Is It Illegal to Drive with Airbag Light on?

The airbag light is located on your vehicle's dashboard or computer screen. Once it lights up, you can easily notice it as it has a unique icon of a man leaning backward with a seatbelt on. This light usually comes on when there is any issue with the airbag system.

If you see this light on, it is not something to neglect. Since there can be any faulty airbag system, it may cause serious injury or death during an accident.

Now, it is understandable that you ask whether it is legal or not to drive with the airbag light on. But you should also know how to reset them. So, I answered both questions in this article.

The legality of Driving with Airbag Lights on

No state prohibited drivers from driving with the airbag light on. So, yes, it is not illegal.

Any peace officer also won't cause you any trouble for it. However, they may still advise you to deal with the issue as soon as possible for your own safety.

Anyway, that answers our first and central question. But I bet you still have many questions left about airbag lights. So, let's get to them one by one.

airbag light

Federal Rules Regarding Airbag Lights

The federal laws do not illegalize driving with an airbag light on. However, they still have some regulations you may want to know. They are as follows-

  • Any vehicle manufactured after 1999 must have a factory airbag system.
  • Modifications of the airbag system are illegal. They include removing any part or replacing any component with ones that aren't supposed to work with the factory airbag system. Meanwhile, resetting or repairing the system isn't a modification.
  • Only a technician with a license can reset an airbag. Someone else doing it is illegal.

Will a Car Pass the State Inspection with a Lit Airbag Light?

Yes, a car can pass the state inspection with an illuminated airbag light. But it may not be so in all cases. For example, if the cause of the light is something serious, then the vehicle won't pass the MOT inspection.

How to Reset the Airbag Light?

There are two main ways you can reset the airbag light. But some of them are easier than others. Anyway, let's start with the more straightforward methods.

Check the Passenger Side Airbag Button

If your vehicle has one Passenger Side Airbag button, access it via the glove box. Check whether it is turned to the Off position. If so, turn it On, which may reset the airbag light. If not, then proceed with the following courses of action.

Temporarily Bypassing the Airbag Light: First Method

  • Turn the ignition to the Off position and leave it for 7-8 seconds to allow the airbag light to turn off.
  • Turn the ignition to the On position for four seconds.
  • Repeat the above two steps three times.

After you complete this process, the airbag light may turn off for the time being. But if the problem is not troubleshot, it can return to the future.

Temporarily Bypassing the Airbag Light: Second Method

You can try disconnecting the battery if you want to keep the airbag light off temporarily. Wear rubber gloves while doing so. The way you should do this is as follow-

  • Disconnect the negative terminal first, then the positive terminal of the battery.
  • Leave it for 5-7 seconds.
  • Reconnect the positive terminal first, then the negative terminal.
  • Check if it worked.

There is no guarantee that this process will work. It is just worth a shot. Not to mention, if there is any serious issue with the airbag system, you shouldn’t just fix it like this. You need to troubleshoot it to the root.

Permanently Resetting the Airbag Light

You should only do this one by yourself if you know your way around tinkering with vehicle components and systems. Otherwise, leave it to a professional hand. Anyway, you only need an OBD-II scanner and some basic tools for this process. It is also quite similar to resetting the check engine lights.

  • Connect the OBD-II scanner to your vehicle's diagnostic port with the ignition to the Off position.
  • Turn the ignition to the On position and wait until the scanner has completed boot sequencing.
  • Check the error codes. Now proceed with the troubleshooting based on the codes. You may need to look for the meaning of the codes online if you don't know.
  • If there are many codes, you may need to fix multiple areas. Once you are done, clear/delete the codes. It should turn the airbag lights off permanently.
  • Still, do check the light with test-driving. If the light persists, there can be more codes you are yet to diagnose and troubleshoot.

This process will also fix the issue to its core. However, you may need to replace some parts. For example, there can be corroded areas in the airbag system. If you are confused about something, don't hesitate to call a mechanic. Repairing the airbag system is critical, and you must not compromise it with something.

Why Does the Airbag Light Turn on?

The airbag light can turn on for a variety of reasons. In most cases, you may find the following as the root of the issue-

  • Your airbag has a backup system with the vehicle's battery, and the light may come on when the battery is out of energy.
  • If you need to reset your airbag, which you usually need to do after an accident.
  • Note that the airbag is there for additional protection after the seatbelts. If there is any issue with the seatbelt or the sensors, it can trigger the airbag light.
  • A corroded sensor can cause it.
  • Did you know that on vehicles with a passenger-side airbag system, the airbag wires on the passenger sides can get damaged each time the passenger-side seat is leaned? It can also cause the airbag light to turn on.

How Often Should You Check the Airbag System?

You should thoroughly check the airbag system at least once every ten years. If you find any corroded or faulty parts, replace them without delay.

Final Note

Driving with an illuminated airbag light is not illegal by any state or federal law. But if you notice this light, your prime concern should be to fix the issue for your own well-being, not for legal reasons. If the airbag needs a reset, go to a licensed mechanic. You can permanently turn off the airbag light by fixing all the issues that triggered it.

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