SRS Airbag System Malfunction (Troubleshooting + More)

srs airbag system malfunction

The airbag system in your vehicle is a critical safety feature designed to protect you and your passengers in the event of a collision.

The Supplemental Restraint System (SRS), which includes airbags and seat belts, plays a crucial role in minimizing the risk of severe injuries. However, like any other component in your car, the airbag system requires regular maintenance and occasional troubleshooting to ensure its proper functioning.

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the workings of the airbag system, explore the reasons behind the illuminated SRS warning light, and discuss the necessary steps to rectify the issues.

Understanding How the Airbag System Works

The airbag system is a complex network of sensors, modules, and components that work together to provide effective protection during a collision.

When a significant frontal impact occurs, the SRS computer detects the deceleration and other relevant data through sensors strategically placed throughout the vehicle. The computer then sends signals to the seat belt pretensioners, which tighten the seat belts to secure the occupants in their seats.

Simultaneously, the computer triggers the deployment of the airbags by igniting chemicals in the airbag inflator. As a result, pressurized nitrogen gas is rapidly produced, inflating the airbags within milliseconds.

The purpose of the airbags is to cushion the head and upper body of the occupants, minimizing the impact force and reducing the risk of severe injuries.

After absorbing the impact, the airbags quickly deflate, allowing the occupants to breathe and exit the vehicle safely. In some cases, side impacts can also trigger the deployment of side airbags, providing additional protection during rollovers or collisions from the side.

It is crucial to note that the airbag system is designed as a supplemental safety measure and should always be used in conjunction with seat belts.

The combined use of airbags and seat belts offers the best chance of survival and minimizing injuries in a crash.

The Significance of the SRS Warning Light

The SRS warning light on your vehicle’s dashboard serves as a crucial indicator of potential issues with the airbag system.

Normally, the SRS light illuminates briefly during the vehicle’s start-up process and then turns off. However, if the SRS light remains on while driving or illuminates during a journey, it signifies a problem that requires immediate attention.

The SRS warning light is typically represented by a side view of a person sitting in a seat, wearing a seat belt, with a large circle symbolizing the airbag in front of them. When this light is illuminated, it indicates a malfunction within the airbag system or another component of the SRS.

Ignoring the warning light can lead to the airbags not deploying correctly or at all in the event of a collision, significantly increasing the risk of severe injuries or even fatalities.

Read also >> Pre Collision System Malfunction: How To Fix? (Step by Step)

Common Causes of the Illuminated SRS Warning Light

The SRS warning light can be triggered by various factors, ranging from simple issues to more complex problems within the airbag system. Let’s explore some of the common causes:

1. Seat Belt Latch Failure

One potential cause of the illuminated SRS warning light is a problem with the seat belt latch. The SRS system includes sensors that detect whether the seat belts are properly fastened.

If there is a foreign object, such as a coin or debris, lodged inside the seat belt buckle mechanism, it can trigger a fault that activates the warning light.

To resolve this issue, it is recommended to check inside the seat belt buckle for any foreign objects and remove them. If necessary, the SRS computer may need to be reset by a qualified mechanic.

2. Malfunctioning Passenger Seat Occupancy Sensor

In modern vehicles, the front passenger seat is equipped with a sensor that detects whether someone is sitting in the seat and measures their weight.

This information is crucial for the SRS system to determine whether to deploy the passenger airbag. If the sensor malfunctions or provides incorrect readings, it can cause the SRS warning light to illuminate.

To address this issue, it is advisable to check the wiring connector for secure connections, inspect the wiring for any damage, and ensure that the seat sensor is operational. Any damaged components should be repaired or replaced as necessary, followed by a reset of the SRS computer.

3. Corrosion from Water Damage

Water damage to the interior of the vehicle can lead to corrosion in the components of the SRS system. Corrosion can disrupt the proper functioning of the system, resulting in the illumination of the SRS warning light.

To rectify this issue, a thorough inspection of all SRS components should be conducted. Any corroded parts must be replaced, and the SRS computer should be reset to ensure everything is in optimal working order.

4. Malfunctioning Airbag Clock Spring

The airbag clock spring is an electrical connector located inside the steering wheel. Its purpose is to maintain electrical contact between the driver’s airbag and the SRS computer while allowing the steering wheel to turn.

Over time, the clock spring can wear out or become damaged, leading to a failure in the deployment of the driver’s airbag and triggering the SRS warning light.

Replacing the faulty clock spring and resetting the SRS computer are typically the recommended solutions for resolving this issue.

5. Drained SRS Computer Backup Battery

The SRS computer in your vehicle has a backup battery that retains its data even when the vehicle’s power is cut off. If the car battery becomes low or drained, it can affect the SRS backup battery, causing the SRS warning light to illuminate.

To address this problem, recharging or replacing the vehicle’s battery should restore the SRS backup battery. Additionally, the SRS computer may need to be reset to ensure proper functionality.

6. Unresolved Previous Accident

In some cases, the SRS warning light may illuminate due to a previous accident that did not trigger the deployment of the airbags.

If the crash sensors were activated but the airbags did not deploy, it can cause a fault in the SRS system, leading to the illumination of the warning light.

To resolve this issue, the SRS computer must be properly reset to restore normal operation.

7. Faulty SRS Computer

As with any electronic system, the SRS computer can experience malfunctions over time. Factors such as age, heat, vibration, and water damage can contribute to the failure of the computer, resulting in the illumination of the SRS warning light.

To address this issue, the faulty SRS computer should be replaced, followed by a reset of the system. It is also advisable to review the SRS warranty to determine if any repair costs may be covered.

The Importance of Promptly Addressing the Illuminated SRS Warning Light

It is crucial to take the illuminated SRS warning light seriously and address the underlying issues promptly.

Driving with the SRS light on poses significant risks, as it indicates that the airbags may not deploy correctly or at all in the event of a collision.

This can greatly increase the likelihood of severe injuries or fatalities for both the driver and passengers.

In addition to the potential safety implications, there may be further consequences from your insurance company if you fail to address the illuminated SRS warning light.

The SRS computer, commonly known as the “black box,” records relevant accident-related data leading up to the impact.

If the warning light was triggered and the system was not repaired before an accident occurred, it could potentially be grounds for the insurance company to deny coverage.

Can You Drive with the SRS Light On?

While it is possible to drive with the SRS light on, it is highly discouraged due to the increased safety risks involved.

The airbag system plays a critical role in protecting occupants during a collision, and driving with the SRS light illuminated means that the airbags may not deploy correctly or deploy at all.

This significantly reduces the effectiveness of the airbag system and increases the risk of severe injuries or fatalities.

If the SRS light is illuminated, it is strongly recommended to get your vehicle to a repair shop as soon as possible.

A qualified mechanic or technician can diagnose the specific issue causing the warning light and perform the necessary repairs to ensure the proper functioning of the airbag system.

The Cost of Repairing the SRS System

The cost of repairing the SRS system can vary depending on the specific issue and the vehicle’s make and model.

Simple problems such as debris in the seat belt latch may only require cleaning and resetting the SRS computer, resulting in lower repair costs. However, more complex issues such as a faulty airbag assembly or a malfunctioning SRS computer can be more expensive to repair or replace.

It is essential to consult with a qualified mechanic or technician to diagnose the issue accurately and provide an estimate for the repair costs.

Additionally, it is worth checking for any recalls or extended warranties related to the SRS system, as some repairs may be covered under these programs.


The airbag system, encompassing airbags and seat belts, is a vital safety feature in modern vehicles. Regular maintenance and prompt troubleshooting of the SRS system are essential to ensure its proper functioning in the event of a collision.

The illuminated SRS warning light serves as a crucial indicator of potential issues within the airbag system, and it should never be ignored. By promptly addressing the underlying problems causing the warning light, you can ensure the safety of yourself and your passengers on the road.

Remember, the airbag system is designed to work in tandem with seat belts, offering the best protection when used together.

Steve P.

Steve is an automotive technician, technical writer, and Managing Editor. He has held a lifelong passion for cars, with a particular interest in cars like the Buick Riviera. Steve is based in Boise, Idaho.

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