What Does the BMW Airbag Light Mean?

The BMW airbag light turns on to warn you about a fault in the airbag system. Get it checked out sooner rather than later.
Written by Bonnie Stinson
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
If your BMW airbag light is staying illuminated, you might have a serious problem with your airbags. Faulty airbags are dangerous and you’ll want to get this issue checked out immediately.
It may be normal for your BMW airbag light to temporarily flash when you start the car. However, it’s not normal for the light to stay illuminated. It could be a simple code problem—or it could be a faulty mechanical part that would stop your airbags from deploying during an accident. You’ll want to reach out to a
car repair
expert for assistance. 
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What does the airbag light mean on a BMW?

If the airbag light illuminates in your BMW, it might mean that there is an issue with your airbag system or the airbags themselves. 
When an issue is present somewhere in your airbag system or your supplemental restraint system (SRS), it could mean that your airbags will not deploy in the event of a crash. Yikes! It’s important to ensure that these systems are working properly.
In most BMWs, the light looks like a graphic of a person sitting in a seat wearing a seatbelt with an oval over their lap symbolizing a deployed airbag. You might also see the symbol “SRS” illuminated, which indicates that there could be an issue with the airbags and supplemental restraint system. In a BMW, the airbag and SRS lights are generally red or yellow.
Is your light on? There are a few easy checks you can do to see if there is any interference with the seatbelts and their buckles. One, start by checking to see if there is anything under the seats that could be disturbing the wiring. Two, see if you have heavy items on your passenger seat that could cause the light to illuminate.
Otherwise, your problem may be a little more complicated. 
Here are a few possible problems that may have caused your airbag or SRS light to come on:
  • Triggered Battery Safety Terminal (BST): Unique to BMWs, the BST is a feature that is designed to cut off power to your battery and prevent explosions or electrical fires if you are in an accident. This is a great feature, but it can be triggered by small impacts, like going over a large pothole. If the BST is triggered, it will cut off power to the airbags and turn on your airbag light.
  • Faulty sensors: Over time, the sensors in your airbag system may wear out or become damaged. The sensors communicate to the airbag system whether or not to deploy the airbags. BMWs have had some issues with the passenger seat sensors, so this may be the cause. If one of the sensors has stopped working, the airbag light may illuminate.
  • Drained or dead airbag backup battery: Did your BMW battery recently die? Or did you unplug the battery with the key in the ignition? If so, this may be the reason the light is on. You can try to diagnose and reset it yourself by using a code reader or ask a mechanic to do it for you. 
  • Damaged airbag clock spring: In many BMWs (such as the E36), the airbag clock spring is located in the steering wheel. If your airbag light is on and your horn will not work, this could be the cause. In most cases, this means the steering wheel needs to be replaced.
If you were recently in a car accident (even if the airbags were not deployed), it's possible the sensor was triggered anyway and will need to be reset. Ultimately, an airbag warning light issue is either a problem with the sensors or the physical parts themselves
Whatever the reason, it is important to find the problem and fix your BMW airbag light as soon as possible. Keep yourself and your passengers safe by contacting a mechanic or dealership if the light stays illuminated for longer than a few seconds.
MORE: Are BMWs expensive to maintain?

What you need to know about the BMW airbag recall

Like many other manufacturers, BMW has had to recall a number of their models due to the Takata airbag recall. 
This airbag recall is relevant to BMW models from 2000 to 2013. 
The Takata airbags could explode due to extreme temperatures and temperature cycling. Luckily, there are some permanent fixes now that are available to fix this airbag issue and they should be free from your BMW dealership.
To see if a recall was issued for your car, use your vehicle model year and VIN. It never hurts to give your local dealership a call to see what they know, too. Don’t wait when your safety is at stake!

How to reset the airbag warning light on a BMW    

Before you take your car to a mechanic to take a look at your airbag system and SRS, see if you can reset the light yourself. 
Here is one way to reset your BMW airbag light manually:
  1. Turn on your car and look for the illuminated airbag light
  2. Count seven seconds and then turn the car off
  3. Repeat the first two steps at least twice
  4. Turn the car on again and check for the airbag light to see if it stays on
If you have access to a code reader, you can also reset the airbag light with this device. This may also uncover other problems besides the faulty code. If you don’t have a code reader, a mechanic can help you with this reset.
If your BMW airbag light comes back on for more than 20 seconds, it is very important that you take your car to a mechanic or dealership as soon as possible. 
MORE: The Takata airbag recall: Everything you need to know

Is it OK to drive with the BMW airbag light on? 

While the car can drive, it is not safe to do so. The airbag light or the SRS light are both indicators that the airbags will not deploy in the event of a collision. Some mechanics even recommend towing your car to a shop if the light is illuminated.
Please take the airbag light seriously. If your airbags do not deploy or deploy incorrectly, it may result in injury or death.
Get your BMW airbag light checked out by a professional and get back on the road safely!
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