Is Your Airbag Light On?

by Don Elliott on March 13, 2012

AirbagsIf your airbag or Secondary Restraint System (SRS) light is on, it is a warning that the computers managing the airbag and seatbelt electronics are not working properly. Nothing is more worthless than an airbag that is not going to deploy as designed when you are in an accident.

Finding a licensed airbag technician can be more difficult than you might imagine. Specific training and tools are required to make sure all systems are operating properly. Today’s cars have multiple sensors and multiple airbags that are all interconnected electronically with the Electronic Control System (ECU). According to repair company Airbag Service, a typical collision lasts 0.125 seconds. Airbag inflation occurs in just 0.06 seconds, making the margin of error very slim. You need the right guy to work on your car when the warning light is lit.

Seatbelts and airbags work in tandem to provide maximum safety for you and your family. The seatbelts provide protection in accidents where the airbag might not deploy. In vehicles produced since 2008, airbag deployment uses smart technology to determine when (or if) the airbags should be released and at what level of power.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has provided information about how complicated the systems can be. For example, airbag sensors throughout the passenger compartment determine:

  • The size and weight of an occupant
  • Whether the occupant is wearing a seatbelt
  • How far back the occupant’s seat track is set
  • The severity of the crash

NHTSA lists advances in frontal airbag technology that will better be able to “classify vehicle occupants” using “pattern recognition, optical, infrared, ultrasonic, and electric field sensor technologies.” Your basic shade tree mechanic may opt for pulling a bulb or jumping a wire instead of figuring out the fix when your airbag warning light is lit.

Car thieves are currently targeting airbags more than any other car part. Over 50,000 airbags are stolen annually. The cost to replace an airbag can be as much as $3,000. For that reason, some car owners and auto repair shops have chosen not to replace airbags after an accident. To assure used car value, have your car checked by a licensed airbag technician. Make sure that the protection built into your car will do what it is supposed to do when you are involved in an accident. If the airbag warning light is on, find out why it is lit. You could save a life, possibly your own.


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