Safety Issue?

I have a new 2010 Subaru Outback. It’s great, I love it… just one thing- at least half of the times my wife has sat in the passenger seat, the indicator light showing whether the airbag will be activated has been off or gone off-on then off again. My wife meets the minimum weight at which the airbag should be active… I was told it was around 80 pounds and she’s about 140.

The dealer says they can’t find a problem. They think it’s “how she’s sitting” or that her weight is borderline for activating it. Not true on either account, IMO.

Anyone have anything similar happen to them?

Am I wrong that this is a safety issue?

Any suggestions?

Request that they replace the sensor in the passenger seat, as it is very possible that it is defective.
If they refuse, then get the Subaru Zone Representative involved in order to resolve the situation. Contact info is in your Owner’s Manual.

I would contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Association. If there are other complaints about this they may open an investigation.

Couldn’t be the car’s fault; that would mean a “mechanic” would have to work. They didn’t happen to scan the thing, did they? It’s a sad answer to blame the customer.

Take it back to the dealer and DEMAND that they fix it. It has NOTHING to do with how she’s sitting. My bet is the dealer knows what the problem is and doesn’t want to fix it because it’ll cost them money.

Can the situation be duplicated in front of a Service Advisor? Duplication is the key to warranty work.

Thank you everyone.
They were not able to duplicate the problem when I had them look at it. They said they got in and out many times, and drove it around the block with a passenger. Even when we went to pick it up, we drove a mile or so with my wife in the passenger seat and it worked fine (just like feeling better when you go to the doctor!). On the drive home, however, it did go off!
They said they’d “love to fix it if they could find a problem.” Obviously I wouldn’t take it in if there was no problem!

Perhaps you should request they take your wife on a test drive. Intermittent problems are the worst as like you said about going to the doctor. It is only a safety issue if you get in an accident. If you can get the situation to replicate on a set set of variables that will help them and you.

Can you duplicate the problem if she drives and you ride in the passenger seat?

I’ve only been the passenger a couple times, but it happened with me sitting there too!

About all you can do is return to the dealer and try again. Take the service advisor for a long ride and see if it happens.

Contact SOA if you get no satisfaction at dealer.

An alternate suggestion is use another 2010 Legacy on the lot and see if the same thing happens to hopefully disprove their theory.

This is a long shot, my '03 Honda Civic has side airbags. If you sit in the driver’s and passanger seats and lean against the door and window a sensor somewhere notes this and turns off the side airbags and triggers a light on the dash as a warning. When you sit back up straight in the seat the light goes away and all is well. Perhaps your Subaru has a similar system.

My bet is this is nothing more than a poor electrical connection in a wiring harness. (likely connected in-line to the sensor)

I think that Uncle Turbo is on to something.
On my friend’s '01 Accord, if the passenger did not sit up perfectly straight, a light would illuminate, indicating that the side air bag was disabled. Once the passenger sat upright again, the light went out.

OP–Is it possible that your wife is slouching to the side when she rides in the car?
Apparently, car manufacturers are very interested in passenger posture.
How is her posture while riding in the car?

Great idea… should have thought of that.

Her posture is pretty “normal”- no slouching or leaning. Of course we’ve tried shifting around when the light goes to “off” to see if that re-activates it. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it re-activates without doing anything- could be a minute or quite a while. A couple times it never came back on- until the next time we drove it. Can’t seem to find any consistent trigger or fix!

You would think if the light came on there would be a “History code”