SRS / Airbag Light On – Meaning, Causes & How to Reset

Airbag Light

Have you ever been driving down the road and seen the SRS warning light come on? At first, your heart might sink, knowing that there could be something wrong with your vehicle. Before you panic, it’s helpful to know what the SRS light is, what causes it to come on and what you can do to fix it.

What is the SRS Light Meaning?

The supplemental restraint system (SRS) light indicates that there is a problem with the airbag system. In some vehicles, you will see the letters SRS when there is an issue, while others use a stick figure with an airbag.

Where does the term SRS come from? When airbags first were installed in vehicles, the manufacturers thought they were a replacement for standard seat belts. However, it didn’t take long for them to recognize that they were better used in conjunction with seat belts or as a supplement. That’s where the term supplement restraint system came from.

To understand how the SRS light works, you must know the various parts of the airbag system. Here are a few components that make up the airbag system in modern vehicles.

  • Airbag module: The module or modules contain the airbag and inflator assembly. 
  • Airbag sensors: Most vehicles have multiple sensors to measure the conditions leading up to a potential collision. When an accident occurs, the sensors relay that situation to the SRS module to deploy the airbags. 
  • Clockspring: This cable allows the steering wheel to turn without causing a break in the electrical contact to the airbag module.
  • SRS module: This computer is responsible for overseeing the airbag system.

Some advanced airbag systems come with more components, but these are the basic parts installed in every modern vehicle. 

What Causes the SRS Light to Come On?

Airbag Light

There are quite many parts that can cause the SRS light to come on. The easiest way to determine any problems with the SRS or airbag system is to use a diagnostic scan tool. Here are the most common causes:

1. Seat Belt Latch Failure

The SRS contains sensors that monitor when the seat belts are fastened. If something has gotten into the buckle, it could be interfering with the connection. 

To repair the problem, clean out the seat belt buckle of foreign objects. If you don’t see anything, spray into the buckle with compressed air. 

2. Defective Passenger Seat Occupancy Sensor

If someone is sitting in the front seat, there is a sensor that alerts the SRS system. It not only tells the sensor that someone is there, but it also reads weight.

If there is an adult in the seat, the passenger airbag will be ready to protect the occupant. However, when the sensor doesn’t work right, it can cause the SRS light to come on.

3. Corrosion

Water damage can quickly lead to corrosion inside your vehicle. If this occurs among the SRS components, it can spell disaster. Not only can it cause the warning light to go on, but it can also affect the functionality of the system.

The only way to fix this problem is to thoroughly inspect all of the components for corrosion. Anything that is affected needs to be replaced. 

4. Bad Clockspring

Repair Airbag Clockspring

This electrical connector is located inside the steering wheel. Its primary function is to maintain a connection with the SRS computer, even while the wheel is turning. 

However, this part regularly suffers from a lot of abuse. If it stops working, the driver’s side airbag might not deploy during an accident. You will also get a warning with the SRS light alerting you to the situation. 

5. Dead SRS Computer Battery Backup

The SRS computer needs a backup battery to retain the data it receives. This battery continues working even when the vehicle is off. 

If the battery is low on power or dead, it can cause the SRS light to go on. The only way to repair this situation is to install a new battery. 

6. Previous Accident

Your SRS light might go on after an accident if the airbags did not deploy. When a collision occurs, the system was likely triggered through the crash sensors. 

However, if something malfunctioned, causing your airbags to fail, a fault will be sent to the computer. The result is the SRS light telling you that the computer needs to be reset. 

7. Faulty SRS Computer

Over time, all electrical components fail. The SRS computer is no different and is not immune to malfunctioning. Heat, excessive vibration, age and water damage can all lead to its demise.

If the SRS light comes on because of a dead computer, the only repair is a replacement. 

How Do You Reset the SRS Light?

You should never just turn off the SRS light. This doesn’t fix any of the problems; it only stops the alert from occurring. The only time you should reset the SRS light is after you repair the initial problems. 

With an OBDII scanner, you can erase the trouble codes and reset the light. However, not all scanners come with this capability. Before you purchase one, make sure it can read and erase SRS codes.

Can You Drive With the SRS Light On?

Your vehicle will still operate with the SRS light on. However, it’s not safe to drive with a malfunction in the airbag system. We recommend getting to the service station immediately to find out what the problem is. If you have a code scanner, you might be able to read the DTCs yourself.

Additionally, driving with the SRS light on could cause trouble with the insurance company. If you get into an accident and the black box recorder is looked at, the insurance provider will know that you didn’t protect the occupants, leaving you liable for the damages.  

How Much Does It Cost To Fix The SRS Light?

SRS light repair costs vary greatly depending on what the problem is. If your issue is something simple such as debris in the seat belt latch, you might just need some compressed air to resolve the situation. However, it could also be due to a failed airbag assembly, which could cost into thousands of dollars. The only way to know for sure is to have the codes scanned and get an estimate.

Written by: Magnus Sellén

Founder, owner & main author of Mechanic Base. I have been repairing cars for more than 10 years, specialized in advanced diagnostics & troubleshooting. I have also been a drifting driver and mechanic for over 7 years.