SRS Light: Meaning, Causes, and How To Fix

The SRS is one of the most important components of your vehicle. It ensures your safety while driving. The airbag light or SRS light is a common dashboard indicator that many drivers may encounter. Learn the SRS light meaning and the most common causes of its illumination.

Airbag Light

The airbag light or SRS light indicates issues within the vehicle’s airbag system, indicating a potential problem. This could mean that the airbags might not be set up properly in the event of an accident.

Modern cars have various types of airbags, each relying on accurately adjusted sensors for deployment.

While the SRS system is designed to prevent accidental airbag deployment, periodic checkups are advisable. Malfunctioning sensors may also affect the performance of the airbags, underscoring the importance of keeping the system in optimal condition. This article explains the SRS light causes and how to reset it.

What Does the SRS Light Mean?

An illuminated SRS warning light indicates that there is something wrong with the airbag system. The supplemental restraint system (SRS) system of a vehicle is designed as a passive safety measure, activated automatically without any action required from the driver or passengers. It helps to complete the main role of seatbelts.

SRS Light Meaning

The SRS system autonomously detects different factors such as acceleration, passenger seat occupancy, collision dynamics, and braking. Using this data, the Airbag Control Unit determines the appropriate deployment of airbags and seatbelts.

When something goes wrong with the SRS, some vehicle models show “SRS,” while others display an airbag symbol. When you start your car, the SRS light should remain illuminated for a brief period, usually lasting two to five seconds, as the system conducts self-tests.

This system is considered operational if the SRS light turns off. However, if the light illuminates constantly, it signals a malfunction in the SRS airbag system, resulting in its deactivation. Consequently, airbags won’t activate, seat belts won’t tighten, and other safety features won’t engage in case of an accident.

Causes of the SRS Light Illumination

A faulty seat belt latch or passenger seat occupancy sensor is one of the major causes of the SRS light to come on. It may also be caused due to some other reasons such as a dead backup battery, corrosion, an accident, or a bad SRS computer.

1) Seat Belt Latch Failure

Seat Belt Latch, causes of srs light

The SRS system of your vehicle incorporates sensors that constantly check the performance of seat belts. In case foreign objects have obstructed the buckle, they might disrupt the connection and cause the SRS light to come on.

To resolve this issue, ensure the seat belt buckle is free from debris. If nothing is visible, you can use compressed air to clean the buckle.

2) Faulty Passenger Seat Occupancy Sensor

Passenger Seat Occupancy Sensor

A bad passenger seat occupancy sensor is one of the frequent causes of SRS light activation.

When a person occupies the front seat, a sensor within the SRS system is activated. This sensor detects the presence of the body/material and its weight.

If an adult occupies the seat, the system readies the passenger airbag for potential deployment. However, when the sensor malfunctions, it can trigger the illumination of the SRS light.

3) Accidents

Following an accident where airbags do not deploy, the SRS light might activate. Typically, the crash sensors initiate the system during a collision.

But if a malfunction causes the failure of the airbags, the computer receives a fault signal, resulting in the SRS light indicating the need for a reset.

4) Bad Clock Spring

Clock Spring, causes of airbag light

Located within the steering wheel, the clock spring serves a vital role by maintaining a connection with the SRS computer even when the steering wheel is in motion.

Unfortunately, clock spring often faces significant wear and tear. When it malfunctions, the airbag on the driver’s side might fail to deploy in the event of a collision. Concurrently, the SRS light will activate, alerting the driver to this situation.

5) Dead SRS Computer Battery Backup

The SRS computer of your car relies on a backup battery to preserve received inputs, even when the car is not running.

If this battery loses power or becomes depleted, it may trigger the illumination of the SRS light. Resolving this issue requires the installation of a new battery.

6) Corrosion

Exposure to water may rapidly initiate corrosion within your vehicle, particularly among the SRS parts, which can lead to significant problems. This leads to the illumination of the airbag warning light as well as potential impacts on the system’s performance. 

To address this issue, a comprehensive examination of all components for signs of corrosion is necessary. Any faulty parts should be replaced.

7) Faulty SRS Computer

Airbag Control Module

Similar to all electrical components, the SRS computer may also experience failures over time.

Factors such as water, excessive vibrations, aging, and heat damage can contribute to the failure of the SRS computer. If the SRS light is illuminated due to a malfunctioning computer, the sole solution is a new computer.

How to Reset the SRS Light

When the SRS warning light starts to illuminate on your car’s dashbaord, you should fix it as soon as possible. This light indicates an issue with your SRS which plays a vital role to prevent you from injury in case of an accident. Follow the below-given steps to reset the SRS light.

1) Turn the Ignition Switch on and off

Ignition Switch, how to reset srs light

Follow the following steps to reset the SRS light by switching on and off the ignition:

  • Begin by turning on the ignition switch. After about seven seconds, the airbag light should activate and stay lit until it automatically switches off.
  • Wait for about four seconds, then promptly turn off the ignition.
  • Repeat these initial steps multiple times before attempting to start the engine.

If performed correctly, your vehicle’s airbag light will illuminate for approximately seven seconds and then go off permanently.

2) Restart Your Car and Perform a Test Drive

Now, turn on the ignition switch again and perform a test drive. If your car’s airbag light ceases flashing and remains off, it’s likely that the problem has been fixed.

If the problem persists, proceed with the following steps. Inspect the electrical wires beneath both the passenger’s and driver’s seats before the vehicle again.

Additionally, examine the connector plug for signs of corrosion or damage. If none are detected, you can utilize an electronic cleaner to clean the connector plug.

3) Inspect the Airbag Switch

passenger airbag switch

While troubleshooting the SRS light, one of the main checks involves inspecting the passenger seat airbag on/off button, which is found in specific models.

There are chances that accidental deactivation of this button could be the reason for the illuminated airbag light. Typically situated on the passenger-side dashboard, to access this button, you may need to open the passenger door or glove box.

4) Replace Faulty Airbag Sensors

Especially in modern vehicle models, sensors play a pivotal part in ensuring the optimal performance of the vehicle. Your SRS contains multiple sensors that monitor the performance of the airbags.

The illumination of the SRS light becomes evident when any of these sensors become faulty or stop working.

Over time, airbag sensors might experience unexpected failures, leading to their activation without a visible issue. In cases of water damage to the vehicle, these sensors may also malfunction, causing the SRS light to activate.

Furthermore, there might be times when the Airbag Control Unit doesn’t work properly. If this happens, fixing the issue could mean changing sensors that aren’t working, replacing the control unit that’s causing problems, or fixing parts that got damaged because of water.

5) Reset the SRS Light Using a Scanner

To reset the SRS light, you can use an OBD2 scanner with SRS capabilities, especially if you possess mechanical skills.

However, it’s important to note that not all OBD2 scanners have the ability to reset the SRS light. Prior to purchasing an OBD2 scanner, it’s advisable to conduct research to ensure it possesses the necessary features.

6) Check the Seatbelt Performance

The SRS system of a vehicle might trigger the airbag light if it monitors loosely attached or improperly secured seatbelts, as its focus lies in ensuring occupant safety. Additionally, the system may also deactivate the airbag if the seatbelt remains unused.

Therefore, it is important to verify the proper functioning of seatbelts and their associated sensors to reset the SRS light. Surprisingly, even minor items such as spare change can disrupt the performance of the seatbelt sensors, leading to unexpected issues.

A seemingly small pothole or bump could cause minor objects, such as coins, to become obstructed between the seatbelt fastener and its sensor, particularly because items like coins are often kept close to fastening points.

In such cases, the sensor might fail to detect the fastened seatbelt, resulting in the illumination of the SRS light. It’s advisable to inspect the buckle for any obstructions before considering sensor replacement.

Car owners frequently underrate the cost involved in clearing obstructions from within seatbelt fasteners. If your seatbelt components can’t be individually replaced and the sensors are integrated into the belt, the scenario becomes more complex.

7) Replace the faulty Clock Spring

The clock spring, also known as a cable reel assembly, contact reel, coil assembly, or spiral cable, holds significant importance. Damage or deterioration of this component may cause the activation of the SRS light.

8) Check Passenger Seat Sensor

Many vehicles feature a sensitive passenger weight sensor. Some vehicle models are prone to triggering these sensors quite easily, particularly if sizeable containers or boxes are placed on the passenger seats. Consequently, the reset light is activated.

To rectify this situation, simply remove the material from the seat or fasten the seatbelt. Doing so may address the problem. If this resolves the issue, it indicates that the passenger weight sensor was engaged, thereby causing the airbag light to illuminate.

9) Check the Performance of the Airbag

As discussed above, a faulty airbag may also trigger the SRS light. However, this issue is relatively rare.

If your airbag is faulty, you will need to replace it. For this job, you may need to hire a mechanic, which could involve a significant cost.

FAQ Section

Can I drive with the SRS Light On?

Driving with the illuminated SRS Light is not advisable. However, with the illuminated SRS light, your car can still function normally, but the critical point is that the airbag system will be non-operational in the event of a collision. It’s strongly recommended to promptly contact a mechanic to diagnose the issue.

Will airbags deploy if the SRS light is on?

In many cars, the airbag system doesn’t deploy in case of an illuminated SRS light. This feature serves as a safety precaution to prevent accidental airbag deployment in the presence of a system malfunction.

What does SRS mean?

SRS, or supplemental restraint system, refers to safety mechanisms like seatbelts or airbags designed to provide extra protection and decrease injuries during an accident.

Can a blown fuse cause the airbag light to come on?

Yes, a blown fuse in the airbag control module can lead to the activation of the airbag light. If you notice the airbag light illuminated, the most effective approach to identifying the issue is by using an OBD-II scanner to retrieve fault codes.

How much does it cost to fix the SRS airbag?

The fixing of the SRS airbag depends on the labor cost and your vehicle model. The average replacement cost of the airbag is from $900 to $1,600 each. This estimate exclusively covers the airbags themselves and excludes any additional parts needing replacement. Furthermore, replacing an airbag module will likely add an extra expense of $620 or more.

How to turn off the SRS light?

To reset the SRS light, you need to rectify the underlying issues and reset the fault code using a scanner. In the case of old vehicles, disconnecting the car battery may also reset the warning light. But the latest vehicles often require a reset using a specialized tool.

Can you clear the SRS code with a scan tool?

In some cases, you can clear the SRS code by using a scanner. But mostly, you need to address the main issue to clear the SRS codes.

What is an SRS sensor?

SRS contains multiple sensors that are programmed to identify significant vehicle deceleration, as typically occurs during an accident.

What is SRS failure?

SRS stands for Supplemental Restraint System, surrounding components like seatbelts and airbags. If the SRS is malfunctioning, it could potentially result in the non-deployment of airbags during collisions. The significance of maintaining these components in good condition becomes evident.

Why is my SRS light on?

The SRS light of your vehicle may come on due to different reasons, such as an issue in the airbag system, damaged wiring, a faulty sensor, a bad clock spring, or a disconnected component.

Can I reset the SRS light by disconnecting the battery?

Yes, disconnecting the battery may reset the light temporarily, but it won’t fix the main problem. If you reset the SRS light without fixing the underlying issue, your light may come back on as you start driving.

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