Inside your Volvo, the airbags are one of the most important safety features. In the event of a head-on collision they can save your life and the lives of your passengers. If something goes wrong with this system it can quite literally be lethal, which is why there is a warning light designed to let you know when a problem arises with your airbag system.
The airbags are part of what is called the supplemental restraint system or SRS. This system also includes your seatbelts and is designed to make sure you are protected in the event of a side-impact or frontal collision. The warning light for this particular system looks like the side view of someone sitting in a seat with their seatbelt on with the large circle in front of them. That circle is indicative of the airbag.
This light will turn on every time you start your vehicle, and then go off as your system does a check each time you turn on your car. It is the same reason that each time you turn on your car all of the other lights on your dashboard turn on momentarily. Once your system has verified that there are no existing issues all of the lights will go off. However, if this light stays on while you are driving or it comes on while you are driving, it is indicative of a problem with your airbags.
How the SRS Works
The SRS is a complex computer system. This particular computer system was engineered to rely upon a network of sensors that detect things such as when someone is sitting in your passenger seat, whether there has been an impact to your vehicle, and when you are braking or decelerating. If there has been a frontal impact, the computer sends a signal to your seatbelt pretensioners that they need to tighten. This is meant to hold you to your seat.
After that, the computer sends a signal to your airbags. The electrical impulse ignites chemicals inside of your airbag inflator, and this produces pressurized nitrogen gas. The nitrogen gas expands in literally the amount of time it takes you to blink, at which point it can provide cushion for your head. The airbag will deflate rapidly after it has absorbed the impact.
If there is a side impact the same thing happens, only the system alerts your side airbags and they stay inflated longer than front airbags in the event that your vehicle rolls over. Much the same as an aircraft, many vehicles today come equipped with what is a black box that records relevant data for 20 seconds leading up to the accident.
Why the Light Comes On
There are many reasons why the airbag light could come on. Because this is something tied directly to your safety, it is important to have it diagnosed and corrected as soon as possible. This computer produces of trouble code which our mechanics can review in order to determine the diagnosis. We will also check for airbag recall notices for your vehicle. In the event that there is a recall notice, the fix would be covered under the extended warranty.
This light could come on in your Volvo because there's a foreign object trapped inside of the buckle mechanism. If the seat belt latch has any problems, such as a coin that has been shoved inside the mechanism, it will trigger the warning light. Obviously this is something that you can check yourself, after which point you can come to us and have the computer reset.
The passenger seat has an occupancy sensor that takes note of where pressure is being placed on the seat and how much weight is there. This is why you can sit a purse or back of groceries on your passenger seat without triggering the seat belt warning noise and light. When the sensor notes a passenger, it knows to trigger the airbag on that side in the event of an accident. However, if the sensor isn't properly functioning, it might turn on the SRS warning light. For an issue like this, our professionals will check that the wiring connector is secure, all wiring is in its proper place, and functioning without damage. If there is any damage to the wiring connector, it can be replaced and the computer reset to turn off the warning light.
Another reason the light might turn on is corrosion from water damage. We can inspect the internal system and replace any corroded parts. In other cases, the airbag clock spring might be defunct. This is an electrical connector found in the steering wheel which maintains communication between the SRS computer and your steering wheel. However, over time it can fail and the warning light can activate. The computer will log a code in the event that this happens, indicating this precise problem. The spring can be replaced easily.
In any case, be sure to call our team as soon as your light comes on. If you continue to drive with it on, and an subsequent issue arises, it could void the warranty if you have one. At Fast Lane European, convenient to San Jose, CA, we offer specialists trained in dealing with European vehicles like your Volvo, so you know you can trust us with your vehicle.