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Hyundai Santa Fe Air Bag Light



  • Note....I think everyone having a problem with their Santa Fe Hyundai (ours was a 2008) passenger side air bag light NEEDS TO READ THIS. We settled with Hyundai re purchasing our vehicle back in June 2009.
    We went through BBB auto line, lemon law...... the arbitrator ruled in our favor. It was alot of hassle and constant headache for sure. We had a choice of repurchase or another vehicle. We loved the Santa Fe and were very sad to part with it. Good Luck to all of you dealing with this unsafe problem. If we can be of help with more details let us know.
  • My wife and I purchased a new 2008 Santa Fe LTD this past April. We bought the 2008 because the 2009 were filling up the lots and we knew we could get a good deal.

    We like the vehicle but the passenger side air bag will not work for my wife when she is a passenger. She is 5' 2" and 125 lbs so I don't see how it is mistaking her for a child. THIS IS A MAJOR SAFETY ISSUE.

    We took the vehicle back to the dealer and the service adviser witnessed the airbag off light while my wife was sitting in the seat. The dealer kept it for a week checking the wiring and running test and did not fix the problem.

    When we went back to the dealer to pick up the car my wife sat in the seat and the technician had her hold a gallon of water and the airbag would still not engage for her. They suggested they might have to replace the seat.
    We were told to go home and we would get a call. The seat did seem to work when it was in the most upright position. This seat position also hurts my wife's neck because the head rest is tilted forward.

    This is where we hit a brick wall. The district rep for Hyundai told my wife there is nothing wrong with the car and the air bag is not malfunctioning and she will just have to ride around with the seat in the extreme upright position.

    Just think what a great vacation trip we're going to have since I do most of the driving.

    They actually said the car is reading her as a petite person and the airbag is off for her own safety. However, last week we test drove a 2009 Santa Fe LTD and the airbag worked perfectly no matter how much my wife reclined the seat. SO TELL ME HYUNDAI, WHICH SANTA FE IS DEFECTIVE?? THE ONE WHERE THE AIRBAG STAYS ON OR THE ONE WHERE THE AIRBAG SHUTS OFF !!!

    The dealer where we bought the Santa Fe is about 1.5 hours from home and we went to this dealer because they were the only one with a few 2008's on the lot.

    Believe it or not one of the Hyundai reps my wife talked to actually got snotty and asked her why we would buy a car so far from home.

    Gives new meaning the term Hyundai Assurance Program. Don't buy a Hyundai too far from home because I assure you, you will regret it.

    If anyone else is having this problem please respond and let me know.

  • We had the same problem. Our dealer called the techs in Ca. and they told them to replace the entire passengers seat they did that and we have had no problems. If they won't do that call the number of headquarters in Alabama. They should be able to do something. Have your dealer call Planet Hyundai in Golden Colorado they know all about it. We were told all airbags will not work unless you get the seat replaced. Good luck.
  • We have been dealing with this for a year. Just took our 2008 Santa Fe back to the dealership because the air bag light came on on the DRIVER'S SIDE and stayed on. I checked the Hyundai Manual that came with the car, and it said "routine service check." For an airbag light? Routine? Huh? Took it to the dealership to be addressed.

    I mentioned the problem with the passenger airbag. Passenger who sits in it is 5'5" 140 lb - obviously not a child. I got a loaner car and had to give them my driver's license which says 130 lb (well . . . maybe some day . . . )

    This light comes on when I am sitting in this seat haphazardly - no real rhyme or reason to it. Another dealership actually has video of it, but that has probably been "lost" by now . . . When I mentioned that the light comes on with my teenage daughter - 5'3" 115-120 lb, the man at the desk said that "90-125 is considered a small person" and may not be recognized as an adult. I argued the point that many adult women and the majority teenage girls are in this weight range.

    The next day, when I picked the car up, the weight range MAGICALLY changed to "100-130." Unreal! I am guessing they saw that weight on my license and used it to try to justify their position.

    Another person at the dealership said it was because the insurance industry is setting these standards. My reply was that no other auto manufacturers seem to be having this problem. (We also have 3 Toyota's. Their manuals actually state "90 lb" as the adult weight criteria. And we have NEVER had a problem with the passenger airbag.)

    The ironic thing is that if a small person sits behind the wheel of the car, the air bag is functional - and the air bag is actually closer to them and more dangerous than the passenger's airbag!!

    By the way, this vehicle has been in 4 times for this problem! The SEAT HAS BEEN CHANGED OUT and we still experience this problem.

    This time, they said there was "an error code coming from the passenger seat which triggered the driver's airbag light." They supposedly fixed this and said "maybe this will stop the passenger airbag problem." The driver's side airbag is no longer lit, but too soon to tell about the passenger airbag light. It still comes on for a while when we first drive, but then goes off. '

    The service person now mentioned a "grid in the seat" and so many areas have to be compressed in order for it to recognize an adult passenger. So, apparently, anyone under 130 lb needs to have "a big butt" in order for the grid to "acknowledge them as adults. LOL

    THIS IS A BAD, BAD, BAD DESIGN on Hyundai's part, and they are making their service people defend it!!! What a crock!!!

    P.S. - this car has 15,000 miles on it, we bought it new, and it has been in 4 times for the same thing!!!


  • My thanks to JBabbit on this forum for providing us a path to solving this problem (see Post #34). We were searching for a path to resolve this and didn't even think about the lemon law. We had this same air bag light problem with our 2007 Santa Fe, filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) AutoLine and Hyundai Motor America (HMA) *immediately* offered to either buy back the vehicle according to our state lemon law, or exchange the vehicle for another Santa Fe. Since HMA immediately came forward with an offer, BBB did not get involved, and there was no mediator or arbitration. HMA was easy to work with and the offer was fair (and in accordance with our state lemon law).

    In my opinion, this is the only solution to the problem. I think everyone on this forum understands that this is a defect for persons of slight build, cannot be retro-fixed and is unsafe. I believe HMA recognizes this, hence their prompt offer to us. My recommendation: file a complaint with the BBB autoline ( and see what happens. It worked for us. Good luck and God Bless.
  • tidestertidester Posts: 10,059
    Thanks, Shaemus! I love stories with good endings. :)

    tidester, host
    SUVs and Smart Shopper
  • Wow: I just picked up my 2007 Santa Fe with 25900 miles on it from the dealer because the airbag light came on and would not go off. The dealership had my vehicle for 3 days trying to fix the problem. The diagnosic machine came up with 9 different codes. The light was off when I picked up the vehicle. Will keep my finger crossed. I find the comments very interesting since I am 5'0" and weigh about 115 lbs. Thank you for leaving your comments.
  • Could not agree more! Struggled with this problem on our 2005 Santa Fe since new. Wife weighs around 125. Light is sometimes on and sometimes off. Received a recall pertaining to this problem within a year of purchase. Recall called for resetting the algorithm that runs when the engine is started--at least that is what the service rep said.

    Returned a 2nd time when this did not correct the intermittent problem. They said everything was working properly. They pointed out that the owner's manual calls for all passengers to be seated before" the engine is started, since that is when the sensing algorithm runs. This is certainly bad design logic. We all have passengers unboard and board while the engine is running. We surely do not turn the engine off each time these boarding events occur.

    However, being a professional engineer, I conducted my own test. Sure enough, each time I noticed the light being "off" when my wife was in the passenger seat I pulled over to the side of the road, turned the engine off and restarted. The light went out every time!

    Intermittent problems with safety systems are, in my opinion, the worst kind. Given this is integral to the design, I firmly believe the design is faulty. And worse, there is nothing Hyundai service reps can do to remedy the problem.

    We have just lived with this hassle, but are now in the market for a new replacement vehicle. Love our Santa Fe, but very unhappy with this experience. Had planned to buy another Hyundai because of good warranty and an otherwise positive ownership experience, but we are now having second thoughts.
    :mad: :lemon:
  • Anyone experienced this problem, new to my Santa Fe?

    The red "Air Bag" warning light came on in driver instrument cluster. Took to dealer service. For a pre-approved fee of $95, they ran a diagnosis using their shop diagnostic equipment. The machine told them the stored "error code" indicated a failed sensor in the front passenger seat belt buckle. Their recommended solution was to replace the seat buckle assemble at a cost of $300 parts + $100 labor. The entire air bag system was disabled until the failed sensor was fixed. Dumb design!

    Mechanically, the seat belt buckle was working properly--securely and safely. Yet its internal sensor (for what purpose I have no idea) was not working; therefore the entire air bag system was being prevented from functioning, even though there was nothing wrong with it either.

    The service rep could not explain to me the logic behind seat belts with sensors being tied into the air bag system. These should be totally redundant safety systems--seat belts are the primary restraint system and air bags are the secondary system.

    The service tech did not check the seat belt assembly. Instead, they recorded the error code found on my ticket and waited to see if I wanted them to do the part-swap for $400. I said "No", paid the $95 diagnostic fee and drove my Santa Fe home. I now plan to do some of my own testing and trouble-shhoting, starting with removal and cleaning of the seat buckle assembly.

    Can anyone suggest a source for info on operating logic of the entire seat belt/air bag system? Is the sensor circuit in the buckle normally open or closed? Is it supposed to change when the belt is buckled? Is there a way to by-pass this worthless sensor?

    Thanks. :mad: :confuse:
  • Hi Edmunds Townhall,

    I posted the original post in October 2007 and followed it up a year later with an update. This serves as yet another update about 2 years later. In the interim period, we experienced relatively few instances of our 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe's passenger side air bag light illuminating OFF on the dashboard when my wife was riding as passenger. I wanted to like this vehicle and really hoped that the problem was mostly behind us. In those instances when we were riding together and it did illuminate, I would trade places with her. I purchased this car for its safety features and bought into the alleged Hyundai commitment to quality and safety. But always in the back of my mind was an unease with concerns about the functionality of the passenger air bag in the event of a possible crash. Surely Hyundai would issue a recall or TSB to correct the problem as it had done for the Sonata? But no, I/we continue to wait for resolution. Now, the problem has resurfaced with increasing frequency over the last few months. There have been no significant changes to my wife's height or weight. Tonight, we went out for dinner and the air bag sensor OFF light illuminated. No matter what my wife did - sliding the seat on the track forward and back - no change. Repositioning the seatback's recline position - no change. Repositioning herself on the seat - no change. Unclicking the seat belt and reclicking it secure - no change. Pulling over and having my wife exit the vehicle and then re-seat herself - no change. Turning the engine off, exiting the vehicle and restarting it once she was reseated - no change. I find myself wondering why no recall or related TSB has been issued. I simply can't stand it anymore. It is extremely stressful. I am going to communicate with Hyundai in the next few days. Call me optimistic or foolish, but I fully expect Hyundai to stand behind their product and resolve this issue. This issue is core to my purchasing values that unless this vehicle deficiency is satisfactorily resolved, I can't recommend purchasing a Hyundai nor would I ever buy another one. Safety is not negotiable. I will keep this forum advised on my outcome.
  • There is a class action lawsuit filed in California that includes several models of Hyundai vehicles that have the airbag design and issue. You can Google this and see is going on.
  • Yesterday I was in a horrific accident when a young girl ran a red light causing me to t-bone her at 40 mph. The impact sent her car 80 feet away, and shattered my front bumper. Neither airbag deployed causing damage to my temporal lobe, and horrible whiplash. My passenger was hurt pretty bad as well. Our seat belts saved our lives, but my airbag could have saved me from brain damage. Should I sue Hyundai?
  • There is a class action already filed for this reason. Google this topic.
  • kyfdxkyfdx Posts: 63,266
    You got brain damage from an accident that happened, yesterday? And, you are posting on the internet, today?

    I'm just saying.....


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  • jen1974jen1974 Posts: 1
    Hello, I know your post is old but I was just searching and my 2005 Santa Fe is having the same problem. Did you find a cheaper solution?
  • we are also having issues w/ our 2005 santa fe air bags. The light comes on on the instrument panel and the dealership can't seem to find the problem does anyone have any idea what it could be?
  • Tell the dealership to call San Francisco and ask the engineers. They know all about this since they are the ones that told our dealership how to fix ours.
  • hodad57hodad57 Posts: 7
    edited April 2012
    I thought I would enter a final post on this issue thread which I originated in 2008. I called Hyundai America HQ and advised of the problem. They advised me to contact my local dealer (Cammisa Hyundai in Burlingame, CA) who investigated and verified the problem. Although my vehicle had exceeded the 5 year warranty period, the nature of the problem was considered severe enough that Hyundai fixed the problem free of charge. I must add that the existence of this Edmunds message thread was compelling evidence of the long-term problem AND that I had formally noted the existence of the problem in writing via a dealer vehicle service form. The dealer had my car for a few days. Hyundia corporate sent an adviser to the dealer to assess the situation. I also offered information about the same problem experienced by the Sonata that was fixed via a dealer recall. After a few months now, I can confirm that the problem is, gratefully, fixed. Thank you Hyundai and Cammisa Hyundai. Thanks Edmunds bloggers for a great discussion of this problem. Good luck on resolving it - you can get it corrected and fully enjoy your vehicle.
  • mrhatmrhat Posts: 3
    hodad....we are currently in process with this down in Southern Cal. I just got off the phone with Hyundai America where I had a 60 minute conversation with them and accomplished nothing. Do you have your case number that you would be willing to share so that I can use you as the basis for my argument with them since we are having the same exact issue?

    Please feel free to contact me directly. Since this is a public forum, i'm going to give you the email address that I use for all my junk mail, but I will be watching for your email and hope I get to hear from you soon. I'm also considering calling your dealership in Burlingame to see if they have any record of it.

    Thanks for any assistance you can provide.

  • flower6flower6 Posts: 7
    You can call Planet Hyundai in Lakewood or Golden Colorado. They will know who to call in California because that is who they spoke to and they did fix our problem. We never had any trouble again.
  • mrhatmrhat Posts: 3
    Flower....thanks so much for your reply. Are you able to offer the name of a service representative or service invoice number which would help me open that dialogue with them? I'm just getting nervous since the conversation with Hyundai of America (Diana the Claim Manager) did not go very well for me as she indicated that there is no "formal" recall for this, however I did see several other posts for identical issues round the net and just made a formal compliant at Any additional details would be appreciated....feel free to contact me directly if you don't want to post that info here. I will try to call your dealership in the morning.
  • mrhatmrhat Posts: 3
    Flower....would you be willing to share your name or VIN? I spoke with your dealership this morning and this is what they would need to research any type of claim number to have the repair approved. Email me directly at if this is an option.

    Thank you in advance.
  • flower6flower6 Posts: 7
    I checked with my dealeship and they will not release any information even if I authorize it.
    There is a transmitter built into the passenger seat that controls part of the air bag system
    that detects the weight of thepassenger. Since it is built into the seat you have to replace
    the entire seat. I don't know if you have the same problem but that was ours.
  • I am glad I did some research. We are now having the same problem and even though we bought the extended warranty we are being told that the seat belt is not covered. I fully intend to call Hyundai back and discuss this rampant problem with them. It is unsafe and not a part that wears out from use.
    I will post any progress we make here so that maybe it can help someone else!
  • I hope your issue gets resolved. It is my understanding that a national recall regarding this matter was issued for the Sant Fe late 2012 or early 2013. Good luck!
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