How to Reset Airbag Light (10 Simple Steps)

The airbag light is part of the Supplement Restraint System (SRS) in vehicles, linking the airbag system to the seat belt system (and vice-versa). When you start your car, the airbag light turns on within 5-7 seconds before turning off, indicating a successful and completed internal system check. The problem begins when the airbag light never turns on or stays on and blinks. At this point, resetting the airbag light becomes crucial.

Some ways to reset an airbag light include inspecting seat belt components, changing defective clock springs, and replacing faulty sensors. You could also get new bulbs or fully charge your battery. While most fixes are DIY, others may require a mechanic.

Here are 10 steps on how to reset your airbag light:

  1. Turn your ignition on and off.
  2. Restart your vehicle and do a test drive.
  3. Examine the passenger airbag switch.
  4. Inspect whether seat belts are fastened or working correctly.
  5. Verify that the passenger seat sensor is not applied.
  6. Use a scanner with an SRS or airbag light reset option.
  7. Address faulty airbag sensors.
  8. Fix or replace a non-working clock spring.
  9. Make sure the airbag is not defective.
  10. Seek assistance from a professional.

While the above list is non-exhaustive, it sums up proven-and-tested ways of resolving the issue. You may find some of them inapplicable, as compatibility would always depend on your vehicle’s year, make, and model. In performing any of these fixes, it would be best to have your service manual with you. Additionally, always adhere to manufacturer instructions. Without further ado, let us delve into resetting your airbag light.

How to Reset Airbag Light (10 Steps)

Airbag Warning Light

Ideally, the airbag light (a.k.a. SRS light) illuminates on a vehicle’s instrument panel (view on Amazon) only after an accident, when the airbag has been deployed and filled with either argon or nitrogen. However, other circumstances – like a component or sensor malfunction – cause the airbag light to stay on. Having said this, car owners would benefit from a handheld airbag light reset tool and by performing the steps below.

1. Turn Your Ignition on and Off.

This procedure is the same as resetting the airbag light on a Toyota Camry and should be the first thing to do when you encounter the same issue. It entails four simple steps that are easy to follow and requires timing the airbag light.

First, turn the ignition switch on. Next, wait for the airbag light to turn on – it normally stays lit for seven seconds before shutting itself off. Then, immediately turn off the ignition switch, and wait three seconds. Repeat the initial steps once or twice before starting the engine. If everything is done correctly, your car’s airbag light should come on for seven seconds before shutting off for good.

2. Restart Your Vehicle and Do a Test Drive.

Like your mobile phone, your car may need a power cycle. However, this will not work for all vehicles. But for those that seem to glitch now and then, it just might. You would know to take this step if the airbag light does not stay on too long. Restart your ignition, then go for a short drive. If the airbag light goes away permanently afterward, the problem is most likely solved. If not, proceed to perform the other items in this list.

(TIP: Before restarting your vehicle, examine the wiring system underneath the driver and passenger seats. Look for any loose wires or rust formation in the connector plug. If none, spray the connector plugs with an electronic cleaner.)

3. Examine the Passenger Airbag Switch.

The passenger seat airbag on/off button (only available in some cars) should be one of the first things to check when attempting to shut off the airbag light. It is possible that someone turned it off erroneously, causing the airbag light to stay on. This button is normally on the dashboard on the passenger side but is sometimes visible once you open the glove box or passenger door.

4. Inspect Whether Seat Belts Are Fastened or Working Correctly.

Since the SRS deals with driver/passenger security, sensing loose or poorly strapped seatbelts can trigger the airbag light to come on. Even non-use of seat belts can automatically disable the airbag. That said, ensure proper function of seatbelts and seat belt sensors is in your rule-out list. Mechanics would advise the same to those doing a Jeep Wrangler airbag light reset.

You may find it incredulous, but simple things like spare change can render seat belt sensors defective. Often, change is placed close to the seat belt fasteners, and a small bump or pothole can get a small coin into the fastener and in-between the sensor and the buckle. When this happens, the sensor may not recognize when a seat belt fastens, activating the airbag light in the process.

Before replacing your sensors, check inside the buckle and see if anything is stuck inside. Usually, taking out any obstructions inside the seat belt fastener is not as expensive as most vehicle owners think. However, the reverse is true if your seat belt components cannot be replaced individually and the sensors are embedded in the seat belt.

5. Verify That the Passenger Seat Sensor Is Not Applied.

Car Seat Belt on Passenger Seat

Select vehicles have an overly sensitive passenger weight sensor. The trouble with these specific cars is that the sensors easily trip just by placing a large box or container on the passenger seat. As a result, the airbag light turns on.

There are two options to address this – either remove the object from the passenger seat or hook up the seatbelt. If the latter solves the problem, it would confirm the sensor was applied, causing the airbag light to illuminate. If the airbag light turns off after fastening the seat belt, but nothing is in the seat, it would mean a faulty passenger seat sensor. You can then determine if you want to replace the sensor or keep the seat belt buckled up whenever you drive.

6. Use a Scanner With an SRS or Airbag Light Reset Option.

If you are mechanically inclined, you can purchase a scanner with SRS capability to perform an airbag light reset. Just know that not all OBD-II devices are automatically airbag light reset tools. Purchasing an OBD-II scanner with your needed feature warrants a bit of research. I would recommend the Foxwell NT634 OBD-II Scanner (view on Amazon) — this tool displays error codes that help you figure out how to fix the issue or when it is best to take your vehicle to a mechanic.

7. Address Faulty Airbag Sensors.

Sensors play a big part in a car’s function, especially with more recent vehicle makes and models. For one, sensors ensure airbags deploy in the event of a fender bender. The SRS particularly works with the aid of multiple sensors installed in different vehicle parts/components. If any one of these sensors corrode, break, or stop working, you are certain to see the airbag light on.

In some cases, airbag sensors act up – activating all of a sudden and for no apparent reason. They can also fail and throw the SRS light on if the car has suffered water damage. There are situations, too, where the airbag system control unit may have just gone bad. When any of these occur, replacing the bad sensors, control unit, or water-damaged components may solve the problem.

8. Fix or Replace a Non-Working Clock Spring.

Otherwise known as a spiral cable, coil assembly, contact reel, or cable reel assembly, the clock spring is a major component that, when broken or damaged, can cause the airbag light to turn on. It is not only one of the most common reasons behind a flashing airbag light but also among the most expensive to fix (at least $400). You can save up on costs if you change the clock spring yourself – provided you take extreme caution and adhere to manufacturer instructions.

If you suspect it is the cause of your airbag light activating, you will need to access the inside of the steering wheel (view on Amazon) to fix it. This should be no cause for worry as the entire process is simple and takes only 10 steps and less than 20 minutes to complete:

How to Fix a Clock Spring

  1. Remove the negative battery cable from the terminal; Wait for the capacitors to discharge for at least 10-15 minutes. (Note that removing the car battery terminals by itself will not reset the airbag light).
  2. With the wheels straight, hold the wheel’s center section (the location of the airbag) in place and locate the screws. Then, unscrew them.
  3. Remove the airbag by pulling it towards you and remove the connectors (you may use a pick to slide the yellow clips out when doing this). Turning the steering wheel left to right also exposes the screws that hold the steering column trim in place.
  4. With the steering lock engaged, use two pieces of painter’s tape to mark the spot between the steering wheel and steering column trim. This reference point will come in handy when returning the steering wheel to its original position later on.
  5. Loosen the steering wheel nut with a breaker bar without removing it completely. 
  6. Remove the nut and wheel once the wheel is loose, exposing the clock spring.
  7. To remove the clock spring, disconnect the harnesses at the bottom or back. Replace the old one with a new clock spring. Break the tab off by bending it until it snaps.
  8. Refer to your tape marks to line up the steering wheel properly when reinstalling.
  9. Tighten the steering column nut to the specified torque with a torque wrench (or your hands and a breaker bar); Install the harnesses along with the airbag.
  10. Reinstall the lower steering column (view on Amazon) trim piece and reconnect the negative battery terminal. You should no longer have a flashing airbag light when done with this final step.

9. Make Sure the Airbag Is Not Defective.

Car Airbag

Although rare, faulty airbags are not unheard of. It could be the reason behind having difficulty in resetting the airbag light. If it does turn out to be the culprit, know that this is not something you can tackle on your own. Resolving this problem entails professional help – and a few hundred dollars.

Depending on your vehicle’s make and model and how intricate the SRS is, replacing airbags typically fall between $200 and $1,000 (without labor fees). Labor costs vary depending on which airbag is faulty. Driver-side airbags have proven easier to replace compared to side or passenger airbags. Hence fees are more expensive when working on the latter. Either can be expensive but not something you would want to procrastinate on.

10. Seek Assistance From a Professional.

Take your car to a mechanic if all else fails. This route will be more expensive, but the mechanic should correctly identify the cause of your flashing airbag light and permanently solve the problem. Unlike tech-savvy drivers, new vehicle owners would primarily consider this as their first course of action.

How to Reset Airbag Light on Chevy

Firstly, plug your OBD-II/SRS code scanner into the vehicle. Like most cars sold in the U.S. in the last two decades, Chevrolets have a designated OBD-II port. The said port is trapezoidal and typically found under the dashboard (driver’s side). Note that it is not available for pre-1996 Chevy models.

Next, turn on the ignition but do not start the engine. If you see a start/stop button, press it (make sure not to press the brake pedal as you do this). Then allow the airbag scanner to power on – this should happen simultaneously with the ignition turning on. Once the airbag scanner is fully powered, select “Chevrolet” from the menu.

Follow the prompts on the airbag scanner until you get to select “Airbag System.” Afterward, scroll down to scan your Chevy for airbag fault codes. Address the fault codes that show the status “Present” or “Current.” Stored or past codes are okay to clear.

After clearing airbag light-related fault codes, turn the ignition off then back on to determine if the airbag light successfully reset. If not, go back to the “Airbag/SRS control unit” option, and erase fault codes. All these steps should suffice in resetting the airbag light and also apply to Chevy Spark, Sonic, Bolt, Volt, Cruze, Malibu, Impala, and Camaro – to name a few.

Conclusion – How to Reset Airbag Light

To recap, here are 10 simple steps on how to reset the airbag light of your vehicle:

  1. Turn your ignition on and off.
  2. Restart your vehicle and do a test drive.
  3. Examine the passenger airbag switch.
  4. Inspect whether seat belts are fastened or working correctly.
  5. Verify that the passenger seat sensor is not applied.
  6. Use a scanner with an SRS or airbag light reset option.
  7. Address faulty airbag sensors.
  8. Fix or replace a non-working clock spring.
  9. Make sure the airbag is not defective.
  10. Seek assistance from a professional.

If you suspect your car is affected by a recall, make sure you watch for DMV mails. You can also check open recalls on your vehicle by going to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website and entering your car’s VIN. I strongly suggest doing this if you own a secondhand four-wheeler. At best, you may not have to spend a dime on repairs.

Due to accompanying costs, it can feel tempting to put off resolving an airbag light reset for later. However, it would be unwise to do so. One of two things could happen – either the airbag deploys when it doesn’t need to or doesn’t deploy when you need it most. Either could result in catastrophic consequences and isn’t worth the risk.

Kris Peter

Adventure seeker and off-road enthusiast. I love the thrill of going off-road and taking on the elements.

Recent Posts