Is It Safe to Drive With the Airbag Light On? (& Why Not)

The airbag system saves thousands of lives every year. Therefore, you should never compromise on safety. Here's what happens when this light comes on

Is It Safe To Drive With The Airbag Light On

Airbags are a common staple in modern vehicles. They are designed to keep you safe and protected during a collision, but what does it mean when the airbag light comes on? Is it safe to drive with the airbag light on?

In this article, we examine what the SRS airbag light is and what causes it to come on. We also talk about why it’s not safe to drive with this warning light illuminated. 

Is It Safe to Drive with the Airbag Light On?

When the airbag light illuminates, it means that there is a problem with the system. Most likely, the airbag will not deploy in an accident because of this fault. Therefore, it is not recommended that you drive the vehicle until you have the system repaired. 

You should never ignore the vital warning. While it doesn’t mean the car is unsafe to drive, there’s no reason to take chances with it. 

However, the light does indicate that the SRS components are not working as they should. This could also mean that the airbags won’t deploy if an accident occurs. You don’t want to wait until you are in an accident to find out if the airbags will protect you. 

What is the SRS Airbag Light?

The Supplemental Restraint System (SRS) controls the car’s airbags. It’s designed to work with the seatbelts to provide another level of in-vehicle safety. The SRS sensors monitor all of the airbags in your vehicle, which could total ten or more in the newest models.

The job of the sensors is to detect when a collision occurs, so the airbags can deploy and reduce the impact. However, the sensors also determine if there is a fault in the system, which causes the airbag light to illuminate on the dashboard. 

Is it Illegal to Drive with the Airbag Light On?

While it isn’t wise to drive with the airbag light on, you can’t get into criminal trouble for doing so. Local and state laws have no bearing on whether you drive with dashboard lights on your car.

However, you might have trouble getting the car to pass a state inspection with these lights on. In fact, many states will fail a vehicle for having the SRS light, Check Engine Light or ABS light illuminated. 

Will the Airbag Deploy with the SRS Light On?

When the airbag warning light is on, it’s safe to assume that the airbags are not going to deploy in an accident. When the system detects a fault, it deactivates the airbags for your protection. 

For this reason, you won’t have to worry about the airbags deploying spontaneously because of the failure. To ensure your on-road protection, it’s critical that you have the light looked at right away.

Common Reasons Airbag Light is On

Deployed Airbags

1. Dead Backup Battery

The airbag operates with the help of a backup battery. If your automotive battery died recently, it’s also possible that the power to the backup battery is dead.

Once you charge the car battery, the backup might start working again, causing the light to go off. Otherwise, it needs to be replaced and the sensors need to be reset. 

2. Faulty Sensor

The sensors are needed to determine if a crash is occurring, so the airbags can deploy. However, these sensors can also fail because of old age or wear. 

When the sensors stop working correctly, the system detects a fault and the light comes on. You will need to have the sensors checked and the system needs a reset to work properly again.

3. Damaged Clock Spring

There is a clock spring with the airbag that maintains the continuity of the driver’s side airbag with the electrical wiring. The clock spring is built into the steering wheel and moves with the turns. 

Over time, it can become worn out, leading to a bad connection and airbag failure. To repair it, the clock spring must be replaced and the SRS needs to be reset. 

4. Water Damage

If your vehicle has become the victim of water damage, anything electrical could be damaged, including the airbag module. This valuable part is located below your seats.

When it becomes shorted or corroded, it will stop working, leading to the light coming on. While you can replace the damaged part, it will only happen again unless you stop water from infiltrating the vehicle. 

Cost to Repair Airbag Light

The cost to repair the airbag light depends on what fault has occurred. If the airbag in the steering wheel needs to be replaced for some reason, you could spend $1,100 to $1,500, mainly for the labor involved. However, replacing the clock spring should only cost $250 to $350, or less if you can repair it yourself.

The average cost to replace an airbag sensor is between $350 and $450, with the parts averaging around $300. Because the codes will need to be reset, it’s best to have a mechanic perform the fix unless you have an advanced code scanner.