How to Install an Airbag Computer

Lead Image
  • 2-3 hours
  • Advanced
  • 60-1,000
What You'll Need
Repair manual (or possibly your owners manual)
New computer (contact your local auto dealership)
Required wrenches and screwdrivers

The airbag computer (airbag control module) has to be replaced or reprogrammed anytime any of your airbags deploy. If there is a malfunction of some kind, your computer will often trigger a lock up code and your airbag indicator light will go on. If you have some experience with this kind of work or you think you can manage the task, you can save some money by performing the replacement yourself. You can do it yourself by following these steps.

Step 1: Locate Airbag Computer and Prepare for Installation

To locate the airbag computer, you will need to consult a repair manual or similar resource. You will also need to get your new computer. You can buy a new one from your local auto dealer or repair shop or you may be able to buy a used one that has not been deployed. A used computer will work just as well as a brand new one, so you may be able to save some money and not sacrifice quality. Another option is to simply reprogram your existing computer.

Step 2: Remove Existing Computer

Before attempting to remove airbag computer, make sure you disconnect the battery terminals: negative first, and then positive. Then, allow the back-ups to drain. You will then need to move your steering wheel to reach and remove all the hardware on your driver airbag module. Next, disconnect the wiring, the horn wiring, your grounding strap, wires for your radio and other controls and the airbag connectors. If the connectors have been melted due to deployment, cut the wires leading to the coil. You will need to replace the clock spring. Remove the computer.

Step 3: Install New Computer

Now you need to bolt the new airbag computer into place. Once secured, attach it to the wire harness and reattach all other wires that were disconnected during the process. Ensure all wires from the radio and horn and other controls are all reconnected properly before you hook the battery back up.

Step 4: Reconnect Battery

Now that the computer has been safely installed and all wires have been reconnected, you can reattach the cables to your battery. First connect the positive, then the negative.

Step 5: Check the System

You will want to make sure the airbag computer is working properly. To do this, simply turn your car on and watch the airbag light on the instruction panel of the console. If the computer is operating correctly, the light should go off within about 7 seconds. If not, you may need to contact a professional or take the car to the dealership.

Tip: Some models of car require the exact airbag computer to be installed in the car. In fact, some have part of the VIN (vehicle identification number) included on the computer. In this case, you cannot simply replace the computer. You will probably need to have it reprogrammed instead.

Warning: Make sure you have successfully and correctly completed this airbag computer installation. An improperly installed computer can cause serious physical injury because it can cause accidental airbag deployment. When in doubt, consult a professional.