If the SRS light flashes on your car, you should take immediate action. The SRS light is pretty important. It’s not a reason to panic, but you have to address it. Let’s look at why you need to address SRS light problems right away.
The Supplemental Restraint System (SRS) on an automobile generally refers to the airbag system. The airbag itself lives inside of the steering wheel.
There are sensors in the car that detect crashes, and when the impact is severe enough, they will trigger the deployment of the airbag. The purpose of the system is to keep passengers from banging into the hard surfaces of the car in the event of a crash.
The airbag system also features some other components that are part of the SRS.
- Airbag sensors gather information about the speed and deceleration of the vehicle. The airbag won’t deploy unless the crash is severe enough to need it.
- The airbag module contains the airbag itself and the system that inflates it and pops it out of the steering wheel. Some cars have additional airbag modules for side-impact and other types of collisions.
- The clockspring is a special cable that lets the steering wheel turn freely without disrupting the electrical connections to the airbag module.
- The SRS module is the brain of the entire airbag system and is usually behind the dashboard.
The SRS light is pretty important because it indicates an issue with the system that keeps you safe in an accident when it’s flashing or illuminated. Each manufacturer has a unique style, but typically it looks like this. It might have the words spelled out, or it might even just say ‘SRS’ or have a picture of a seatbelt.
When the light comes on and stays on, it means that the SRS module has discovered a fault in the system. Since there are so many different aspects of the system, there are quite a few reasons why the light might come on. You can use a code reader to check the computer and see if there is a diagnostic code to point you in the right direction for how to fix the issue.
The SRS light in a vehicle might only flash on and off for a few seconds. These random flashes could be a sign that there is an intermittent issue, like a poor electrical contact in the system.
The SRS system is different on each car, so brands have unique features.
For instance, since the mid-2000s, Mercedes has offered vehicles with a complete curtain of airbags for added protection.
There are quite a few possible reasons that an SRS light might come on. They include:
- Seat belt latch failure – If the seat belt latches are dirty or debris is blocking them, the sensor might not give the proper feedback to the SRS module.
- Passenger seat occupancy sensor failure – The SRS system has a sensor that detects weight in the passenger seat and triggers the airbag in a crash only when someone occupies the seat.
- Electrical corrosion – If the SRS system’s components have corrosion, their electrical contacts might short out. That will trigger a warning light, as the system needs reliable connections to function appropriately in the event of an accident.
- Failed clockspring – If this specialized electrical connector inside the steering wheel goes bad, it might cause the driver’s airbag to fail.
- Low Battery – If your car’s battery is low on charge, it may trigger the SRS light. That’s because the system always requires power, even when the vehicle is off. A low battery can negatively affect the system’s readiness.
- SRS system failure – It’s possible that a component of the system, or the SRS module itself, can simply fail.
- Previous collision – If a crash triggered the airbag system, some or all of its components might need replacement.
So, if you’re seeing an SRS light, look around your car a bit. Is there dirt and debris wedged in the seat belt latch? Is there a heavy bag or other weight on the passenger seat that might be intermittently triggering the occupancy sensor? Is there a lot of ambient moisture or signs of corrosion in the vehicle? If so, you know where to start looking for the source of your SRS issue.
Is It Safe to Drive with the SRS Light on?
When the SRS system on your car is throwing a warning light on the dash, you have a safety risk. Operating the vehicle while the SRS light is on means something isn’t working right, so you should take action when you see this warning sign.
If you can’t diagnose an obvious issue visually, you can use a code reader to investigate. Or, you can bring the car to a professional.
If you use a code reader to interrogate the car’s computer, it might point you in the right direction for a fix. If the code reader shows a simple problem, like low battery charge, charging or changing the battery might fix your issue. You can then use the light to clear the code.
If the issue is less obvious, or you have to change a component to fix it, you should never reset the light without making the repair. Clearing the light without making the fix just hides the problem, and you could end up without the benefit of the SRS system in a crash.
Airbags can be expensive, but you should always seek professional help if your SRS system is not working right and you can’t fix it. Some components of the SRS system cost only a few dollars, and a good mechanic with a code reader can solve simple issues for just a few dollars.
More significant issues can be more expensive. But, some problems are covered by warranties and recalls.
Let’s look at some of the most common SRS light questions.
Yes, the SRS system is a crucial part of your vehicle’s safety measures.
If the light won’t turn off, there is a fault within the system.
Disconnecting the battery will clear some faults registered by the car’s computer. But, doing so without fixing the fault means it will probably pop up again.
They may or may not deploy. Until you understand the underlying issue, there is no accurate way to determine whether your airbags will deploy to protect you in a crash.
A code-reading machine can assist you in figuring out why the light remains on after an accident. If the system deployed the airbag, some components would require replacement.
A local mechanic or a car dealership can check your airbag light. Or, you can use a code reader to do so yourself.
The replacement of one airbag can cost as much as $2,000. When multiple airbags deploy in a crash, replacement costs can climb quite quickly.
There are some tricks to bypass the SRS light on a Mercedes. But, you should only use them if you don’t mind running the risk of getting injured or killed in a collision because your airbags didn’t work right.