Airbag Light On → Meaning & Diagnosis

When you start your vehicle, the computer system runs a diagnostic check of all major systems.  If any of these checks fail, you will see a diagnostic warning light on the dash.  When the airbag system fails this check, you’ll see the airbag light.

Depending on the make and model, you may get something along the lines of SRS, a picture of a person with the airbag deployed, or the word airbag.  All of these should be treated as the airbag light.

Your vehicle’s airbag light is there to tell you that there is a problem with the airbag system.  If it comes on for a few seconds as the vehicle starts, that is completely normal.  It’s when it stays on that indicates a problem.

Airbag Light On Diagnosis

Why is Your Airbag Light On?

Your airbag light is part of the larger supplemental restraint system.  It works in tandem with the system to protect you in the event of an accident.  If all parts of this system are not working properly, it can cause the airbag light to come on.

If you’ve been in an accident, the airbag light is going to stay on until the system has been restored.  It will not work until repaired.

Here are some common reasons that the airbag light could come on.


1.  Seat Belts

Safety belts are still the most important safety feature in the event of a crash.  Modern vehicles have sensors running to them to let the computer system know if they are on the occupant, and if they are locked up.

If you have a seat belt that is stuck in the lock position, it might be the reason why your airbag light is on.  See if you can tug at it and get it moving again.


2.  Seat Sensors

The seat sensors tell the airbag system that the seat is occupied.  If the vehicle is older, it may have a manual button to turn the passenger airbag on or off.

Look under the seats to see if you can find any part of the wiring harness that has come dislodged or damaged.  This is a very common reason why the airbag light comes on.


3.  Airbag Itself

If the airbag system is not getting a response from one of the airbags itself in the diagnostic cycle, it’ll turn the airbag light on until the problem has been fixed, and the system has been reset.


4.  Airbag ECU/Sensors

The airbag system control unit may have gone bad.  If this is the case, you can have it replaced or send for a new one.  This often happens whenever you get into a fender bender that doesn’t deploy the airbag.  

One or more of the crash sensors may have been triggered, but not enough to deploy the airbag.  The airbag sensors can also fail and throw the airbag light on if there is water damage.  This is one of the reasons why it is not wise to buy a car with flood damage, even if it looks like it is otherwise fine.


5.  Not Reset After Deployment

If your vehicles airbag has gone off and been replaced, the airbag system needs reset.  It won’t just work until the airbag system has been reset by a shop, or you send the module to someone who can do it for you.


Is it Safe to Drive with the Airbag Light On?

It is not as safe to drive with the airbag light on.  The airbag system has saved countless lives since its invention.  If you do drive with the airbag light on, you are relying solely on the safety belts to keep you safe, which is not as safe.

All of the technology that keeps you from crashing is still there (if equipped), such as the traction control, anti-lock brake system, and blind spot detection.  But if you get in an accident, the technology that could save your life is going to be 30+ years out of date.



The airbag system is complicated.  There can be a lot of different reasons why the airbag light may have come on in your vehicle, and most of them should be left to a professional. Just because the vehicle can be driven, does not mean that the problem should be ignored.  Good luck!