag backup battery. If the backup battery is depleted, your SRS will report a problem to the system.
It is a pretty rare case, but it does happen. The computer will count this as water damage if you somehow get water inside your airbag module. It will make it throw the airbag warning at you. Water can also corrode the sensors, triggering the warning light.
Crooked wiring can be another reason for causing you the “Why is my airbag light on?” concern. It is more applicable if you drive an SUV. SUVs have side airbags, and the connecting wires (and sensors) can get dislodged at any time. If the wiring to your airbag gets dislodged, you’ll get an airbag light warning.
It is a pretty common reason for getting airbag warnings. If you are getting airbag warnings, there is a decent chance your car has blown a fuse. Most of the time, it is fuse #13. You can easily confirm this with your windshield. If your airbag sensor is on and your rear windshield isn’t working, it is probably because your fuse #13 is going out of service.
4. Manufacturing Defect
It is probably the rarest cause to trigger the airbag warning. If your airbags have a manufacturing problem like the Takata airbags (2002-2015), you can get an airbag warning. Most of the time, this isn’t the case, but there’s always a possibility.
Why Is My Airbag Light Blinking
Airbag lights blink when there is a problem with your airbag module. You won’t be worrying about “Why is my airbag light on?” if the warning light is blinking, but it pretty much means the same thing. The blinking tells you there’s a problem, but there is more to it. It is a hint for professional people to detect the problem quickly.
Your airbag lights will start going off when your system detects an error, no matter where it is. The light can stay on for a long time, but in some cars, the warning light starts blinking. It may not look significant to you, but this is like a cheat sheet for a professional.
The blinks indicate codes. The codes have their own meanings and tell the professionals the specific problem of the system. Furthermore, these codes have two digits each. And the digits are differentiated by the pause in the airbag warning light.
If the warning light blinks twice, takes a pause, and then flashes four times again, it means the error code is 24. Here are some codes and what they mean–
- Code 12 – Low battery voltage
- Code 13 – Airbag circuit short
- Code 21 – Airbag fitting problem
The codes go up to 53 and get more specific with the ascension.
How To Reset Airbag Light
If you’re done thinking about “Why is my airbag light on?” by now, you’re probably thinking about how to fix it. Airbag module reset depends on the diagnosis of your car. Sometimes restarting your car can solve the problem. But if it is severe, you’ll have to know how to reset the airbag light to make it go away.
The first step to solving a problem is detecting it. The same goes for your airbag light problem. First, you’ll have to catch it. Then you can see if it is something small you can take care of or if it needs a mechanic. You can look for the issue yourself by troubleshooting, or you can use specific tools for it.
Start with turning your ignition off and on. It is like your WiFi router, and sometimes the problem goes away after a reboot. Turn your ignition on and let it stay for 6-7 seconds. Then turn it off and wait for 3 seconds. Now turn it back on and wait for 7 seconds. If your airbag warning was a false alarm, it would go away after this rebooting.
If it doesn’t go away, well, there is a bigger issue going on. You can take your car directly to the mechanic, or you can do a thorough check yourself at first. If you’re taking the second option, start with checking the basics. Work your way through the more complicated possibilities; that way, you won’t be stressing over “Why is my airbag light on?” for nothing.
1. Check Your Seatbelt
Seatbelt issues are a common reason for airbag warnings. If your seatbelt isn’t properly locked, you’ll get the airbag light warning. Check for debris or small things inside your seatbelt slot. If there is something inside the slot, your seatbelt won’t close. Remove whatever is inside and restart your car. If the seatbelt is stuck, fix it and restart the engine.
2. Check The Passenger Airbag Switch
Passenger airbag switches only come in some specific cars. If you have a passenger switch for airbags, check it properly. Sometimes people can switch it off subconsciously. It will trigger your airbag warning light. The switch should be on the passenger side of your dashboard or inside the glove compartment.
3. Use An OBD Scanner
If your airbag light is still on, the problem is probably in the car’s internal parts. The only way of diagnosing it is to use a code reader.
Let’s be honest, there can be dozens of reasons for your car’s airbag to leave you thinking, “Why is my airbag light on?” you can’t cover all of them alone because it will need a thorough scan. A code reader or an OBD2 scanner will help you diagnose the problem. And if you’re getting a scanner like the INNOVA 6100P OBD2 one, it will suggest possible repairs you’ll need. Of course, that isn’t the only scanner you can try. There are plenty of other scanners available.
OBD2 scanners are a good option because they tell you the internal issues. They are pretty easy to use, and there are tutorials on YouTube to help you out. Most OBD2 scanners come with an erase code feature. If your airbag light is flashing for some reason the scanner can solve, it will solve it and erase the flashing.
If the OBD2 scanner can’t solve or shows a severe issue, take your car to the mechanic.
Can I Drive With The Airbag Light On
Technically yes, but the risk is too big, so you definitely shouldn’t.
Currently, no state has any laws against driving without airbags. There is no federal law against it either. Getting an airbag warning means your car airbags are out of service for the time being. Since driving without airbags is legal, you won’t get into trouble driving with the warning light.
It might sound like a relief, but that doesn’t mean you should drive when your airbag light warning is on. Your airbags are there to protect you in a frontal car crash and to minimize the injuries. If the warning light is flashing, there is less protection available for you in case of an accident. So if you don’t want the risk, don’t drive until you get the issue solved.
Airbag malfunction doesn’t just mean your airbags won’t go off when necessary. It also means your airbag might go off when you don’t need them. It can easily backfire and cause an accident. Better stay put than risk your life like this.
Your insurance is another reason you shouldn’t drive while the airbag warning is on. Insurance companies try to cover as little as they can. If you’re in a car accident and they can prove that your airbag light was on, they can get away with not covering your bills.
It is because it will help them prove your negligence. If you’ve had the airbag warning on for some time but didn’t fix it, it is even better for them. It will be their get-out-without-paying-free card. Your car’s SRS system has a recording device to collect data from accidents. They can easily collect the data and overpower you. If you don’t want that risk, don’t drive when your airbag warning is on.
Can I Fix The Airbag Light Myself
That depends on the issue and its severity. Most sources suggest not to go around DIY-ing everything, but there are exceptions. If your airbag light is flashing because of a small system error or a false alarm, you can fix it yourself. You’ll have to turn the ignition off and on; maybe go for a test drive.
If the issue is a bit more severe and has you wondering, “Why is my airbag light on even after the troubleshooting?” then it depends on the issue. You’ll have to use an OBD2 scanner and see if the light goes off. Suppose the scanner can erase it; good for you! You can drive around without worrying. You’ll have to take your car to a professional if the issue is severe.
Airbag Replacement Cost
If you see a mechanic directly, you’ll have to pay around $150 for the initial visit. It doesn’t include any repair, though. If you need repairs or part replacements, the cost can go anywhere between $800-$3000. It will depend on your car model, make, and the necessary parts’ availability.
If you’re just replacing the airbags, you should plan at least $1000 per airbag, including fitting.
What is the minimum speed for airbag deployment?
Your airbags will only go off if your car goes at a specific speed and the SRS detects a collision. If your car’s front part hits something solid, your airbags can go off, but that depends on the speed.
Usually, airbags are designed to go off if you’re going at a speed between 8-14 MPH. Cars usually go faster during accidents, but that’s not the only thing that triggers airbags. The airbags go off if the SRS detects rapid deceleration with other factors.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Does SRS Mean In A Car
SRS stands for Supplemental Restraint System. It is the module that connects and controls the airbags of your car. This module controls your airbags, the sensors connected to them, and the sensors connected to them.
What Does Service Airbag Mean
Service Airbag is one of the messages and warnings that might show up on your dashboard. These alerts tell you that your airbag system has a problem. If you don’t fix the issue, you’ll have less protection in case of a car accident.
What Does The Airbag Light Mean
The airbag light is an indicator of airbag malfunctions. If your airbag light is on, it means your airbags aren’t correctly connected or aren’t responding to the system. When this happens, the airbag system deactivates. It means no more airbag protection.
How To Turn Off The Airbag Light
Your airbag light should turn off by itself. If everything is okay, it will turn on for 6-7 seconds when you start your car. The light should turn off after that. If it doesn’t, then there are some internal issues. The light will only go off after you resolve the issues.
What Speed Do Airbags Deploy
Airbag deployment depends on speed and some other factors. If the SRS computer detects rapid deceleration, it prepares to trigger the airbags. If your car is going at a speed between 8-14mph and hits a solid object, your airbags will go off.
Will Disconnecting The Battery Reset The Airbag Light
Only if the problem is in the battery or a false alarm, if the problem isn’t in the battery, the light will only go away after you solve it.
What Can Cause The Airbag Light To Come On
A lot of things. Your airbag lights can come on if your seatbelt isn’t properly buckled if any of the SRS sensors is off and if the wiring is crooked. It can come on if there is water damage, blown fuses, or other electronic issues.
Why Is My Passenger Airbag Light On
Your passenger airbag light can turn on if the seat sensor thinks the seat is taken. It will also turn on if the passenger airbag switch is off. Turning the switch off disconnects the airbags, so the airbag light turns on.
And here you have it, the answer to “Why is my airbag light on?” your airbag light can turn on for multiple reasons. It can be a false alarm or ruptures in wirings, and sensors can cause it. Sometimes parts like the airbag clock spring going bad can turn the light on too. It can also turn on because of electronic issues.
The issues are easily solvable for the most part, especially if you’re familiar with an OBD2 scanner. But if they are too severe, you must take your car to the mechanic to resolve this.