Car Laws & Safety

Will Car Pass Inspection With Airbag Light On [All States]

Airbag repair is not cheap. This is why many wonder if they must do it to clear the Airbag or ABS warning light before they get their cars inspected. They worry that the airbag light will cause their cars to fail the inspection, preventing them from driving the vehicle until it is fixed. 

Fortunately, A car will pass an inspection with a lit airbag light in most cases. The airbag light is not considered a safety issue in most states. However, the light may indicate other issues that would lead to a failed inspection. Also, there are a few states that require it off.

By reading further, you will learn what causes the airbag indicator to light up and which states need it off. That way you can budget the necessary repairs accordingly. 

The Airbag Light and DMV Inspections

Either way, a lit warning indicator is not good when trying to meet the requirements necessary to pass the safety inspection required by most states. It is a sign that something is wrong, and it only takes one thing to fail these tests. Fixing the problem is the best solution, but that is not always possible before your car’s inspection date. 

Fortunately, a standard safety inspection is not a test. Your car cannot pass or fail them. As such, a lit airbag indicator has no bearing on the results. The problem will fail an enhanced safety inspection which checks for airbag faults.  Luckily, enhanced safety inspections are only given to stolen cars and vehicles that were in a disaster such as a fire or a flood. 

You still want to fix whatever issue causes the light to shine, but you can rest assured that you should have no issues with your car’s annual safety inspection in most states. 

Airbag Car Inspection Rules by State

In most states, you normally just get a warning if the airbag light is on during an inspection but nothing else is wrong with the airbags. The light might be flagged as a hazard or danger under some circumstances, but never on its own. As a result, you should not worry if your car will pass or fail the examination.

However, each state operates these inspections differently. While most states will let a lit airbag indicator slide, some will not, especially if you do nothing to fix it. This is because these states extend the enhanced inspections rules to everyone, but not every state conducts them the same. 

To help you understand the differences, we listed the states and their inspection rules below. 

    • Alabama: Standard inspection, no special rules
    • Alaska: Standard inspection, no special rules
    • Arizona: Standard inspection, no special rules
    • Arkansas: Standard inspection, no special rules
    • California: Standard inspection, no special rules
    • Colorado: Standard inspection, no special rules
    • Connecticut: Standard inspection, no special rules
    • Delaware: Standard inspection, no special rules
    • District of Columbia: Standard inspection, no special rules
    • Florida: Standard inspection, no special rules
    • Georgia: Standard inspection, no special rules
    • Hawaii: Standard inspection, airbags are not required and ignored
    • Illinois: Standard inspection, no special rules
    • Indiana: Standard inspection, no special rules
    • Iowa: Standard inspection, no special rules
    • Idaho: Standard inspection, no special rules
    • Kansas: Standard inspection, no special rules
    • Kentucky: Standard inspection, no special rules
    • Louisiana: Standard inspection, no special rules
  • Maine: Standard inspection, requires airbag light to be off
    • Maryland: Standard inspection, no special rules
    • Massachusetts: Enhanced inspection, requires airbag light to be off
    • Michigan: Standard inspection, no special rules
    • Minnesota: Standard inspection, no special rules
    • Mississippi: Standard inspection, no special rules
    • Missouri: Standard inspection, no special rules
    • Montana: Standard inspection, no special rules
    • Nebraska:  Standard inspection, no special rules
    • New Hampshire: Standard Inspection, no special rules
    • New Jersey: Standard inspection, no special rules
    • New Mexico: Standard inspection, no special rules
    • New York: Standard inspection, no special rules
    • North Carolina: Standard inspection, airbag light ignored unless missing or exposed
    • North Dakota: Standard inspection, no special rules
    • Ohio: Standard inspection, no special rules
    • Oregon: Standard inspection, no special rules
    • Oklahoma: Standard inspection, no special rules
    • Pennsylvania: Standard inspection, no special rules
    • Rhode Island: Standard inspection, no special rules
    • South Carolina: Standard inspection, no special rules
    • South Dakota: Standard inspection, no special rules
    • Tennessee: Standard inspection, no special rules
    • Texas: Standard inspection, no special rules
    • Utah: Standard inspection, no special rules
    • Vermont: Standard inspection, no special rules
  • Virginia: Enhanced inspection, requires airbag light off
  • Washington: Standard inspection, no special rules
  • West Virginia: Standard inspection, no special rules
  • Wisconsin: Standard inspection, no special rules
  • Wyoming: Standard inspection, no special rules

Will a Car Pass an Enhanced Inspection with a Lit Airbag Indicator?

Enhanced or full safety inspections are very different than standard inspections. These tests evaluate every safety feature on your vehicle. As such, a lit airbag indicator would flag your car as unsafe to drive, causing it to fail the inspection. 

This is because a safety inspector would presume your car has damaged airbags if they see the light. Your car will also fail the inspection similarly if the indicator light is broken or otherwise inoperable. 

However, these requirements only apply to the driver’s side airbag and indicator. The passenger-side airbag does not affect your inspection result unless it shows a system fault, and the passenger airbag is missing. 

Will Turning Off the Airbag Light Help?

Turning off the airbag warning light will not help you pass a safety inspection. It only masks the problem. The light exists for a reason and the states that require it will still flag a disabled indicator light as a problem. Therefore, you should take your car to a mechanic to fix the problem to ensure you can drive your vehicle safely. 

Is Airbags Light On Dangerous?

Airbags protect you during a crash. Therefore, you always want them in optimum working condition. Therefore, you should take a lit indicator seriously as it warns you of potential safety issues.

However, you must manually reset the indicator sensors once you fix all the problems, and this is where problems with the indicator can pop up. 

The airbag warning light is a red or amber dashboard indicator light located behind your steering wheel. Typically, the light is shaped like a figure with a fastened seatbelt surrounded by a circle, though multiple variations exist. Some cars show the text “Airbag” or “SRS”. Others show a deployed airbag. 

Under normal operation, your car briefly lights up this indicator when your start the engine as a part of an ignition test. The icon remains lit for a few seconds before turning off. It only warns you about potential issues if it stays lit or it comes on while you drive. 

However, there will be moments when your indicator will light up or flash even though you know there are no issues with the airbags. Even still, the light deactivates the airbags, which means they will not deploy if you need them. While you want to fix the issue as soon as possible, there is a chance that the light is on by accident and just needs resetting. 

Reasons for a Lit Airbag Warning Light

While your car will pass a safety inspection with a lit airbag warning indicator, you should never ignore it. An illuminated airbag warning light means that your vehicle’s airbag system is compromised and might not work when you need like during an accident. 

However, you must properly diagnose and identify the problem before you can fix it. An airbag system is a complex network of components, and a fault in either of them will illuminate the warning light:

  • Airbag backup battery: The airbags use your car’s main battery to deploy. The backup battery is there in case the main battery gets damaged in the collision. 
  • Impact or crash sensors: located throughout the vehicle, these sensors alert the system of a crash.
  • Clock springs: Effectively just wires, these springs trigger the airbag deployment once they receive a signal from the impact sensors.
  • Airbag module: The computer that controls the entire airbag system. 

The Airbag Module is Disabled

Disabled airbags are the most common airbag fault. While you should never disable the airbags during the normal operation of your vehicle, some mechanics deactivate them for servicing.

They should reactivate the system when done, but some accidentally leave them disabled. Therefore, you should check to see if your airbags are active if you recently bought a car or took your car for servicing. 

Removed Steering Wheel

If someone removed the steering wheel at some point in the past, the airbag system will detect the missing airbag and sensors and turn on the warning light.

The light will remain on if the wheel was replaced without reconnecting the airbag. To fix the issue, you must take your car to a mechanic or auto shop to reconnect the airbag and reset the light. 

Electrical Fault

Because it is an electrical device, an electrical fault can damage the airbag system, lighting up the warning light. Wires link the various components together, and the fault could be in either of them. Only an auto electrician can fix the problem through a lengthy diagnostic process. Once fixed, the indicator light should turn off. 

Your Car was in a Crash

Any type of crash can trigger the warning light, even if the crash does not deploy the airbags. That includes minor accidents and bumps. You must take your car to a mechanic to diagnose any potential problems and to reset the indicator. 

Faulty Sensors

A car can have hundreds of impact sensors. Each one is a potential point of failure. A sensor could trip accidentally or break down, causing the airbag light to illuminate. A mechanic must find the damaged sensor and repair it before resetting the system. 

Damaged Clock Spring

The clock springs coil and unwind as you turn the steering wheel. It is a durable piece of wire, but it will eventually wear out. This wearing weakens the electrical connection to the airbag module, triggering the warning light. 

Wet Airbag Module

Any water damage can short or corrode the electrical connections the make your airbag system work. The system will detect this as a fault, triggering the warning light. Your car may need extensive repairs to fix this problem.

Conclusion

The airbag system warning light warns you are about problems with the car’s airbag system. The problem could be a minor electric issue or something that could prevent the airbags from deploying properly. However, most states do not see the light as critical. They may flag a lit indicator light as a concern, but your car would still pass the inspection.

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