Symptoms Of A Bad Airbag Sensor (& Replacement Cost)

The airbag sensors are very sensitive and any issues with them will result in an airbag light. Here's how to tell if they are bad

Symptoms Of A Bad Airbag Sensor

Airbags are one of your car’s most important safety features, and one should always ensure that they are in fully working condition.

However, many drivers have complained that the airbag light in their car starts to blink without any reason, and it is often ignored.

This leaves the driver at serious risk if the car experiences a collision and the airbags do not engage.

If you do any work on your airbag system, always follow the repair manual closely or take help from a professional. Faulty airbag installations can cause death in case of an accident! Never work on airbag systems without breaking the power in your car. Never measure any airbags with multimeters or other devices, as they might blow off because of this.

In this article, we will discuss some of the common symptoms you might face when the airbag sensor becomes faulty and starts to malfunction.

Symptoms Of A Bad Airbag Sensor

The most common symptom of a bad airbag sensor is an airbag light on your dashboard. The other symptom is something you never want to happen, and that is your airbag won’t deploy in an accident.

There are actually two different symptoms you can expect when you have a broken airbag sensor.

What Is an Airbag Sensor?

Airbag Sensors

The sensor is basically a detecting device that can read rapid deacceleration of the vehicle and generates a signal as a response.

Its basic function is to electronically communicate the information with the electronic control unit and all the equipment related to the airbag system.

The intensity of the collision is also noted and it is used to determine whether or not the airbag should inflate.

Where Is the Airbag Crash Sensor Located?

Side Airbag Impact Sensor Location

Usually, you have two airbag sensors located in the front of your vehicle behind the bumper. There is often also one airbag sensor installed inside of each door of your car.

A car usually has several different airbag sensors installed, so to determine the exact location of the airbag sensors, you have to specify which one you want to find.

The best way to go about finding the airbag sensor’s location in your vehicle is to refer to the service manual provided by your manufacturer.

Airbag Crash Sensor Replacement cost

The average airbag sensor replacement cost is between $100 and $600, depending on the car model and labor costs. An airbag sensor costs $50 to $300 and a labor cost of $50 to $300.

The airbag sensor is a sensitive component, and so is the replacement. This can take as long as 2 hours, even for a professional, to properly diagnose and install the airbag sensor.

The airbag sensor itself is often not super expensive, and you can expect to get a new one for $50 to $300. You should always buy an OEM original genuine and never buy aftermarket sensors – do not take the risk!

If you feel very comfortable repairing cars and closely following the repair manual, you can save money and replace the airbag sensor yourself.

If you feel the slightest doubt about the replacement, let a professional do it instead.

Remember that it is an essential part and you want to install it correctly in case of an accident. There is also a risk that you will deploy all airbags in the car if you do something wrong – which will cost several thousands of dollars to restore.

How to test an airbag impact sensor

Car Diagnostics

Testing of an airbag sensor is possible, but should not be done.

The only way you should safely test an airbag sensor is to use an automotive diagnostic tool to read the airbag control unit’s trouble codes and live data.

Check for any measuring values inside your diagnostic tool and if there is a trouble code on the sensor, measure the wirings between the airbag and the airbag sensor.

If the airbag sensor’s wirings and connector are fine and the airbag control module says there is a problem with the airbag sensor, replace it!

They are often not super expensive, and you do not want to mess around with these parts because you really want it to work if the accident occurs!

Airbag Sensor Replacement

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know if my airbag sensor is bad?

A bad airbag sensor will trigger a red airbag warning light on the dashboard. In normal circumstances, this light should illuminate when you turn on the ignition, but only to shut down after a few seconds. If it stays on, there is an issue with the airbag system, which can be the sensor, the airbag itself, or any other corresponding components.

Will my airbag deploy if the sensor is bad?

In most cases, airbags will not deploy if their sensors are bad. This sensor, in simple words, detects when the vehicle is in a crash by measuring the acceleration. And with it not working, the airbag control modules will not know when and if to activate the airbags. This is why you need to replace faulty airbag sensors without any delays.

Do airbag sensors need to be replaced?

Airbag sensors are not wear-and-tear items, so they shouldn’t be replaced as a part of any regular or preventive maintenance. However, they will need to be replaced if the vehicle was in an accident or the sensor was damaged during other repairs. And with airbag sensors being such safety-critical components, there is no room for improvisation or bodge repairs when having a bad one.

How much does it cost to fix airbag sensors?

The cost of fixing a faulty airbag sensor depends on the car and who’s doing the repair. For most cars, a single airbag sensor costs between $50 to $300. And, depending on the particular situation, you’ll sometimes have to replace more than one. In addition, if having this done by a mechanic, you’ll have to count in the labor costs, which range from $100 to $300.

Is it OK to drive with airbag light on?

No, driving with the airbag light on is not OK, as this is not safe. In most cases, the airbag system will not function when this warning light is on. This means the airbags would not deploy in a crash, increasing the risk of an injury. You may think that driving more carefully could be a temporary solution, but this won’t help much if someone crashes into your car.

Conclusion: Airbag Sensor

The airbag sensor is a monitoring device whose job is to detect a crash, should the vehicle have one. In most cars, this is done by measuring acceleration, which becomes extremely high when the car hits something.

Other variants use deformation sensors at strategic points on the car’s chassis. The data provided by these sensors is used by control modules to determine should the airbags be deployed. If any of them malfunction or are damaged, the airbag system will not work.

Magnus Sellén
Written by:

Magnus is the owner and main author of Mechanicbase. He has been working as a car mechanic for over 10 years, and the majority of them specialized in advanced car diagnostics and troubleshooting. Certified Automotive Diagnostic Technician.

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