Comprehensive Guide to Understanding Your Car's Airbag Warning Light

airbag warning light on

The Airbag Safety Warning Light is on because the self check portion of the airbag operating program has detected a problem and the system is now shut down including the front and side airbags. This light is located inside the instrument cluster to help alert the driver so repairs can be made to re-enable the systems operation. When the ignition system is initially switched on, this warning light will illuminate informing you the system is ready to be activated, once the car has started the light should go out letting you know the system is working correctly.

What's Next?

To explore the possible reason for the warning light an airbag code reader must be used to receive the codes. These codes will help you find the problem which would be difficult otherwise.

Common Problem

1. By far the most common reason for an airbag warning light is the spiral wire or sometimes called a "clock spring", this part will break down internally and sever the connection to the front (steering wheel) airbag. For this repair the drivers airbag and steering wheel will need to be removed to change out the spiral wire and then reassemble.

2. Sometimes the wiring to front impact sensors can get damaged by a minor accident, or simply unplugged by some one that doesn't know what the sensor is for, or a car repair that was not completed correctly.

3. If the inside of the car gets wet it can affect the airbag control module which is located under the seats or in the center console. The module will need to be removed and dried out which sometimes works, if this doesn't work the module will need to be replaced and the connections for the electrical connectors  cleaned up and dielectric grease applied.

4. Circuit errors can occur within the airbag data network which is the result of wiring modifications such as an aftermarket radio installation. In this case a wiring diagram is needed and repairs made.

5. It is rare, but sometimes the airbag deployment module will have an internal circuit error which can only be repaired by replacement.

Before Repairs

Anytime you are working with this safety system remove the negative side of the battery cable and allow the car is sit for about 15 minutes. This will disarm the system and make it safe to work on while avoiding accidental deployment.

Warning Light Reset

In general American made vehicles will self clear once the control module has detected no errors. Some European and Japanese vehicles will need to use a code reader to clear the codes and turn the light out to re-enable the system.

Airbag Safety Systems

General Motors - Air Bag System
Ford - Personal Safety System or Safety Canopy System
Toyota - Supplemental Restraint System (SRS)
Honda - Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE)
Mercedes-Benz - PRE-SAFE and Windowbags
BMW - Airbag System and Head Protection System (HPS) for side airbags.
Volkswagen - Airbag System
Volvo - Supplemental Restraint System (SRS)
Subaru - SRS Airbags
Hyundai - Supplemental Restraint System (SRS).
Nissan - Advanced Air Bag System (AABS).


This guide knowledge base was created by the 2CarPros Team, and by Ken Lavacot: Automobile repair shop owner and certified master automobile technician of over 30 years. If you have question or need help please ask one of our experts we are happy to help. Please visit our 2CarPros YouTube Channel.

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