Some drivers tend to ignore the lights that come up on their dashboard, especially since these lights normally turn on as a self-test when you start up your engine.
However, there is one light that you should pay attention when it stays on. Ignoring this light can mean the difference between life and death when you drive out – it’s the Supplemental Restraint System (SRS) light on.
The SRS light / Airbag light directly connects to your Airbag System and it’s an indicator that there is something wrong with your airbag.
An SRS light that constantly remains on while driving means that something in the airbag system went faulty and the airbag might not deploy in the event of a vehicular accident. Thus, running with this light constantly on is a clear safety hazard.
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What does the SRS Light Mean?
In some vehicles, the dashboard will illuminate a written SRS code such as “AIR BAG”, “AIR BAG DEACTIVATED”, or “AIR BAG OFF”. Nevertheless, the SRS light means that your car is saying that you that your airbag might not deploy in case of a collision if the SRS light on.
A vehicle’s airbag system contains an intricate system of circuit and sensors that are designed to deploy an airbag when it senses an impact greater than a set threshold. Airbags are crucial in providing an energy-absorbing surface between the driver and the steering wheel, keeping the driver safe from injury in the event of a head-on collision.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, airbags have saved around 2,790 lives from 2017 and onwards. Together with seatbelts, airbags become the most effective safety features for passengers, reducing the risk of fatal injury by as much as 45 percent. This is considering that in 2018, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 36,650 people died in vehicular accidents.
Why is the SRS light on?
There could be several reasons why your SRS light remains on. The most common reasons are bad connections and plugs. The connections of an airbag system are often found under the driver seat. These connectors can become loose every time you adjust your driver seat and move it forward or backward.
The Airbag / SRS control module can also get corroded either due to age or exposure to the elements. This happens when your car gets flooded inside or other forms of precipitation, like rain or snow, gets into your car. If you always use your car under extreme conditions and the SRS light turns on, then checking the connections on your airbag control module might help.
This light turning on can also be an indicator that your airbag clock spring is already worn out. The airbag clock spring maintains the connection between the airbag and your car’s electrical wiring. Over time, the circuit band may fray or become brittle, especially if exposed to the elements. A slowly severing connection can cause the bag to send an error report to the SRS control module which in turn, will warn you with the SRS light.
Another common reason could be with your. Newer cars have sensors that detect whether your is properly fastened or not. A faulty seatbelt switch can trigger a false warning. In such cases, even if the seatbelt clicks, your car's on-board computers might not detect this and light up the SRS light to warn you.
Another reason for the SRS light to turn on, albeit somewhat rare, is that your car's sensors might have been triggered before, but not to the point that it automatically deployed the airbags. This often happens vehicles that experienced minor collisions. In this case, taking your car to a mechanic to reset the airbag can solve the problem.
Lastly, if your SRS light is on, you might want to check your car battery as well. Dashboard lights that won’t turn off can be caused by a drained battery. A full battery recharge might solve the problem with the lights.
What should you do if your SRS light is on?
Don’t even hesitate if your SRS light is on. Take your vehicle to a mechanic or a qualified repair shop to have it properly inspected and fixed. It is also a good idea to check with your car manufacturer to find out if there is any announcement for recalls due to defective airbag systems. This is also a good time to check if your car is covered under an extended warranty.
If you want to forego the costs of taking your car to a mechanic, you can try resetting the SRS light yourself by following the steps listed below. However, be forewarned that you still need to take your vehicle to a qualified technician if the problem with the SRS light persists.
- Turn your ignition switch on. This will initiate your vehicle’s self-test features.
- The SRS light will flash for exactly seven seconds. Once it turns off, immediately switch your ignition off.
- Wait for three seconds and then turn on your ignition again.
- Repeat the entire process for two or three more times. If successful, your SRS light will start flashing.
A quick side note, SRS systems contain a "black box" that records data from an accident, such as the speed, "G" forces, and a number of seatbelts latched. Insurance companies use the data from the SRS system as supplementary information for insurance claims in the event of a vehicular accident. This SRS black box also records the length of time when the SRS system was disabled due to faulty wiring.
Most insurance companies reject the claim if they determine if the injury could have been prevented if the airbag was working. This is why it is important to have a mechanic check your car immediately if the SRS light is on.
The SRS light on after the accident
More information on how to reset SRS light/airbag light, deactivate & replace the airbags after the car accident.
Don’t reduce yourself into a statistic. Ensuring that you're airbag works properly is one of the many steps that you can keep yourself and your loved ones safe whenever you are on the road. Always remember the SRS
James is a certified auto technician specializing in commercial vehicles. With 30 years of experience under his belt, James has encountered almost every type of automotive issue there is! Besides his day job at the repair shop, he is also an amateur race car driver.