Airbag Troubleshooting Guide – What to Do When Your Airbag Light Flashes
Airbags are one of the most critical safety features in your car. However, if the light starts flashing, the SRS system becomes inactive and could leave you unprotected during an accident.
The airbag light is flashing because there is or has been a problem with the SRS system. To reset the airbag light, turn the key off, count to 5, and turn it back on.
The airbag warning light in your car is the little red or amber light usually located in the middle of your instrument cluster, just below your speedo. It has the shape of a person seated with their seat belt on, or in some cases, says “AIR BAG.” Why does the airbag light come on and off?
A flashing airbag light could mean that your backup battery is drained, you have a clock spring issue, or that one of your SRS sensors isn’t malfunctioning. You must fix this problem as soon as possible because your airbags will not deploy in a crash if they can’t detect that you aren’t buckled up, increasing the likelihood of serious injuries or death.
The most common cause is the drain of the backup battery in your airbag control module. It happens because the backup battery prevents a power short within the airbag control module that would cause your airbags to deploy without your knowledge.
Luckily, there is a simple solution to this. First, disconnect the battery negative cable and follow this procedure to deactivate your airbag system.
The clock spring connects your steering wheel buttons and your car’s electronic systems, including the airbag. If this piece becomes damaged, your airbag and SRS light will appear on the dashboard, and you’ll need to have it replaced as soon as possible. A bad clock spring can also prevent the airbags from deploying during an accident, which could mean death or serious injury for you and your passengers.
Your clock spring contains multiple electrical tracks that wrap and unwrap when you turn your steering wheel, which allows it to send signals to different parts of your car’s electronics when you use the steering wheel controls. If one or more of these tracks become damaged, the airbag and sire lights will come on. It can be caused by normal wear and tear or a direct electrical fault with the system.
You can check for this problem by turning off your engine and removing the steering wheel trim. You should then be able to see the clock spring, and if it has become damaged, you can use the steps below to fix it. Take your car to an auto repair shop for a more accurate diagnosis. Ensure that you replace your clock spring with a quality OBD2 scanner.
The airbags in your vehicle inflate within a fraction of a second upon impact to cushion you from hard surfaces. They are part of the Supplemental Restraint System (SRS). If there is an issue with any of the sensors or wiring in this system, your airbag warning light will come on. The SRS includes a clock spring, seat sensor, crash sensor, and seat belt tensioner.
The problem could be as simple as a wire needing to be used correctly. The plugs and wiring can dislodge as you move the seats in older vehicles to accommodate different people. Spraying on the plugs and sockets can help restore this connection.
A heavy passenger seat object mistaken for an occupant may also trigger a sensor. Try moving the seat forward and back to reset this sensor.
If the airbag light flashes for more than seven seconds, a malfunction has been detected. Pressing the button seven times does not reset this warning light, but it will change it from “User Mode” to “Diagnostic Mode.” If your airbag light continues to flash, you should contact a professional for repair.
An airbag light that is illuminated or flashing can mean several things. The most serious would be that your SRS airbag module has been deactivated. It means the airbags will only deploy in an accident if you fix it immediately. An auto shop can do this for you, including replacing the deployed sensors and possibly resetting the airbag control module.
Another common cause is that a sensor’s weight sensor has been disturbed or moved as you change the seats in your vehicle over time. The airbag system relies on these weight sensors to tell if an occupant is in the seat. These are also called “occupant detection” sensors; if the car detects no one in the passenger seat, it will turn off your airbags.
If the problem is a faulty weight sensor, it can be fixed by simply moving or replacing the sensor. Another possible issue is a malfunction with the airbag system’s ground connections. The screw that holds the sensor (three – left, right, and center and a sensor behind the driver’s sidekick panel) to the body provides this ground. These screws often get corroded or broken and need to be cleaned or replaced. A scan tool can remove the soft-code error in the airbag control module, which should correct the problem.
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