Airbag sensor alert

2007 Chevrolet Impala 1LT

3.6L FF engine, auto trans

8850 miles

Problem: the airbag sensor icon always remains on for awhile after all the diagnostics cycle through when the engine is started, occasionally comes on briefly while driving, and then always comes on again and sounds the alert chime when the driver’s door is opened after the engine is shut off.

Once in awhile all the instrumation cluster lights flicker totally off while driving, usually but not always in tandem with the airbag sensor icon flashing an alert.

No diagnostic codes are showing up in the computer. The computer software has been updated twice without solving the problem. The service advisor states the mechanic cannot find any problem with the sensors, any indication the airbags won’t inflate properly in the event of a crash, or any possible reason for the sensor problem.

This has been looked at as a warranty issue three times since the problem began several months ago, with at least four hours time by the mechanic trying to identify and solve the problem.

Today’s service order stated: " No malfunction codes stored in history or current. Checked as per Doc# 2062169 and found all calibration programming current and up-to-date."

Is this an issue I need to worry about and further pursue or just ignore and live with?

Given that the problem only began after an earlier computer programming update to solve a sensor problem with the tire pressure and remote fob sensors, I’m assuming it is a computer glitch?

Any help is appreciated.


It is an issue I would worry about. It is also covered under the warranty and it looks like it will come under the lemon law.

Here are a couple of places to look up lemon law information.


Thank you.

Before invoking the lemon law, I am wondering if this is something appropriate to request be escalated to the area factory rep to get in on???

The dealership is being extremely diligent, cooperative and concerned. They have an excellent rating with BBB and have always treated me well. I bought the car from there because of the good service they had provided to both me and my dad with our old cars when we switched from another dealership before I found an independent shop that is highly rated by the BBB and the Find a Mechanic section of Car Talk. I’ve gone to the dealership where I bought the car with this as a warranty issue rather than go to the independent mechanic.

Ask the factory rep get in on this??? Give another Chevy dealer a go at it even though they would have no vested interest in doing warranty work on a car I purchased elsewhere??? Hope this isn’t a cosmic conspiracy? (ok, just kidding with that last one.)


Update: Spoke w/ customer service message taker at Cheverolet, explained problem, gave applicable info, case # created and being forwarded to technical specialist for this service area, and supposedly will hear from them tomorrow or day after. Stressed to cust svc that I’m NOT complaining about the level of service I have received, merely looking for someone w/ possible additional knowledge to solve problem.

Also spoke w/ service advisor at dealership to explain I had made that call looking for info, that a case # has been created, etc. and stressed that I was not complaining and will be happy to explain to any manager that I am not complaining, merely looking for solution. Service advisor at dealership said thank you and will call me if they get any additional info from higher up.


Marnet–I do recall that you researched vehicle choices very thoroughly before buying your car, so it is really distressing to hear that you are having persistent problems with the new car. However, your situation clearly falls within the Lemon Law statutes with which I am familiar, so be sure to read the details for your state and persist with pushing GM politely for a total fix of these problems.

You are entitled to relief and at some point you may have to start being a little more aggressive if no relief is coming your way. Keep all of your documentation, and keep us posted!

Thank you. It is frustrating to have had this and the previous sensor problem w/ the tire pressure/remote fob sensor which took two tries to fix, since the initial replacement was defective. Several family and friends have recent model Chevy products and have had no problems whatsoever, which heavily influenced my choice along with all the other factors I weighed before buying.

Otherwise, I have been quite pleased with the car and am getting reasonably good mileage given that most of my driving is short hop trips in stop and go city driving, although I do make a point of taking it for a good run on the highway or country roads periodically.

It took some trouble to get my hands on the exact mix of options I wanted w/o having to have additional options like a sun roof that I didn’t want. The whole idea was to have some years free of the need for service other than attentive maintenance.

I keep all the service work orders in a car service file, filed in date order, with additional notes of who said what, etc. and have done ALL manufacturer recommended service at the appropriate time/mileage intervals, so I don’t expect any problems getting follow through on this.

Thanks for the suggestions and support!


Correction: it is a 3.5L FF, not 3.6, size engine.

“I keep all the service work orders in a car service file, filed in date order, with additional notes of who said what, etc. and have done ALL manufacturer recommended service at the appropriate time/mileage intervals.”

Marnet–I could see from your earlier posts that you are one smart lady, so I am not surprised that you have kept everything necessary to take care of your Lemon Law claim, or even a regular warranty issue, if that becomes necessary. Hopefully, GM has learned (albeit belatedly) to be responsive to valid customer complaints.

My money is on you to win!

Well, thank you for the compliment. Just keeping paperwork the way Dad and Mom always did and taught us kids.

Right now I’m pursuing this as a warranty issue, being patient and polite but persistent enough to have escalated to contacting Chevrolet directly. I’ll see what happens.

I can totally see the service department’s POV given that the problem is intermittant, they’ve been able to duplicate it only once, there are no trouble codes, etc. It’s not like they haven’t been trying and have openly said they cannot figure it out. But since they cannot get it to consistently misbehave for them, I think they just don’t want to put more unpaid time into chasing possibilities. That’s why I went to Chevy cust svc and also have asked for suggestions from you experienced mechanics here on the board. Let’s face it, in the mass manufacture of cars things can and do sometimes go wrong. And sometimes there are no easy answers, especially if chasing down an electronic glitch.

Another make/model might not have had these sensor problems but I made my choice based on the best info I had and the particular physical and financial parameters I was dealing with. I stand by my choice. Now I’ll see how well Chevy stands behind their product!


I was curious after I read your post, Marnet, and I did a quick internet search. There’s a technical service bulletin (TSB) out for your exact problem.

I would give the TSB information to the dealer and see if they can do anything about it. It sounds like the instrument panel cluster needs to be reprogrammed.

I wish everyone that came here for help was as well spoken, responsible, polite/understanding, and grounded as you are, Marnet.

That’s all I gotta say.

Thank you.

I’ll check and see if it is the same TSB I had referenced on the previous visit. At that time I gave the service department a printout from the internet of the TSB I found at along with a typewritten note that stated:

[i]"1. Air bag sensor light and alarm chime began four days ago all of a sudden and message displayed reading ‘service air bag.’ Just as suddenly stopped yesterday. OnStar could read no error codes while the problem was occurring. There are several TSA’s for this problem; please see the attached printout.

  1. Both interior and exterior lights began flickering at the same time the air bag alerts began. There are several TSA’s for this problem; please see attached printout."[/i]

The action taken at that time to correct the problem but which stayed corrected only a few hours before malfunctioning again, was – quoting from the work order printout from the service department:

“Service air bag light coming on at times. Scanned vehicle for stored data, performed diagnostics and found code B1019 stored, referred to Doc# 2033246. Necessary to recalibrate instrument panel cluster with updated programming. Wk 93 N4199 .4. OLH .3 auth 90E due to excessive time to diagnose code.”

Work order further stated:
“Customer states interior lights will blink/flicker at times. Owner state all dash lights and radio display will go completely off for split second and come back on. Did not duplicate condition this visit. Suspect may be related to instrument panel cluster programming. Owner to monitor condition after today’s repairs – may be related to IPC programming.”

NOTE: The problem w/ the service airbag alert sensor and flickering interior and exterior lights began after the second fix of the earlier problem with the tire pressure monitor/remote key fob sensor failure which required two fixes; the first failed after a few days due to a faulty replacement part; the second fix worked after the sensor was again replaced, a new antenna installed, computer software updated, and new key fobs issued, all under warranty.

So in all, two lengthy attempts required to repair the tire pressure/remote fob failure which worked the second time, then two attempts to fix the new airbag alert sensor and flickering instrumentation lights/exterior lights problem without success. The instrument cluster, remote fob, and airbag sensor programmings have had a total of 3 updates so far. The original tire pressure/remote fob problem solved after 2 tries and has remained solved. The airbag alert has not been solved after 2 tries.

So I feel the dealership has made a very good faith effort solving the problem. It just needs someone more knowledgable about this particular electronics issue involved, so that’s why I called Chevy cust svc. I’ve been extremely clear to Chevy and the dealer service dept that I am not complaining nor dissatisfied with their efforts, merely looking for an answer to the problem.

Have I got everyone confused yet? I sure am! LOL


Sorry, I’d forgotten you’d posted about this problem previously. The date on the TSB is 2/1/2008 if that helps.

I’m inclined to think that your problems may be related, Marnet. I am not an expert by any means, but it seems like your problems could be related to bad electrical components or even a faulty computer. Anyone more knowledgeable than me want to weigh in on that theory? If that’s the case, you probably want to be looking into the lemon law in your state.

“…it seems like your problems could be related to bad electrical components or even a faulty computer…”

That’s what I’m thinking, especially as the current problem started right after the earlier sensor problem was fixed. I’m just trying to work my way up the food chain of help in finding a solution and willing to give them a fair chance at finding the answer. It’s not like I’ve been neglected or blown off.

As you say, if anyone has any additional suggestions for what to check out, the input is appreciated! In the meantime, I’m taking the current suggestions to heart regarding researching Missouri lemon law.

Quite frankly, though, I’d highly prefer to simply have this problem found and fixed than have to replace the car. I went to a lot of trouble getting my hands on the exact mix of options I wanted and then actually bought the car within a narrow window of time that let me cobble together four different rebates and incentives that saved an additional $4,500 by being flexible on a couple of options; a sweet deal I can’t duplicate at this time.


UPDATE: Spoke w/ a mgr in corporate cust svc and again w/ dealer svc dept, reread my car’s manual, asked lots of questions and…

  1. Whenever the airbag light is on, no matter how briefly, airbags won’t deploy so definitely keep clear track if this happens again, no matter how briefly.

  2. If it does, try to drive straight to svc dept w/o shutting off engine, and leave the engine running when I get there so there’s no chance of trouble codes disappearing. If at that point no trouble code shows, then there is definitely a computer problem at the very least.

  3. I don’t necessarily need to see a “service airbag” message pop up, just the lighted icon alert is enough to indicate a problem.

  4. One definite misunderstanding on my part – the alert chime sounding when I exit the car is not the airbag alert but a warning not to lock myself out of the car. I have a lifetime habit of manually hitting the lock button on the car door, this being the first car in the family with a remote key fob. I’ve been asked to at least temporarily use the fob for locking the car and monitor if the airbag icon lights up or the chime sounds. It’s possible that the brief flash of an icon I’ve been seeing upon exit is the security icon which is located close to the airbag icon and I may have been mistaking one for the other looking back as I’m standing outside the car shutting the door.

  5. If the instrumentation dashboard lights flicker off again, try to note if there was a decided change in the amount of light getting to the light sensor located on top of the dash which tells the computer whether the car’s lights need to be on or not. One possible test of this is to not keep the lights on the auto daytime running setting but either totally switch off lights during the day or manually turn on the lights such that the sensor is not the determinant of when the car’s lights are on.

This all makes sense to me as a means of narrowing down when and under what circumstances the airbag alert shows and the lights flicker. It also will narrow down whether or not the computer is properly storing trouble codes. Note that the software update indicated in the applicable TSB was already performed, after which I noticed a decided decrease in events. And at this point, I’m honestly not sure if what I have experienced since then is actual problems or my mistaking one icon for another and the meaning of alert chimes.

I was told by both cust. svc. and the dealer that I am not being a problem pursuing this and to please feel free to bring the car back at any time w/o an appt if either problem shows up even the slightest and that hopefully by using these several methods of narrowing down the time and circumstances of the events they can locate and totally fix the problem permanently. If necessary, cust svc mgr said they can have the area factory tech expert look at the car.

So, I’ll soon find out if any remaining problems are real or simply my ignorance. Seems a fair enough set of steps to take at this point. In every other way the car is performing beautifully to my happy satisfaction.


Marnet–I understand what you are saying regarding the rebates and options, but please remember that if the vehicle is replaced under the terms of the Lemon Law, you will not have to lay out any money!

You would be given a new Impala at least equal to what you currently have, and possibly it might even have more options–at no cost to you. So, the Lemon Law will not obviate the sweet deal that you got when you bought the car!

Well, even assuming it might come to being a Lemon situation, according to what I’ve found so far about Missouri law, GM would have the option of a monetary settlement as opposed to a replacement car, and they only have to pay the current value of the car. After a year and a half, the depreciation is significant. Even if I got back all I paid for the car, that is hugely less than what any comparable replacement would cost me. So, either way, I would end up with a lot less car than this one. Not that I can’t live with less car but it would be very unsatisfactory.

But, given what I learned today, I doubt seriously it will get to that point. I’ll just go with the flow and see what happens while keeping on top of this and pursuing it as need be.


  1. One definite misunderstanding on my part – the alert chime sounding when I exit the car is not the airbag alert but a warning not to lock myself out of the car.

On my GM, it makes a difference in the alarm activation if you manually lock the doors and then shut them versus shutting them and then locking them with the FOB. In the former, the doors do not actually lock until a few seconds after they remain closed and then the alarm is activated. In the latter, they lock immediately but you have to hit the FOB lock button again to get the alarm activated. YMMV

IMO, it’s far safer to use the FOB for door locking to avoid locking the keys in the car…

I don’t have an alarm on the car so the locks activate when I hit the lock button. I also carry a spare key in my purse just in case; have done for all the years I’ve been driving.

But I am going to try to learn to use the remote fob to lock the doors as well as unlock them. Out of old habit, I still sometimes walk up and unlock the door manually although I prefer to use the fob, especially after dark so that the interior lights come on and I can see inside the car for security reasons.

Lifetime habits of manually locking and unlocking are hard to break to the amusement of some of my friends.


After latest trip to dealership, seems to be behaving so far, except for the one fleeting blip that may have been the security icon as the service advisor and I were playing with turning the engine on and off to make sure I understood about the 7 flashes the airbag sensor makes at start. No more messages, no more lit icon at wrong time, no more alert chimes, no flicker of dash lights so far.

So perhaps verifying the software update did the trick. I’ll see. So far, so good. I’ll monitor for any problem resurfacing.

Thanks for the feedback folks. I appreciate the help.