Service Safety Restraint System – Meaning, Causes & Fixes

A service safety restraint system warning message on your dashboard can be a scary sight. Learn what it means, the causes, and how to fix it.

Service Safety Restraint System

With so many warnings on today’s cars, it can be difficult to keep up with what it’s trying to tell you. What you need to know is that with the Service Safety Restraint System message, you should take action right away to protect yourself and your occupants. So, what does this alert mean, and why should it be taken seriously?

We explain the Service SRS warning and show you what causes it to come on. We also review the top fixes and help you answer a few important questions. 

What Does The Service Safety Restraint System Warning Mean?

When the Service Safety Restraint System (SRS) warning light comes on, you know that something within the Airbag system has malfunctioned. The problem could be with an airbag or the seat pretensioner. Either one may not engage during an accident, leading to possible fatal injuries.

The first commercial airbags were included in cars back in 1971, but not with a lot of success at first. Seat belt pretensioners were also introduced into the market by Mercedes-Benz, first appearing in the S-Class. Today, both of these systems make up what’s known as the Safety Restraint System (SRS). 

Airbags and seat belt pretensioners work together to ensure superior safety when an accident occurs. The pretensioners lock the seat belt and tighten it when hard braking and an impact occur. In conjunction, the airbag deploys when that collision occurs, further keeping you from hitting your head on the dashboard or windshield. This system prevents numerous injuries and is invaluable to your daily travels. 

Causes of the Service Safety Restraint System Warning

As soon as a warning comes on for the Safety Restraint System, you know there’s a problem affecting either the airbags or seat belt pretensioners. Figuring out where the problem lies is another issue. It could be with the airbag, clock spring, sensors, wiring or computer.

Here are a few of the most common issues.

1. Faulty Air Bag

Faulty Airbag

You should never have to wonder if the airbag is bad. Today’s cars have internal sensors that let you know if the airbag becomes defective. The internal mechanisms are constantly monitoring the health of the airbag.

If the airbag is defective and the warning light comes on, your airbags may not deploy during an accident. For this reason alone, you want to take the warning seriously. It’s even more important to look into defects if your vehicle may be included in the Takata airbag recalls

2. Bad Clock Spring

Airbag Clock Spring

The clock spring is responsible for keeping the electrical connection from the steering wheel to the various sensors it uses. So, even when you are turning the steering wheel in all directions, the connection is supposed to remain solid. However, the clock spring can fail over time

When this happens, the Service SRS warning light or SRS light comes on. You may also lose the functionality of the steering wheel buttons. You may also lose the function of the horn, which means you won’t be able to beep at all of the crazy drivers. What’s even scarier is that without the clock spring, the connection with the airbag is interrupted and you won’t have the protection you need during an accident. 

Other warning lights can also occur when the clock spring fails. You may see a traction control light or the Check Engine Light. When you check the codes later in the article, just make sure you double-check that all of the lights are related to the same fault. 

3. Bad Airbag Sensor

The airbag sensor is responsible for detecting any abrupt stop of the vehicle that would indicate a crash is occurring. Based on how fast that stop is occurring and at what force the impact is, the sensor determines if the airbag needs to deploy. The sensors for the main airbags are normally found behind the bumper.

The only way to know that the sensor is bad is when the warning light comes on. There are no other symptoms that will occur other than the airbag will not deploy because of the lack of communication. 

RELATED: Symptoms Of A Bad Airbag Sensor

4. Wiring Issue

All of the parts that we’ve been discussing are connected through an intricate system of wires. These wires plug into various connectors, so everything can communicate among the system.

Over time, wires naturally degrade, leading to fraying and damage. Additionally, connectors can go bad or corrode, most often occurring when moisture gets into the system. If the electrical system running the airbags is to blame, the light comes on and the airbags fail to work. 

5. Faulty Seat Occupancy Sensor

With a passenger-side airbag, the seat is equipped with a sensor that works with the SRS. This sensor lets the computer know if someone is sitting in the seat. If there’s not anyone there, the system won’t deploy the airbag during an accident.

However, this sensor can malfunction. When it does, the SRS alert is signaled and you get a message to service the system. 

6. Faulty SRS Computer

This entire system is run by a computer, as are most things in today’s cars. While these computers are built to last the lifetime of a vehicle, they aren’t immune to damage.

Excessive vibration, old age and corrosion can cause the SRS computer to fail prematurely. Once the computer is done, the warning comes on to alert you to the fault. 

How To Fix The Service Safety Restraint System Warning Message

What do you do once this light comes on? Should you attempt to fix the problem yourself or take it to a repair shop? This question can only be answered by you. In some ways, it’s simple to fix the SRS fault, especially if you have some mechanical knowledge. On the other hand, only ASE Certified Mechanics should handle certain aspects of the system. 

Let’s talk more about this in detail. Consider these steps to figure out the problem. 

1. Scan the Codes

Scan Trouble Codes Car

With this SRS light on, there’s a code set in the computer. You can read this code if you have a compatible scanner. Most low-dollar scanners are not going to read this system. When purchasing a code scanner, make sure you opt for one that can read the SRS faults.

Once you retrieve the codes from the system, you may require help deciphering the meaning. That’s where our trouble code library comes in to save the day. 

2. Diagnose the Airbag System

The airbag system is made up of numerous sensors, electrical connections and a main computer. When a fault occurs, trying to find the problem can be difficult, especially if you aren’t experienced. 

Without in-depth knowledge of the airbag system, you could get yourself into a lot of trouble trying to get to the bottom of the problem. For this reason, we usually recommend moving right onto step #3. 

3. Contact a Professional

Hopefully, you have a trusted mechanic that you already use when there’s a problem outside of your scope of expertise. If so, now is the time to contact them and schedule an appointment. This system is too delicate for novice mechanics.

If you are visiting a new mechanic that you don’t have experience with, be careful. It’s important to choose someone that is certified and well-versed in the airbag system. After all, this is your life we are talking about. 

What does it mean when my car says service safety restraint system?

This warning is telling you that there’s a fault in the Safety Restraint System (SRS). This system contains both the airbags and the seat belt pre-tensioner. There could be a physical malfunction with these parts, or it could be related to the sensors or wiring. 

How much does it cost to fix the service safety restraint system light?

Many of these issues cost a decent amount to repair, especially if you need a professional mechanic to perform the labor. On average, expect to spend between $75 and $1,750, with the sensors and computer costing the most to fix. 

Can you still drive with the service SRS light on?

There’s nothing stopping you from driving with the Service SRS alert on. Your car will still operate as normal and you won’t notice any performance issues. However, with this light illuminated, the airbags aren’t going to deploy. You are putting yourself in danger if an accident should occur. 

How do I reset the service SRS light?

The only way to reset the Service SRS light is to fix the problem causing the fault. Once you diagnose and repair the system, you can use a compatible code scanner to erase the codes. The light should remain off permanently. If it doesn’t, you know the problem hasn’t been resolved or there are other issues. 

Conclusion

While some warning lights in the car are not nearly as important, the Service Safety Restraint System is not one of them. You must pay close attention to this SRS warning, especially if you want to be protected during a collision. Without it, the airbags and seat belt pretensioners may not work properly. 

The fix for these faults can be pricey. We completely understand how easy it would be to neglect a repair because money is tight, but you need to think about what your life is worth. If you were to become seriously injured, what would you lose? Chances are that it will be far more than what you would have spent to fix your car. Don’t take anything for granted. Schedule a repair today.

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