The supplemental restraint system (SRS) in your vehicle is one of your car’s most crucial safety features. You might be wondering, “What is the SRS system?” The SRS system is basically the airbag system in your car. Properly working airbags are crucial in the event of a crash.
You might not even realize it, but your vehicle also has an SRS light on the dash. When there is a problem with the airbag system, the SRS airbag light will illuminate. You should always take this light seriously. So, what can cause the airbag light to come on? Keep reading as we give you all the details. We will tell you what the airbag light usually means, what can cause it to come on, and how to fix it.
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What Is An SRS Light & What Does It Mean?
The SRS warning light on your vehicle might look a little different, depending on the make and model of your car. Some cars might display a warning, such as “Check Airbag System.” Others might simply show a picture that appears to be an airbag in front of a stick figure. You can check your owner’s manual to see what the airbag light in your car looks like.
So, what does the airbag light mean? When your SRS light is on, it almost always means the same thing. There is a problem with your airbag system or an SRS malfunction. The cause of the problem could be several different things, and we will discuss potential causes in more detail in the next section. But you should know that your airbag system might not function properly with the airbag light on. In rare cases, it might even cause the airbag to deploy without an accident. This could present a big safety hazard, and you should have the issue fixed right away.
Reasons The SRS Warning Light Is On
Your SRS system is fairly complicated, and there are many sensors that work together with the SRS control unit to make things operate properly. A malfunction with any of these sensors could cause the airbag warning light to illuminate. Here are some of the most common reasons you might see the light come on.
— Faulty Seat Belt Latch
Mercedes-Benz was the first manufacturer to introduce a driver’s side airbag back in the early 1980s. At the time, people thought that airbags might replace seat belts as the primary safety mechanism in cars. However, they quickly realized that airbags were much more successful when used in conjunction with a seat belt. In fact, the airbag can cause injury when the driver is not wearing a seat belt. For this reason, some vehicles might not allow the airbag to deploy when your seat belt is not fastened properly. Sensors in the latch tell the car’s computer whether or not the seat belt is properly latched. If this sensor malfunctions, the airbag light may illuminate. Debris in the latch can also cause issues, so you might simply need to clean the latch to get things working again. A foreign object in the seat belt latch could be the cause of the problem.
— Passenger Seat Sensor
There is an occupancy sensor located in your passenger seat that tells the car’s computer whether or not someone is sitting there. If someone is sitting in the seat, the passenger airbag will deploy during a crash. When the passenger seat is empty, the computer does not deploy the passenger airbag during a crash. Any problems with this sensor can cause an SRS code to get thrown and illuminate the SRS light. When that happens, you’ll need an auto repair shop to perform some diagnostics to determine the cause of the issue. Replacement of the passenger seat sensor may be required.
— Previous Accident
Cars that have been involved in a previous accident sometimes have trouble with the airbag system. Once the airbags in a car have been deployed, only an experienced mechanic can properly repair things. The airbag system must be reset, and sensors must sometimes be replaced. Failure to make the repairs correctly can lead to problems down the road. SRS lights sometimes occur on cars with a rebuilt title because the new airbags were not installed correctly. If your vehicle has been in a crash before, that could be the reason for the airbag light. This is one reason it can be risky to buy a car with a rebuilt title, especially if it does not include any type of warranty.
— Bad Clock Spring
You may have never even heard of a clock spring before, so what is it? The clock spring is the part inside your steering column that allows you to turn the steering wheel without affecting the airbag. The sensors inside the steering wheel must remain in a closed circuit during normal operation, and this spring allows the wheel to turn while keeping the circuit closed. Without this spring, turning the steering wheel could lead to airbag problems. Corrosion or other issues with the spring can cause trouble codes in the SRS system. This is an issue that should be corrected right away, as it could lead to unsafe driving conditions.
Your airbag safety system is susceptible to corrosion, just like the other systems in your vehicle. Corrosion in any of the sensors, connectors, or other components of the airbag system can cause a problem. For instance, corrosion on the clock spring or a seat belt switch can cause big issues. Corrosion can happen anywhere, although you are more likely to experience it if you live in a wet or humid climate. Water damage will also lead to corrosion very quickly. When you see the SRS dashboard light, you should head to your dealership as soon as possible so that they can diagnose and correct the problem.
— SRS Computer Battery Backup Is Dead
The computer systems in your vehicle rely on your car battery for power. However, what happens if the battery is dead? If you are involved in a crash, your battery might be disconnected or destroyed, but the airbags still need to deploy. For this reason, the airbag system uses a backup battery to provide power when the main car battery is unavailable. The computer monitors the voltage of the backup battery, and it will alert the driver when the backup gets too low. When this happens, the backup will need to be replaced.
— Faulty SRS Computer
We’ve mostly discussed problems with crash sensors or other small parts related to your airbag system. But it’s possible for the entire SRS computer to fail. When that happens, your airbag light will illuminate. In some cases, a mechanic might be able to reprogram the computer by installing new software. However, the computer might need to be replaced if the problem is bad enough. You might also hear the SRS computer called the car’s “black box.” This computer records extensive data about the vehicle, and an insurance company might even want to examine the black box after a crash. A properly working SRS computer is critical, so make sure that you get yours replaced if necessary.
How To Reset The SRS Light
Now you are probably wondering how to fix an airbag light. Resetting the SRS light usually requires an automotive scan tool. However, you should not reset the light without repairing the problem. Failure to repair the problem will just cause the light to come back on soon after you reset it. Once the problem has been repaired, then you can reset the light using a scan tool. Not all scan tools are capable of resetting an SRS light, though. If you plan to purchase a tool specifically for this purpose, make sure that the tool you purchase provides that capability. Otherwise, you should visit a repair shop that can do the job for you. They should have the proper tools to fix the problem and reset the light.
Can I Drive My Car With The Airbag Light On?
The short answer is yes. You can drive your car with the airbag light on; however, you should not do it. When the airbag light comes on, this means there is a problem with the car’s airbag system. Driving without a properly working airbag system is not safe. You should head to an auto service center as soon as possible to have the problem fixed. It might be something as simple as debris in the seat belt buckle, but it could be a more serious problem, like a bad SRS computer.
Not only can SRS problems be unsafe, but they might get you in trouble with your insurance company. If your insurance company inspects the black box after a crash, they will be able to see that the warning light was on at the time of the crash. Failure to correct the problem could lead to your insurance company denying your claim.
The Bottom Line
Are you wondering, “Why is my SRS light on?” There are several reasons this could happen, from a bad passenger seat sensor to a corroded clock spring. In rare cases, the SRS computer might go bad and need replacement. While your car will still run and drive with the SRS light on, you should not drive until the problem is fixed. Driving with a malfunction in the airbag system is not safe, and you should get the problem fixed right away.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I get the SRS light off?
You will need to clear the trouble codes and reset the light with a scan tool. However, you must fix the problem that caused the light to come on. Otherwise, the light will return very soon. Once the problem has been repaired, then you should use the scan tool to reset the light. If you do not have the expertise for a DIY repair, you should take your car to a qualified mechanic.
How much does it cost to fix the SRS?
The cost to fix the SRS depends on the specific problem. Replacing a bad sensor might only cost you $200, while replacing the SRS computer could cost you over $1,000. On average, you can expect to pay $300 to $500 to fix the problem. Specialized knowledge is required to make SRS repairs, so the labor charges associated with the repair are often high.
Why is the SRS light on in my car?
The most common cause of the SRS light in your car is a bad sensor. You could have a faulty seat belt latch sensor or a bad passenger seat sensor. Corrosion in the sensors or connectors will also cause the light to come on. In rare cases, the SRS control unit will go bad. A bad control unit requires either reprogramming or replacement. Make sure that you have an experienced mechanic perform the repair to get your airbag system working properly again.