Question: I purchased a 2012 Ford Escape in August. Ever since, the passenger airbag warning light comes on intermittently. At times, it will stay on for several minutes. Other times, it will flash once and go out. This happens regardless of whether there is a passenger in the seat or not. I am concerned this might trigger the airbag without warning.

Answer: It sounds as if you’re looking at the Passenger Airbag Deactivation (PAD) indicator, which is positioned toward the center of the dash. This indicator tells us whether or not the passenger airbag is enabled for deployment during impact. This is part of the Occupant Classification System (OCS), which enables an airbag and seatbelt tensioner deployment strategy based on the passenger seat occupant’s weight. Most important, it disables the airbag if there’s a child in the seat. As we know, the safest place for a child is in the back seat, and airbag deployment on an infant can be extremely dangerous. The PAD indicator should normally come on (disable the passenger airbag) if the seat is empty but the seatbelt is buckled, or there’s an occupant under a certain weight buckled in. In all other situations, the indicator should remain off. To put your mind at ease, this part of the restraint system basically deals with disabling certain components, but is otherwise irrelevant to deployment.

The problem could be from a defective pressure sensor, the OCS module, the Restraints Control Module, the seatbelt buckle switch, or a poor connection in any circuit linking these components. Intermittent conditions like this on a fairly new car or truck often are caused by a “soft set” connector, meaning it wasn’t fully seated when connected at the factory. The 2012 ford Escape restraints system is covered for 5 years/60,000 miles. Make an appointment with Ford service, and hopefully the problem won’t be too difficult to diagnose.


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