The national average cost for a seat occupancy sensor replacement in 2024 is $135.

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What is a seat occupancy sensor and how does it work?

A seat occupancy sensor is a component of the supplemental restraint system (SRS, or airbag system) in a vehicle. More specifically, the sensor is part of a subsystem called the Occupant Classification System (OCS) that senses the size and weight of an occupant in the front passenger seat in order to determine whether or not the airbag in that position should be armed or disabled. In some cases, the device also senses the position of the occupant in the seat and whether or not a seatbelt is being worn. Since the mid-two thousands, vehicle manufacturers have included seat occupancy sensors that can detect the presence of a person or an object in a seat.

When a vehicle is involved in a crash, special airbag sensors detect the impact and signal an electronic control module that, upon certain conditions, energizes the airbag inflators inside the passenger compartment. If no one is sitting in the passenger seat at the time, the passenger side airbag will not engage. If, however, a passenger is present, the airbag will inflate.

Unfortunately, if a passenger is small enough that the airbag might cause significant injury, as is possible with a child in the front seat, the seat occupancy sensor will disarm the airbag so as to prevent injury. Some sensors also allow the SRS to adjust the inflation of the airbag depending on the size and weight of the occupant. In many cases, the sensor is also able to distinguish between heavy packages and passengers. 

Seat occupancy sensors rely on different types of technology to measure occupancy. Some, for instance, rely on a silicone filled bladder, whereas others might use a device known as a strain gauge. When weight is present, an electrical signal is sent, sometimes by wire and sometimes wirelessly (depending on the vehicle make and model), to the electronic control module. 


How is a a Seat Occupancy Sensor Replacement done?

To replace a seat occupancy sensor, a technician will need to disconnect the vehicle battery, remove the sensor, and unplug the wires leading to the sensor (wired versions) before installing the new sensor. The sensor is typically mounted underneath the front passenger seat cushion. Once the new sensor is installed, the battery is reconnected and the diagnostic trouble codes will be cleared. The sensor might be tested for proper operation.

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National average cost of a a Seat Occupancy Sensor Replacement
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How do I know if my vehicle needs a new seat occupancy sensor?

The airbag system (SRS) is self-monitoring. That means, the electronic control module responsible for its function is constantly monitoring the SRS components. If, say, an airbag sensor goes bad, or a wire gets broken, the control module will turn on the SRS warning light on your dashboard. The light will refuse to reset until the problem is resolved. Any failed component of the SRS can trigger the warning light, including the airbag module, clockspring, seat belt pretensioners, and a seat occupancy sensor.

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Other questions customers ask

Will the airbag deploy if the seat sensor is bad?
If a seat occupancy sensor fails, or its wiring (or battery) prevents connection to the supplemental restraint system (SRS) electronic control module, the passenger side airbag will be temporarily disabled. The SRS warning light will also turn on, and a diagnostic scan will reveal a trouble code to alert a technician of the potential problem.
Is a seat occupancy sensor and an airbag sensor the same thing?
No. An airbag sensor is a device, usually some type of accelerometer, that senses when a vehicle is involved in the impact of a crash. A seat occupancy sensor, on the other hand, gauges whether or not someone is sitting in the front passenger seat, along with weight, position, and if a seatbelt is worn.
Can I drive with the airbag light on?
It is entirely possible to drive a vehicle with the airbag (SRS) light on. Unfortunately, it is impossible to discern why the light is on without a technician connecting a special scan tool and discerning the problem. If the airbag warning light is on in your vehicle, it may be possible that the airbags will fail to deploy when they should in a crash.

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