Most warning lights are pretty simple to figure out—the battery light usually is a picture of a battery. The brake warning light usually says, “BRAKE.” And if the Check Engine Light comes on, it’s safe to say that you need to check your engine. But one light baffled me for a long time—the SRS light.
I am sure you have seen it. It’s a picture of a person sitting in his seat, restrained by the seat belt, with what looks to be a giant beach ball resting on his lap. For the longest time, I tired to guess what that light was for. Sure, I could have looked it up, and when I started working here at RepairPal.com, I understood what it meant, but this was before and all I could focus on was why in the world does he have that huge ball on his lap?
Well, in case you are wondering, too, I will immediately eliminate the suspense—it’s an airbag and the light represents the SRS, or supplemental restraint system, also known as the airbag system light. Since the primary restraint system in a vehicle is the seat belts, it only makes sense that the supplemental system is the airbag. The SRS system also tightens seat belts during a crash.
The SRS system is also referred to as a passive restraint system because the vehicle occupants do not need to do anything in order to activate the SRS system when the enabling criteria—speed and deceleration—are met. In contrast, seat belts are an active restraint system. The vehicle occupants must proactively latch each seat belt in order for the seat belt to do its job. Even automatic seat belt systems have a lap belt that must be manually latched.
Like all warning lights, when the vehicle is first started, the SRS light will illuminate for 1 to 5 seconds while the system goes through its self-test sequence. It should then go off. If it stays on, there is a fault in the system, which basically means that the SRS system is disabled and if a crash occurs, the airbags will not deploy and the seat belts will not tighten, which is why you should take your car to the shop immediately if the SRS light illuminates.
If you fail to address the fault in the SRS system, you may not only be facing the risk of injury. More and more, auto insurance companies are becoming less comprehensive in their coverage of the medical bills from an accident if they determine that the airbag system was disabled due to a fault condition. Not many people know that the SRS system contains a “black box,” which not only records the data from an accident such as the speed, "G" forces, how many seat belts were latched etc., but it also how long the SRS system was disabled due to a fault condition.
If the SRS light is blinking or stays on, take it seriously. There is a fault condition and the vehicle's safety systems are compromised, putting you and your passengers at risk.
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