Aftermarket steering wheels are one of the best modifications that you can make, but they do tend to trigger an annoying airbag warning light. Here’s how to turn it off.
The dreaded airbag light has always been the modder’s enemy when fitting an aftermarket seat or steering wheel, and that’s for these main reasons.
In the US, having airbag warning lights isn’t illegal, although laws vary from state to state. In the UK, however, having the airbag light on or even flashing is an MoT failure, meaning your car can’t legally drive on the right. Also, in a lot of cases, your car will automatically disable the rest of its airbags when any airbag is causing a warning light. Which could be dangerous. So, here’s how to turn off your airbag warning light.
Prevention is better than cure, so if you can stop the light coming on in the first place, it can save you time and expense later. Factor this bit in as part of the job you’re doing and get everything ready. The basic premise is the same for both seats and steering wheels, you need to trick the car into thinking it still has an airbag fitted. To do this you’ll need to fit an electrical resistor before you reconnect the car battery or turn the key for the first time. A broken circuit or wrong resistance will either tell the car the airbag is missing, or that it’s faulty, and this will trip the light.
Unfortunately it’s not a ‘one size fits all’ solution with resistors. They all have different values of resistance (measured in OHMS) and this needs to be specific to match the resistance of the airbag you’re taking out of the circuit. The value generally changes between car models and manufacturers so you’ll need to do a little forum hunting. Don’t worry too much though – someone has always done it before.
Where to get the resistor
When you know which resistor you’re after it’s usually a case of hitting your local electronics store or tracking some down online. Their saving grace is that they’re cheap, normally very cheap, so don’t be fooled by all these plug and play kits you see for a $10 or more – what do you think they’ve got inside them?
Ready Made Solutions
Sometimes, if you’re really lucky your part might already come with a free resistor kit. MOMO, Cobra Seats and a few other manufacturers offer these, the vast majority don’t.
Unlike most electronics jobs this one isn’t even close to rocket science. You just need to put the resistor across the circuit, that’s it. There’s two established ways of doing this when you’ve located the airbag feed, either solder it into the wires, or simply push it into the plug and tape it up. Just make sure the resistor is insulated with some tape, and secure enough so it can’t come out.
Airbag warning light on already?
So you didn’t know all this and your airbag warning light is already on? Don’t panic, they can always be turned off. Again it’s time to do your research online because, depending on your car, sometimes you can get away with resetting the light yourself by following a certain procedure of key-turning or pressing buttons in a specific sequence. For the most part though you’ll either need a specialist diagnostic scanner to do the job or will have to take a trip to a local garage and hand over a few quid. Steer clear of the main dealers for this – most will really pull your pants down on the price.
Right, now we’ve got that pesky warning light sorted, we should probably tell you how to fit your aftermarket steering wheel next…