The ‘Passenger Air Bag Off’ is a safety feature included in modern vehicles to let the driver know that the passenger airbag in the vehicle is currently deactivated.
This feature has been placed to ensure:
- Safety for children and teenagers
- Prevention of injuries related to airbags
- Compliance with international safety regulations
- To promote proper seating practices
Here, we will go through all the details and functionalities of the ‘Passenger Air Bag Off’ indicator, why it is turning on, and how you can turn off the light as well.
How Does the Passenger Air Bag Off Indicator Works?
The ‘Passenger Air Bag Off’ indicator works to prevent any unintentional deployment of airbags.
This safety feature works with the help of ODS or occupant detection system. The ODS helps the vehicle determine whether the front passenger seat is occupied by someone or not. It also determines whether the airbags should be deployed or not.
If the system detects that there isn’t any occupant, then the ‘Passenger Air Bag Off’ light will be illuminated. That means, if there’s an accident, the passenger air bag will not be deployed.
If you turn off the ODS system, then the light will be illuminated on your dashboard as well.
To turn on the ‘Passenger Air Bag Off’ indicator, the ODS system does the following:
1. Utilize the Weight & Pressure Sensors
A crucial part of the ODS system is the weight and pressure sensors. They will collect the data of the occupants on your front seat and send it to the system so that it can decide whether airbags should be deployed or not in the case of an accident.
The weight sensors are generally placed underneath the bottom cushion of the seat or under the seat frame. Its only job is to measure the weight that is applied to the seat.
On the other hand, the pressure sensors are placed around the seat and work to find any pressure changes by the one who is sitting on the seat.
These sensors will directly transmit data to the vehicle’s airbag control unit, which will determine whether airbags should be deployed or not.
2. Threshold Detection
Once the sensors provide the data, the occupant system will determine whether it should deploy the airbags by comparing the data with a predetermined threshold set by the system.
The ECU or Electronic Control Unit of the ODS is responsible for this choice. Usually, when the weight & pressure is below the determined threshold, is when the ‘Passenger Air Bag Off’ indicator will start to illuminate.
3. Airbag Deactivation
When the ECU sends a signal that the threshold limit isn’t crossed, the airbag deployment system of the vehicle will retract & store the airbag back. It won’t deploy itself even when the car faces a collision.
This is mainly for the safety of the passenger because, for small occupants in the front seat, the airbag safety feature might just do more damage than protection in the case of a collision.
4. Turning the Indicator On
As soon as the airbag deployment system gets the signal for deactivating the airbags, it will light up the ‘Passenger Air Bag Off’ indicator to let the driver know that the front passenger seat won’t be using the airbag support.
Reasons for ‘Passenger Air Bag Off’ Indicator Turning On
Here are the possible reasons why you are seeing the ‘Passenger Air Bag Off’ lit up on your car’s dashboard:
The ODS System Determined No Passenger or Small Occupants
As described earlier, the ODS system is able to determine if there is a passenger in the front seat who will need the support of airbags or not.
So, if you have children sitting in your front passenger seat, then the ODS system will deem it unnecessary & potentially harmful to deploy the airbags. Therefore, it will deactivate the airbag support and turn on the ‘Passenger Air Bag Off’ indicator.
The same principle is also applied if there isn’t any passenger seated in the front seat. Also, if you are placing an object, whether it’s heavy or not, the system won’t determine it as a passenger, and thus ‘Passenger Air Bag Off’ light will be on.
Airbag System is Manually Turned Off
If you have turned off the airbag system manually, then the ‘Passenger Air Bag Off’ indicator will also start to glow. For older models, this feature isn’t applicable; you will have to take your car to a mechanic to properly apply the changes.
But in newer models, there is a switch or key which you can use to turn off airbag support. This is usually implemented when you have installed a rear-facing child support seat in your front passenger seat.
Whether you have turned the airbag system off intentionally or by mistake, the ‘Passenger Air Bag Off’ light will glow in the dashboard nonetheless.
Malfunctions or Damaged in ODS Components
Lastly, if you have enough passenger weight and you didn’t turn off the airbag system but still see the ‘Passenger Air Bag Off’ come alive, then it’s an issue.
In that case, it is safe to assume that one or maybe several ODS components have malfunctioned or have taken some sort of damage.
Malfunctions in the airbag system can also lead to the ‘Passenger Air Bag Off’ light illuminating, so keep that in mind too.
How to Turn Off the ‘Passenger Air Bag Off’ Indicator?
If you don’t want to see the ‘Passenger Air Bag Off’ light blinking or illuminated, then you should do the following:
Ensure Front Seat Occupancy
First, ensure that the front passenger seat is not empty and is occupied by an adult who meets the airbag deployment requirement.
If you are putting up any objects on the seat, then see that it has enough weight and isn’t blocking any of the pressure or weight sensor like seat covers or heavy bags.
In some latest vehicle models, you also have the option to select whether a person or an object is on the seat. Make sure to select the latter.
For those of you who have installed a child safety seat and still see the ‘Passenger Air Bag Off’ sign, then it is possible that your installation was faulty. Take out the seat and install it again while following the manufacturer’s instruction guidelines.
If Occupant Detection System was the reason for the ‘Passenger Air Bag Off’ indicator, then this should solve the issue.
Decrease the Threshold
This isn’t available in most vehicles, but in some latest models, you are actually able to increase or decrease the weight and pressure threshold of the ODS. So, decreasing it to meet your front seat occupants’ weight can be an option.
Verify Airbag System Activation
The airbag activation system isn’t usually found on older models of vehicles, but if you happen to have one in your vehicle, make sure that it is activated. In some cars, it is labeled as an airbag deactivation system; therefore, double-check the fact that you haven’t turned it on somehow.
By turning it off, your problem will cease to exist. Sometimes, you might have to restart the vehicle to see it take effect.
Reboot the System
Sometimes technical errors can occur when you start your car, and this can also lead to the ‘Passenger Air Bag Off’ indicator being illuminated.
If that is the case, then rebooting the system will often take care of the issue. Just restart your vehicle, and you should be able to see the changes.
Look Out for Damage and Malfunction
If the ‘Passenger Air Bag Off’ indicator is still glowing, then you can assume that there are some faults and malfunctions in the parts.
In that case, first, check both the weight and pressure sensors. If they seem defective, then you can just replace them.
But before that, make sure to clean them and see if the issue is resolved. Sometimes, dust & dirt accumulate on the sensors, which can lead to them not working properly.
Next, see if the ECU is working properly or not. You will need to have a good understanding of vehicle parts. So, if you are not confident, we recommend seekinga professional opinion in this case.
When the ECU is damaged, the only solution is to replace it completely to get rid of your issue.
The airbag system can also suffer from malfunction and damage. Maybe the retraction and release mechanics aren’t working properly, or something is stuck between them.
If that is the case, then you will have to visit a mechanic to resolve your issues.
Should You Be Worried?
Well, if the ‘Passenger Air Bag Off’ stays on, it won’t affect your driving experience, but you might lose an extra bit of security.
This system is actually placed to provide safety for small occupants and to prevent any sort of airbag-related injuries.
So, if you drive safely, then there shouldn’t be much to worry about.
That being said, not having your airbags come to you in the event of a collision is very bad. And even if you maintain the rules of driving, unfortunate events happen. Therefore, it is better to know that the ODS & Airbag system is functioning properly.
That’s why if you have the option, then you should get it fixed.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. When should you switch off passenger airbag?
When you have children in the passenger front seat as the airbag can cause significant injury to them.
2. Is it illegal to drive with airbags off?
No, it’s completely legal.
3. Is airbag part of MOT?
Yes, airbag is a part of MOT.
The ‘Passenger Air Bag Off’ indicator is designed to prevent any unnecessary airbag injuries.
That being said, if you don’t have children or small occupants in your front passenger seat, seeing the indicator means something is wrong.
So, make sure to check up on your car by following our given instructions.