Things to Know When the Airbag Light Comes On - information from the the pros at Shingle Springs Subaru serving Sacramento, CA

Just how important are the airbags in your car? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that airbags deployed 3.3 million times in the United States between 1990 and 2000 -- and saved as many as 6,377 lives. They also prevented countless injuries. Today's airbags are even more advanced, so they can better protect occupants of various shapes and sizes from a variety of different crashes.

That's why, when the airbag warning light illuminates in your vehicle's dashboard, it's not something to leave to chance. You'll want an expert diagnosis on this problem right away. In most cases, the fix will be as simple as swapping out a malfunctioning part, restoring a severed electrical connection or resetting the vehicle's computer system.

Subaru SRS Safety System

5. Seat Belt Pretensioners Aren't Working

On many cars, the airbag warning light will also feature the letters "SRS." You may also find that abbreviation on your steering wheel or wherever the airbags are hidden. SRS stands for Supplemental Restraint System, and the seatbelts are also a part of this system. In the event of a crash, modern seatbelts feature pretensioners that help to keep occupants firmly pressed into the seat, to reduce the chance of injury. If a problem is detected with one of the pretensioners, this can actually trigger the airbag light. When you stop by our service center, a technician can hook up our sophisticated code readers to your vehicle's computer and read the data stored there to find out which seatbelt has malfunctioned and replace the pretensioner.

Fender Bender

4. Crash Sensors Have Been Triggered

At various points on your car, the engineers have included crash sensors. These crash sensors measure the force exerted on your car and, if the force is great enough, will trigger the airbags. If you were recently involved in a minor fender bender, and the airbags did not deploy, you may find the airbag light comes on shortly thereafter. It's likely because one of the crash sensors was triggered, but not enough to deploy the airbags.

3. Broken Clock Spring

Hidden behind the Subaru logo that adorns your steering wheel, you'll find the driver's airbag -- but that's not all you'll find. There's also a host of wires that connect the steering wheel's controls, like the cruise control and stereo buttons. A part called the clock spring allows the steering wheel to turn without causing damage to the wires inside. However, because it's subjected to wear from frequent use of the steering wheel, the clock spring in your car may eventually go bad. Luckily, this component can be easily and quickly replaced by one of our service technicians if we find the clock spring is to blame for your airbag warning light.

Child Passenger

2. Passenger Airbag Deactivation Sensor Fault

Studies have shown that children have the best chance of safely withstanding a crash from the rear seats, where there aren't any front airbags. Although California law requires that a child must either be 8 years old or 4'9" to ride in the front seat, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that all children under 13 ride in the backseat.  For those times when you have no choice but to transport a child between 8 and 13 in the front seats, modern cars feature an Occupant Classification System. This system can detect the weight of an individual in the passenger seat. If no passenger is detected, or only the weight of a child is detected, the passenger airbag will not deploy in the event of a crash. If the passenger airbag is currently turned off, but there is some weight detected in the seat, you'll see a warning light alerting you to this fact in the vehicle's center console.

If the weight sensors aren't working as intended, the airbag light may turn on in the dashboard. Head to an authorized Subaru service center for a detailed diagnostic, and avoid transporting passengers in the front passenger seat until this problem has been addressed.

1. Airbag Electronics Malfunction

Of course, like all electronic systems on modern cars, they can malfunction or stop working entirely due to bad wiring, a computer fault or even something as simple as a blown fuse. Because the airbags are a crucial safety feature, we always recommend heading to an authorized Subaru service department for repairs. We'll take the very best care of your car, so it can continue taking the very best care of you and your loved ones.

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