How To Reset An Air Bag Light the Right Way

Categories: Airbag Module Reset, DIY Auto Tips

Lots of people want to know how to reset an air bag light. It would be great if you could reset your Airbag Module with a hand-held OBDII scanner. While you may be able to temporarily clear soft codes with a handheld scanner, hard codes — also known as crash data — need to be reset by experts. Furthermore, if your airbag light is on due to hardware issues such as deployed seat belts or faulty air bag, the air bag light will simply come back on after the next vehicle diagnostic self-check. There is no magic wand. Your vehicle’s SRS system must be in good working order and crash data, if present, must be cleared.

Soft Codes and Hard Codes: What’s the difference?

The first thing to comprehend is the difference between “soft” and “hard” DTC codes. Hard codes refer to stored accident crash data. Soft DTC codes refer to faulty and or deployed safety equipment including airbags, seat belt pretensioners, collapsible steering column sensors, active headrests and rollover bars, and more. Deployed or faulty parts must be repaired or replaced in order to clear any “soft” error codes. Otherwise, your airbag warning light will continue to illuminate. As technology and regulation advance, newer vehicles have more SRS components than older vehicles.

Hard Codes and EDR: Like the black box on an airplane

“Hard” codes are associated with accident crash data. Like the black box on an airplane, your vehicle stores crash data which can help investigators understand vehicle dynamics surrounding the time of the accident. According to the NHTSA, crash data is collected by the Electronic Data Recorder which is defined as follows: “…a device installed in a motor vehicle to record technical vehicle and occupant information for a brief period of time (seconds, not minutes) before, during and after a crash. For instance, EDRs may record (1) pre-crash vehicle dynamics and system status, (2) driver inputs, (3) vehicle crash signature, (4) restraint usage/deployment status, and (5) post-crash data such as the activation of an automatic collision notification (ACN) system.”

Crash data is used by government agencies, vehicle manufacturers, insurance companies, and the medical industry to evaluate accidents after the fact and improve safety technology moving forward. The equipment associated with servicing these electronic data recorders is not user-friendly. Likewise, there is no “one-size-fits-all” tool available to cover the gamut of vehicle makes and models. Founded in 2006, MyAirbags has invested heavily in purchasing and developing the tools required to read and properly reset airbag modules.

OBD2 scanners — even high-end units from Autel and Snap-On — cannot reset Air Bag Module hard codes.

Your OBDII scanner is still very important

At the end of the day, your handheld OBD2 scanner simply cannot reset hard codes. It is still useful for reading DTC fault codes. A quick scan may reveal an easy-to-fix loose connection in the system. If your car has been in an accident, the scan will generally indicate a range of soft and hard codes. The majority of airbag modules we receive are from collision repair shops. While these shops are busy repairing crumpled fenders and waiting for paint to dry, they ship airbag modules and deployed SRS parts to MyAirbags for service. Experienced shops will scan for codes before disassembling damaged cars. That’s great advice for anyone who is getting into the world of DIY salvage car repair. Scan your vehicle and get those parts to us early in the repair process.

When sending your airbag module for service, be sure to send any deployed or faulty parts for repair such as seat belts

Air bag module repair vs replacement

Air bag module replacements are expensive and are frequently on backorder. If you can buy a new unit remember that there will be an additional charge for encoding the unit to match your vehicle. There is really no reason to buy a replacement unit unless the original part suffered flood or fire damage. In most cases resetting your air bag module is the way to go — especially since prices start at just $59.99*.

While you may not be able to properly reset your own airbag module, the fix is fast, easy, and affordable. Send it to MyAirbags along with any deployed and faulty SRS parts such as seat belts. The only SRS parts that we do not repair are airbags. In most cases, we can rebuild the seatbelts and other parts, then properly reset the module in just 1-2 business days. If you have any questions about the process, be sure to give us a call or check out our How It Works page.


*Airbag Module Service starts at $59.99 as of this publish date: April 28, 2023