What Does Your Subaru’s SRS Airbag Light Mean?

If your Subaru’s SRS airbag light stays on after starting the car, it means there’s a fault in the airbag system that needs to be addressed immediately.
Written by Matt Terzi
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
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If you’re seeing a Subaru SRS airbag light on your Subaru’s dashboard, it means your airbag system has a critical malfunction that needs immediate attention. It’s unsafe to drive your car without getting this inspected by a mechanic.
Let’s go over what your Subaru’s SRS airbag light means, what might be causing the problem, and how to reset it in this guide that can prepare you for potential car repairs your trusted Subie might need to get.
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What does the airbag light mean in a Subaru?

SRS (supplemental restraint system) airbags are designed to work together with your seatbelt and other safety features to protect you in a car accident. If you’re seeing a Subaru SRS airbag light, it’s important to get it addressed immediately.
Each time you start up your Subaru, the car’s computer checks the airbag system for potential issues. You’ll see the
airbag light
turn on briefly when starting up the car, along with your other indicator lights, and it should turn off immediately afterward. 
But if your car detects any problems with the airbag system, you’ll see the SRS airbag warning light begin to flash
Newer Subarus will give you more details in a notification in the instrument cluster, and Starlink subscribers will get another notification in the MySubaru app.
The SRS airbag light usually notifies you that one or more of these problems have been detected:
  • Your car’s crash sensors aren’t working properly or aren’t communicating with the
    airbag control module
  • The airbag control module is malfunctioning
  • Wiring issues are preventing the airbag sensors from communicating with the control module
  • The airbag backup battery is drained (this battery is meant to work even if the car battery itself isn’t, so the car warns you if this isn’t functioning properly)
  • There are issues with the airbag clock spring in your steering wheel
There are plenty of other issues that can cause the SRS airbag light to turn on, so in any event, you’ll want a mechanic to look the car over and see what the issue is. If you own an OBD-II scanner, you can check the car’s error codes yourself.
Subaru was one of the 19 automakers involved in the huge Takata airbag recall, which prompted recalls on more than 67 million airbags globally and affected the likes of Ford, General Motors, Toyota, Honda, Ferrari, BMW, Tesla, and more. 
The Takata airbag recalls affected six Subaru models, or seven if you count the Saab 9-2X, a rebadged Subaru Impreza often referred to as “the Saabaru”. These models include the following:
  • 2003 to 2006 Subaru Baja
  • 2009 to 2013 Subaru Forester
  • 2004 to 2011 Subaru Impreza
  • 2003 to 2014 Subaru Legacy
  • 2003 to 2014 Subaru Outback
  • 2004 to 2014 Subaru WRX and STI
The 2012 Subaru Outback and 2012 Subaru Legacy, which share a platform together, had a
separate recall
also involving Takata airbags, these ones involving the side curtain airbags not properly deploying in a crash due to having an incorrect mixture of propellant.
The 2010 Subaru Outback and Legacy had a somewhat
adjacent recall
, where grease from the steering roll connector could damage electrical circuits nearby, causing the airbag warning light to go off.
The 2005 Subaru Legacy and 2005 Subaru Outback 3.0R Sedan had a recall over their side impact airbags, which didn’t deploy quickly enough in affected cars. 
It’s highly recommended that you check
Subaru’s official recall tool
or the
National Traffic Highway Safety Administration website
to see if there are any active recalls on your vehicle. Subaru pays for parts and maintenance on all recalls—it costs you nothing to fix the problem and it makes your Subaru even safer.
MORE: How to check car recalls by VIN number

How to reset the airbag warning light in a Subaru

If you’re seeing your Subaru’s SRS airbag light on your dashboard, take this warning seriously and have your car looked at by a mechanic as soon as humanly possible. Airbags are a vital safety feature, and you really don’t want to drive around with one or more airbags not ready to deploy if necessary.
Having said that, you can usually clear an SRS airbag light if there isn’t a major underlying problem. Here are a few things you can try to reset the warning light. And again, if none of these suggestions work, visit a mechanic as soon as you can.
  • Check the passenger airbag switch, which is located under the front passenger seat or in the glove box, depending on which Subaru model you have. You probably didn’t intentionally turn this off yourself, but it sometimes gets accidentally flipped during car cleaning or when you get detailing work done.
  • Check that the seatbelts are working. Subaru links their seatbelts with their SRS airbag system, so if a seatbelt isn’t working correctly, you’ll see a warning light. Go to each of the seats in your Subie and see if the seatbelts are jammed or damaged. If it can’t draw out or click in place, your Subaru will warn you of a problem.
  • Turn the engine off, wait a bit, and turn it back on again. Shut it down, then open the driver’s side car door and close it again. Keep the keys out of the ignition for a few minutes, then turn the car back on. This will sometimes reset minor errors.
  • Go for a reasonably short drive, taking the car about ten miles or so. If the car’s systems need a reboot, sometimes driving around for a while can do that.

Is it OK to drive with the Subaru SRS airbag light on? 

Will your Subaru still drive normally with the SRS airbag warning light on? Yes, it will—though in some newer Subaru models, be prepared for constant notifications warning you of what we’re going to say next.
Yes, the car will drive with the airbag light on. But no, you absolutely shouldn’t drive the car unless you’re testing it or taking it to a mechanic.
Despite Subarus getting some impressive safety ratings through the years, no car is safe to drive without functional airbags. And until you’ve had the car looked at by a mechanic, you have no way of knowing if the airbags will deploy properly in an accident. That puts you and your passengers at risk, and it’s simply not worth gambling on.
We hope your Subaru SRS airbag light is on for something simple, preferably something cheap (or better yet, free) to repair or replace. And if you did find any recalls that apply to your vehicle, remember that Subaru will take care of recall problems free of charge at any Subaru dealership.
MORE: How long can you drive with the check engine light on?
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