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What to do when the airbag warning light turns on

December 12, 2023

Airbags are a vital component of your car's safety system and the airbag warning light serves as a diagnostic tool for the airbag system. It's essential to understand what the airbag warning light means and how drivers should address it.

In this blog, we'll cover the role of airbags, reasons for the warning light, flashing light indicators, and whether an airbag warning light will fail an MOT.

Understanding the role of airbags

An airbag is an inflatable cushion built into the car that’s designed to protect passengers during a collision. In the event of a significant impact, sensors in the car trigger the airbags to inflate rapidly, creating a barrier between the occupants and the car's interior structures.

The primary purpose of an airbag is to slow a passenger's forward motion evenly and quickly during a crash, while also spreading the force of the impact over a larger area of the body. This can significantly reduce the risk of severe injuries.

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Is your airbag light on?

One of many car warning lights is the airbag warning light which is typically yellow and features a symbol of a person with an airbag deployed.

When you start your vehicle, the airbag warning light will typically turn on for a few seconds. This is normal and allows the system to run a self-check to ensure all components are working correctly. If everything is in order, the light should go off.

However, if the airbag warning light remains on or comes on while you're driving, it means the system has detected a problem with your airbags.

In essence, the airbag warning light communicates with the airbag system, and its primary function is to warn the driver of any malfunctions that could prevent the airbags from deploying correctly in the event of a collision. Ignoring this light can mean risking the airbags not functioning when you need them most, so it's crucial to take this warning seriously and seek professional help to diagnose and fix the issue.

3 reasons that can cause an airbag warning light to turn on

  1. Faulty airbag sensors: the sensors detect impacts and trigger airbag deployment. If these sensors are malfunctioning, the airbag warning light may turn on
  2. Damaged wiring: if the wiring that connects various components of the airbag system becomes damaged, the warning light will be turned on
  3. Issues with the seat belt system: since seat belts work in tandem with airbags, some problems with the seat belt system can also trigger the airbag warning light

If the airbag light is flashing, it indicates a more severe issue with the airbag system and means that the airbags will not deploy in the event of a collision, putting passengers at increased risk.

A flashing airbag warning light can also indicate that the airbags could deploy unexpectedly, which is a dangerous situation. In either case, it's crucial to address the issue immediately.

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Can an airbag warning light cause MOT failure?

Yes. If your airbag warning light is on when you take your car for its MOT test, it will result in an MOT failure.

The airbag warning light indicates a problem with the car's airbag system, which could mean the airbags may not deploy correctly in the event of an accident. Given the crucial role airbags play in protecting vehicle occupants during a collision, any potential fault is considered a serious safety risk.

If your airbag warning light is on, it is strongly recommended to get the issue diagnosed and fixed by a professional mechanic before taking your vehicle in for an MOT. Getting a service before your MOT will catch this issue and is a good way to reduce the risk of failing an MOT.

How to fix an airbag warning light

To fix or reset an airbag warning light, it’s essential to understand the underlying issue causing the warning.

First and foremost, it’s important to note that working with the airbag system can be risky if you’re not a trained professional. Airbags are sensitive, and if mishandled, they could accidentally deploy, causing injury. Therefore, it's best to have a certified mechanic or technician inspect your vehicle.

Get your airbag light checked by trusted mechanics

However, if you have the technical know-how and want to perform a basic check, here's a general guide on how you can reset the airbag light:

  1. Disconnect the battery: before you start, disconnect the car's battery. This is a crucial safety step whenever you're working with the vehicle's electrical system, especially with the airbag system
  2. Locate the airbag connector: your vehicle’s airbag connectors are usually located under the front seats, inside the centre console, or behind the steering wheel. Refer to your vehicle's manual to find the exact location
  3. Inspect the connectors: look for any signs of loose or damaged connections. If a connector seems loose, try to push it back into place. Also, look for any signs of corrosion or damage to the wiring
  4. Reconnect the battery and start the car: after checking and fixing any loose connections, reconnect the battery and start the car

If the airbag warning light still hasn’t turned off, you should get your car checked by professional mechanics.

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