Modern car owners are concerned about safety features. The automotive makers are thus increasing the safety features such as airbags, sensors indicating an error, stability control features, etc. The airbag is a vehicle’s occupant restraint system designed to inflate quickly in a collision (1). The major parts of an airbag system include an airbag cushion, an inflation module, a flexible fabric bag, and an impact sensor. The impact sensor is usually located at the front of the vehicle and on the sides in case the car has side airbags.
We will discuss some key reasons that can flash an airbag warning light onto the vehicle’s dashboard, along with some remedies.
Importance of Airbags in a Car
Airbags have been considered the safest innovation in recent decades.
Most manufacturers have been bound to provide front airbags in new passenger vehicles since 1999. In addition, some federal laws also bound the manufacturers to include side airbags as standard equipment for crash safety. According to the statistics published in 2015, front airbags reduce the driver fatality rate by 29% and the fatality of front passengers by 32% (2). Similarly, another report published in 2007 showed that side airbags could reduce the fatality rate of a driver by 37% in a car and 52% in an SUV (3). This shows the instant response of the airbags during a crash and its efficacy in saving the driver’s life.
Reasons of Airbag Warning Light in the Vehicle
Wiring or Electrical Issues
An airbag is the most critical part of the vehicle, providing security and safety to the passengers while driving. In the entire car, the airbag is the only part that immediately provides protection when a sudden accident occurs (1). Sometimes the error occurs in the airbag, and the warning light is illuminated to warn the driver before any emergency occurs.
Usually, the warning light is illuminated due to the defect in the wiring. This is because Airbag has specific wires and electrical system connected with them, and due to the fault in the electrical wiring, the airbag system does not operate properly. In airbags, there is a part known as the clock spring, and the function of the clock spring is to keep the connection between the electrical wiring system and the driver’s airbag. The clock spring is the type of coil it moves inwards and outwards as the steering wheel is rotated (3).
A simple driver cannot comprehend the complex wiring of an airbag system. So, taking your car to a professional mechanic or service center is recommended to resolve the wiring problem.
Defected Crash Sensors
In the airbag system, there are different sensors connected. These sensors help determine the collisions and provide safety to the passengers by detecting the collisions. These collisions are detected with the help of the sensors (1).
Firstly, there are chances that the crash sensor was triggered due to the collisions, but the airbags failed to operate on time. Secondly, the information is transmitted to the SRS computer when the crash sensor senses the immediate collisions. The SRS computer then detects the information and deploys the airbag (4). The information gathered by the SRS computer is then compared with the vehicle movement and seat belt information. If the crash sensor information is doubtful, the airbag is not deployed. The warning light on the dashboard indicates that the sensors are not operating accurately and need to be replaced.
Other than that, the sensors’ efficiency might be affected due to the low power system. The sensors operate on a fixed voltage and current supplied by the batteries (5).
The airbag sensors are inside the driver’s door, passenger door, and car’s bonnet. Similarly, the rear impact sensors are located inside the car’s boot and rear passenger doors. So, these sensors are not accessible by a simple driver. However, in case of malfunctioned sensors, you can use an inexpensive code reader to detect the sensor problem. And then, you can take the car to a professional service center to get the malfunctioning sensors replaced.
Issue in Seatbelt System
With the modernization in technology, many latest features are introduced in the latest model of the vehicles. So in the latest model, certain sensors are attached to the seatbelts. These sensors collect information on whether the passenger or the driver is wearing the seatbelt during traveling (4). Seat belt plays an important role in promoting safe driving and protecting the driver and the passenger from injury during an accident.
There is a component in the seat belt known as a force limiter. This force limiter will lessen the strain of the seatbelt on the passenger’s body and will tightly hold the passenger in its place.
Suppose the people traveling need to buckle up the seat belt properly. In that case, there are chances that the information from the sensors is sent to the airbag computer system, and a warning light is illuminated, showing that the seat belt is not tightened properly. There are various reasons seat belts are not fastened properly, such as dirt particles, garbage stuck in the buckle, corrosion, or the belt’s issue. Other than it, there are chances that seat belt sensors have completed their lifetime and are not operating properly. Other than it, there might be a weak electrical connection of the sensors that results in gathering poor information, and a warning airbag light appears on the dashboard.
It is thus recommended to wear the seatbelt while driving to activate the airbag in case of an accident. However, if the seatbelt is worn and the light blinks, try replacing the buckles. Similarly, if there is an issue with the limit forcer, then take the car to a professional mechanic to get the limiter replaced. You can also try home tricks, such as cleaning buckles with vinegar water and other chemicals to eliminate the corrosion and dust particles causing this warning light to blink on the dashboard.
The wet airbag module is another reason for the illuminated airbag warning light. There are some chances that water may fall on the airbag, and the parts of the airbag may get rusted, which results in poor performance of the airbag module (1). The airbag module is situated under the driver’s seat. If the water is spilled accidentally, it will enter the airbag module.
So, it is important to take serious action when the airbag module light is illuminated. Otherwise, the passenger may suffer from serious accidents.
In case of water damage, the airbag module needs to be replaced, which can be done by a professional mechanic. It is requested that the drivers only indulge in airbag repair activities with prior experience and adequate knowledge. The airbag is sensitive, and a small error can cause it to inflate. This will require you to replace the entire dashboard or steering module, which will cost you much.
I faced an airbag sensor issue in my Toyota Prius back in 2015. I was unaware of the severity of the warning light and kept ignoring the light while driving. Although I followed all the driving instructions, such as wearing seatbelts, the airbags did not open when my car crashed on the Orlando Highway. The service center quoted that the frontal airbag sensor was not working at the crash, so it could not analyze the impact. Hence, the airbag did not open during the crash. Although I was lucky enough to survive the crash, I recommend that every driver not risk their lives and drive their cars when the airbag light blinks.