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Old 01-10-2014, 12:44 PM   #1
bennett9000
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Default Troubleshooting intermittent airbag light

2001 SL1. Airbag light is on - sometimes. It comes and goes, seemingly with no rhyme or reason. Turning the wheel has no effect. Temperature has no effect. It comes and goes as it pleases.

I pulled the code, and it's for Drivers side Open Loop, or something like that.

When the light is on, the horn still works as normal, so I don't suspect the clock spring.

I removed the center console and shifter assembly a few months ago to install new shift cables. It was then that I noticed that the light was on (although my dad had been driving it at the time, so it may have been on before I did that for all I know). Regardless, I thought it possible that I could have done something to the module or wires at that time. But I inspected the module, and the plug leading to it; there was no dirt, bent pins, broken/pinched wires, or anything of the sort that would lead me to suspect a bad connection there.

I had put a new steering wheel on it earlier this past spring, because the old one was cracked and sun-baked. I re-used the original airbag with the new steering wheel. But the airbag light issue did not appear until several months later, so I don't necessarily suspect this either.

My next step is to inspect the wires between the clock spring and the air bag to see if those are tight and clean. I just need a day that isn't ridiculously cold to go outside and do it.

If that all checks out, where would you go next?
...
-Andy

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Old 01-10-2014, 01:52 PM   #2
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Default Re: Troubleshooting intermittent airbag light

If you get the exact description of the code or its number I suspect the cause can be pinned down. As a guess it sounds like wither the connection for the drivers air bag located along the column or the back of the air bag or the clock spring.
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Old 01-10-2014, 02:02 PM   #3
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Default Re: Troubleshooting intermittent airbag light

1-If you are like most drivers, wear a seat/lap belt, don't drive reckless and tend to avoid reckless drivers/traffic conditions, the disabled airbag system is just an annoyance until you find a freeze-less day to poke around with warm fingers.

2-All airbags use paired yellow wires with a built-in shorting bar when these connectors are disconnected to short the connection and prevent any stray static electricity from igniting an airbag. Normally, airbags require 23 volts to fire one. The SDM has the charged power to fire airbags when powered up.

3-All airbag error codes are prefixed. "B" codes may not be read by generic readers; airbag faults are considered advanced electronics with the inherent explosive potential so any error codes aren't likely to be decoded easily as the majority of drivers aren't capable of advanced troubleshooting inherently hazardous explosive devices using electronics requiring some familiarity. GM's Tech II or more expensive commercial readers used by repair shops will have capabilities to decode airbag error codes.

4-The basic operation of all airbags are the self tests done at every ignition key ON cycle when power is applied to all electronics. The airbag module begins its own power up self tests (a/b light ON) and immediately checks all airbags, sensors and connections. If everything is perfect the tests verify the entire airbag system is ready and stands by (a/b light OFF) for the eventual collision that may trigger the airbag system. If any sensor or wire connection is faulty at any time during power up self tests or while driving, the airbag system immediately detects this fault and disables itself while turning on the airbag light. Airbag light ON = no airbag deployment.

5-The driver's seat belt switch is an input signal to the airbag system. The seat belt light should turn off when buckled up.

A preliminary inspection of anything that was repaired recently and then going over the wiring that you can see may show something. If you like, removing the 10A AIRBAG fuse will allow safer troubleshooting before poking around airbag wiring. Disconnecting an airbag will automatically short the airbag from any stray electrical charge that might fire an airbag.

Pm an email address with car model and year if you need service manual info. There's a large amount of info too large to cover in any post.
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Old 01-11-2014, 11:54 AM   #4
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Default Re: Troubleshooting intermittent airbag light

Thanks, gents.

I was indeed using a professional-grade code reader that did reveal the code "B-whatever" for this. Sorry I can't remember the exact number. I guess I assumed that since there is only one bag on the driver's side, and the "open loop" detail, I figured that would be enough

The seat belt light is functioning normally.

The completely unpredictable intermittent quality of the light is the most frustrating thing; I wish it would just BREAK already, so I could fix it

I had not really thought about the wires back along the steering column. If the actual air bag harness checks out, I will move on to those.

And thanks for the tip about the fuse. A guy can't be too careful.

If I hit another wall, troubleshooting-wise, or solve the issue, I'll report back. Thanks again!
...
-Andy

01 SL1 (2011-2014) 99 SW2 (2002-2009) 95 SL2 (1997-2002)
00 ROUSH Cougar V6 03 SVT Focus #2370 08 Mustang Bullitt #5389 2013 Fiat 500 Abarth
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Old 01-11-2014, 05:15 PM   #5
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Default Re: Troubleshooting intermittent airbag light

most air bag codes are caused by micro fretting of the connecter.. if it were me(im a full time tec for cadillac) i would disconnect the batt and wait 10 minets.. the unplug and cyc the connecter(plug and unplugg)3 or 4 times at the sdm(main air bag module) at the air bag connecter at the top of the colum that connects the bag to the wheel,and finaly at the base of the colum where the clockspring/colum wireing connects to the body.. all wires are yellow not hard to find.. reconnect and hook up batt and reevaluate.. if the code for drivers deplyment loop is still present i would take it in as you need a good dvom and the skills to read it and the proper gm test termals to properly diag the system.and some tests are done live(sdm powered up) and i have seen bags deploy on evan experenced tec's requireing replacement evan if you did the diag steps properly as the system can be deplyed with as little amps and volts as a standard 9vt batt like in a smoke detecter...also if the light is on the bags will never deploy ..just cause an anoying lamp on the dash..seen lots of cars with systems not fixed you wouldn't be the 1st..hth
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Old 01-11-2014, 06:01 PM   #6
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Default Re: Troubleshooting intermittent airbag light

I would go with cycling all connectors that were disturbed recently. The SDM is probably not the location of the problem. I would suspect the bag in the steering wheel connector or the one along the column first.
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Old 01-12-2014, 04:48 PM   #7
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Default Re: Troubleshooting intermittent airbag light

Finally got around to examining things yesterday.

Pulled the fuse, removed the driver's side airbag. Unplugged everything. Wiggled and tweaked all of the connections under the bag, and along the steering column. Put it all back together and started the car with the fuse still out. Shut down, re-installed fuse, re-started, and no light.

I've been driving it around for two days now with no light, so I'm gonna call this one fixed.

So apparently nothing was seriously broken - just temperamental.

Thanks for all of the pointers and suggestions, folks.
...
-Andy

01 SL1 (2011-2014) 99 SW2 (2002-2009) 95 SL2 (1997-2002)
00 ROUSH Cougar V6 03 SVT Focus #2370 08 Mustang Bullitt #5389 2013 Fiat 500 Abarth
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Old 01-12-2014, 06:37 PM   #8
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Default Re: Troubleshooting intermittent airbag light

satlite440 correctly explained the cause of the intermittent light.
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