Not every driver acts when they see a dashboard warning light come on. However, it is important to get any warning light checked out - but particularly so if it's the airbag - supplement Restraint System SRS light on the dash.

Unfamiliar with dashboard warning lights? We have a helpful guide to dashboard warning lights.


What is the supplement Restraint System (SRS)?

The supplement Restraint System (SRS) in vehicles, links the airbag system to the seat belt system.

Sensors within the system will detect if, and which airbags need to be deployed, based on the direction and severity of an impact so it is important that the SRS is functioning correctly in your vehicle.


What does the airbag warning light look like?

The airbag warning light may take the form of a driver with the airbag deployed.

Many drivers only associate this light with their seat belt as in some models of car, the airbag warning light and seatbelt light are the same. In these vehicles the airbag and seatbelt light on the dash becomes illuminated when the driver’s seatbelt is not fastened.

In some vehicles, this warning light may appear as an illuminating Word AIRBAG or SRS (supplemental restraint system) on the dashboard.


Why is it important to get you vehicle checked if your airbag warning light comes on?

Because your airbag is such a key part of your car's safety system, it's critical to address an illuminated airbag light.

Not establishing why your airbag warning light is on could be the difference between life and death.

While the airbag or SRS light on dash may come on for a variety of reasons, it could mean that your airbag won’t deploy if you're in an accident.

The importance of the airbag warning light is highlighted by the fact that if your warning light was on when taking your car for an MOT it would lead to an MOT fail.


What should you do when the airbag light comes on?

Airbag light coming off and on 

Have you noticed your airbag light flashing on and off on you dash when starting car?

Whenever you start your car, all the dashboard warning lights will come on momentarily.

But why do airbag lights come on at this time?

Well, this is normal, and is your car self-testing the vehicle's systems.


Airbag light stays on

If you find your airbag warning light doesn’t go off a few moments after starting the engine, or if you’re warning light comes on whilst driving, you will no doubt wonder what should you do if your airbag light stays on?

If you see a warning such as "Air bag off" or "Airbag deactivated!" - remain lit, you need to act.

If your airbag light stays on, in the first instance, arrange for your car to b inspected by a mechanic who will be able to check the codes and diagnose the issue.


Will the airbag still deploy?

If the airbag light is on because you have deactivated the system, your airbags will not deploy.

If your airbag light is on but your vehicle doesn’t have the capacity to deactivate the SRS system, your airbag system has a fault and may not deploy in the event of an accident


Airbags - a critical safety feature

Airbags are a common safety feature on new vehicles in the UK, designed to cushion the impact of a collision and help prevent the driver and passengers from being injured.

From the initial introduction of a single airbag located in the steering wheel to help protect the driver in the event of a crash, it’s not uncommon to now find modern day vehicles with 6 or 7 airbags installed.


Front passenger airbags

Front passenger airbags are now standard equipment (although there is no legal requirement for them to be fitted). However, because they inflate rapidly in the event of a collision, they are able to cushion the driver and/or passenger’s head and upper body - which might otherwise strike the dashboard or steering wheel.


Other types of airbags

Car manufacturers have further enhanced their vehicle safety features and also often include a range of other airbags as part of the SRS:

  • Front seat side impact airbags
  • Driver knee protection airbags
  • Curtain airbags


Vehicle safety features study

According to a study in the British Medical Journal, the use of seatbelts saves around eight times more lives than airbags deployment. However, they remain an important safety device so you should ensure your airbag system is working properly at all times.


Is it illegal to drive with an airbag light on?

In some cars it is possible to deactivate passenger airbags, which will cause the airbag light to display on your dashboard.

As explained above, airbags are a critical safety feature so you should only deactivate the passenger airbag when absolutely necessary.

Whilst it is not illegal to drive with an airbag light on, it is not advised.

Any instances where you see your airbag light on for no explained reason, you should seek to get the issue sorted.


Why is my airbag light on?

If you have noticed that your airbag light remains on, there could be a number of reasons why this is happening.


Common reasons for seeing an airbag warning light

Interference with seatbelt sensor

If debris or some kind of object is stuck in a seat belt catch, it could cause the seatbelt not to lock properly - and for the computer to think the seatbelt is not fastened.

This could trigger a false airbag warning light.

Check to see if anything has got lodged in the seat belt buckle, interfering with the sensor.


Damaged wires under seat

Sometimes the driver or passengers will put things under the seat, which can damage the wires and cause the airbag light to display.


Airbag switch set to ‘off’

On some makes of car, there is a cut off switch, making it is possible to deactivate the front passenger airbag.

This may be something that you want to do when you have vulnerable passengers. For example, If you’ve got a baby in a rear-facing child seat, you might want to turn off the airbag for their safety.

If you switch off the passenger airbag you will notice the passenger airbag light on your dashboard.

You should always remember to switch the passenger airbag back on when you have finished your journey.


Damaged clock spring

Your car's clock spring allows the steering wheel to turn, while maintaining the connection between the electrical system, horn - and airbag.

In older cars, damaged or worn clock springs are more common and will trigger the air bag warning light on the dash.

How easy it is to repair a damaged clock spring?

It will take an hour or two of labour, plus parts, to fix this. The cost might vary depending on your make and model.


Car has already been in an accident

In rare cases, a vehicle may have been in an accident - but one not serious enough to trigger the airbag.

This near-miss may prompt an SRS airbag warning light - which may need to be reset.


Car flood damage

In very rare circumstances, a car may have been flooded, resulting in a corroded computer circuitry.

The damage may mean the computer cannot detect the airbag, causing the airbag warning light to come on


Airbag manufacturing fault

While uncommon, it’s possible that an airbag system is not manufactured correctly in the first place. However, such a fault may not trigger the airbag light.

A well-documented example of a mass-scale airbag manufacturing fault involved Takata airbags fitted to cars between 2002 and 2015. Cars with these airbags were recalled due to a risk of metal shards being propelled from the inflator housing during inflation.


Airbag warning light diagnosis

Your mechanic will be able to diagnose the airbag light issue by checking the code.


How to fix airbag warning light: How to reset airbag light

While many garages can fix the issue and will be able to reset the airbag light, in some cases - such as when the airbag needs to be replaced altogether - the owner may be referred to the original dealership for a solution.


How much to fix an airbag warning light in the UK?

Seeing the airbag light on the dash can be a worry because a faulty airbag is not cheap to repair.

Wondering just how much it costs to reset an airbag light in the UK?

In the first instance, an inspection will cost around £70 - and that’s before any remedial work is carried out.

If repairs are needed, springs, sensors, and other components may need to be replaced, which on top of labour charges can amount to £650, but may be as high as £2,000.

The final cost will depend on factors like the vehicle’s make and model, and the type of airbag. For example, some models have side and curtain airbags, as well as driver/passenger airbags.


The importance of arranging a trained mechanic to fix your airbag

Given the cost, it may be tempting to forego such repairs, but airbags remain an important safety feature that could save the lives of you and your passengers.

As with these car repairs that you should not be tempted to tackle yourself, you should also not be tempted to try and repair your airbag fault yourself.


Keeping your vehicle in good working order

More generally, it's crucial to keep your vehicle in good working order to stay safe while driving. For example, here are some common car faults and how to avoid them.

But things can go wrong.

From flat batteries to alternator faults and electrical issues, it’s not always easy to see a problem brewing.

Perhaps you have noticed your engine management light is remaining on continuously on your dashboard?


Arrange breakdown cover

For complete peace of mind on the road, consider taking out breakdown cover - so you know a trained mechanic will be sent to assist you and get you back on the road.