SRS stands for Supplementary Restraint System. This is the airbag system and is specifically designed to supplement the seatbelt restraint system in a vehicle.
The result is the increased safety of the occupant during some types of crashes.
Most SRS systems are composed of airbags. When a certain type of crash occurs, the system deploys the airbags.
These airbags are located in front of the driver, in front of the passenger, at the sides of the doors, and the rear windows.
The SRS computer also tightens the seatbelt during collisions to increase protection of the passenger. SRS systems normally have an SRS light that shows on the dashboard.
When you start up the vehicle, the SRS light should come on for about 5 seconds.
That is the bulb check that shows you that the SRS system is working. After this, it should switch off.
Why is the SRS light on?
If the SRS light does not switch on shortly after ignition, it is indicative of an issue with the system. In such a case, the SRS system will be deactivated.
This means you have not any supplementary protection.
In the event of a collision, your airbags will not deploy. Your seatbelt will also fail to tighten so you might end up hurt lethally if you are involved in a car accident.
A potential issue that could cause the seatbelt to turn on is a faulty seatbelt switch. The event of a damaged cock spring located inside steering wheel could also cause the SRS light turn on.
Lastly, a defective crash sensor will also result make the SRS warning light to turn and stay on.
Read more: Best OBD1 Scanners Review
There are two main sensors in the car that get damaged or worn out faster than the others. These are the clock spring and the passenger occupancy sensor.
The latter is a weight sensitive scanner that activates the passenger’s airbag when a certain amount of weight is felt on the car.
This prevents infants sitting on the front seat from getting an airbag to the face in case an accident occurs.
The wiring for this sensor is located underneath the seat. Passengers often move the seat to meet their specific degree of comfort.
The constant moving of the seat could cause the wiring for the passenger occupancy sensor to get damaged or to get cut entirely.
The clock spring is the electrical coupling that allows the electrical functions mounted on your steering wheel to function.
These include the horns and other mounted buttons. A broken horn and an airbag light is the indication of a damaged clock spring.
What to do when the SRS light turns on
Diagnose the problem
As aforementioned, the SRS light is indicative of a larger problem with your restraint system. So, when it turns on, the first step you should take is to diagnose the problem.
One way to do so is by taking the car to a mechanic. They have professional tools that can assess the systems and know what the faults are.
These mechanics are also professionals with knowledge on how to fix these systems without damaging them further.
You could also diagnose the SRS light issue yourself. There are car diagnostic tools known as OBD II scanners that can professionally diagnose the problem with your SRS system.
These OBD II scanners are easily bought from stores and most of them are quite easy to use. OBD II scanners scan your entire SRS system and give you a report in the form of error codes.
Some of these scanners define the error code for you while others don’t.
For those that don’t, you need to look for the meaning of the code on Google or any recommended website.
The advantage a self-diagnosis offers is that, if the issue is a simple one, then you can do it yourself.
This will save you time and money you otherwise would have spent at the mechanic.
Passenger Occupancy Sensor
If the problem with your SRS system is the passenger occupancy sensor, the passenger “Airbag Off” light will not illuminate even when someone sits on it.
In this case, the wiring could be at fault.
Check the wiring under the seat and other components. Ensure nothing is out of place and that all the wires are intact.
If not, the component out of place or the frayed wire is the cause of the SRS warning light.
If everything is in place, the pad that detects weight could be faulty. You can have this replaced and your SRS light should go off.
Alternatively, you can use a plug and play kit to bypass the occupancy sensor.
This device will render the passenger airbag armed with or without someone present in the seat.
Just make sure that you never place your child in the front seat while driving.
Faulty clock spring
If the issue is a faulty clock spring, first you need to remove the steering wheel. This process is simple and hand tools can accomplish it in under 20 minutes.
Then, take off any negative battery wires and leave the system for about 15 minutes.
This will discharge the capacitors making sure the airbag does not blow up in your face. You can then replace the clock spring.
New clock springs are quite affordable so never by a used one.
Should you drive with the SRS light on?
The SRS light is indicative of a problem with your restraint system. Some airbags might still deploy with this light on but you cannot be certain that case they will.
Even if there is a remote possibility your airbags might still deploy, driving with your SRS system disabled is too risky.
For this reason, it is highly inadvisable to drive with your SRS light on.
More about SRS
SRS systems continuously get and evaluate data from all the sensors in your vehicle. These help the SRS computer to determine when the criteria for activation has been met.
A rapid and very abnormal decrease in acceleration, for example, will be interpreted by the computer as an emergency.
The computer then decides which airbags should be deployed and which safety belts should be tightened.
Any fault with the SRS system could cost you your life.