5 Causes of an Airbag Light Coming On

Airbags, which are part of a vehicle’s supplemental restraint system (SRS), are key safety and lifesaving components. The airbags show their real worth in case of an emergency or during any unfortunate road accident by saving the driver and the passengers from any serious injuries to head and other parts of the body and possibly even save their life.

When the airbag light on your vehicle starts flashing, you need to find the cause or causes so that in case of any unfortunate emergencies, the airbag doesn’t leave you unprotected by not deploying.

It’s easy to simply ignore an airbag light since it doesn’t affect normal driving, but if a collision happens, you or your loved ones will wish you had gotten it taken care of.

Related: Average Airbag Replacement Cost

What Does an Airbag Light Look Like?

airbag light flashing

The airbag light most often appears as one of three different warning lights in a vehicle’s instrument cluster. It will either be:

  • An icon of a person sitting with a large ball in front of them that represents the airbag (see image at top)
  • The word “AIR BAG” (see image directly above)
  • The letters “SRS”

They all mean the same thing, which is that there is a malfunction in the airbag system which may cause the airbags to not deploy when they are supposed to.

Reasons Your Air Bag Light is On or Flashing

Here are some of the possible reasons for your airbag light to start flashing or stay on. This information will also help you to resolve the problems as well since you need to know the problem in order to solve it.

#1 – Clock Spring Needs Replacement

airbag clockspring

The main function of the airbag clock spring is to maintain constancy between the airbag of the driver’s seat and the electrical wiring by entwining in and out in respect to the steering wheel.

The thin circuit bands may become worn or brittle and can cause the airbag on the driver’s seat to report a Soft-code error to the airbag control module which will make the airbag light start flashing. The reason for the wearing down of the circuit bands is due to the normal use.

The clock spring problem cannot be determined by yourself without the aid of a quality OBD2 scan tool which helps pinpoint the issue. Even if you can confirm you have a bad clock spring, we recommend taking it to a professional for replacement.

Serious injury can occur if you attempt replacing components of an airbag system on your own without following the right precautions.

#2 – Battery Backup of the Airbag is depleted

One of the more common reasons for your airbag light to be on is depletion of the battery backup of your airbag. This could be caused by the recent draining of the car battery.

This problem can often take care of itself when the battery is fully recharged but you might need to remove the soft-code error from the airbag control module with a scan tool to correct this problem.

#3 – Sensor Malfunction

airbag impact crash sensor

The supplemental restraint system in modern vehicles consists of a variety of components including various sensors that all connect to the main computer (ECM or PCM) of the car.

When one or more of these sensors has a malfunction of any type, the car’s computer will recognize this and in turn illuminate the airbag warning light.

#4 – Airbag Module is Corroded or Wet

The airbag control module is usually located underneath the driver seat or the front passenger’s seat in most of the vehicles. Therefore, if a vehicle has been exposed to high water, even for a little bit, the airbag control module is exposed to this moisture which could short it out or result in corrosion.

An airbag control module, when shorted out or corroded, will generate a diagnostic trouble code right away which will make the airbag light in your vehicle start flashing.

#5 – Recent Accident

airbag replacement cost

This is often the case when purchasing a used car from a private party or car auction. If the vehicle was previously involved in an accident and the airbags went off, there’s a chance it wasn’t fixed correctly as many SRS components are one-time use only. It could be a clock spring, crash sensor, seat belt tensioner, or other component.

Even if all the components were replaced, the car’s ECM needs to be reprogrammed to essentially reset the airbag system. If this reset has not occurred, the airbag light will continue to flash until that’s done.

Mark Stevens


  1. I have a 2022 Hylander that has 1K miles on it. The red words Passenger Airbag started flashing when I turned my car off. They weren’t flashing when it was running. No one talks about this exact issue. It continues to flash even though the car is off and parked.

    1. I am interested in a reply to this question. I too have a 22 Highlander. Just had to replace my battery be ause of over charging….

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