Traditional airbags were first introduced in the 1970s. But it wasn’t a mandatory feature until 1998. This was when the government made it compulsory for automakers to include airbags in every new vehicle. The airbags were installed in front of both the driver and front passenger seats to help protect them in the case of a head-on collision.
- What does RSCA stand for in Toyota?
- What does RSCA Off do?
- How do I turn RSCA back on?
- What are the benefits of having the RSCA active while driving?
- Are there any specific driving situations where I should turn the RSCA system off?
- What should I do if the RSCA warning light remains illuminated after turning the system on?
- Are there any known recalls or service bulletins related to the RSCA system in Toyota vehicles?
- How does the RSCA system in Toyota vehicles compare to similar systems in other car manufacturers' models?
- What maintenance steps, if any, should I take to ensure the proper functioning of the RSCA system in my Toyota?
Since its introduction, these airbags have contributed immensely to the safety of both drivers and passengers on the road today. And automakers have continued to implement more safety features in vehicles.
Today, airbags aren’t only installed in the front of the driver and passenger seats alone, but also on the sides. These side airbags are known as side curtain airbags. But what does all this have to do with the RSCA Off? To better understand the relationship, you must first understand what the RSCA does.
What does RSCA stand for in Toyota?
RSCA stands for roll-sensing side curtain airbags. Remember I talked about side curtain airbags, well, they work alongside sensors known as roll sensors. The roll sensors enable the side curtain airbags to deploy if the car begins to roll. This makes the side curtain airbag capable of twofold protection. That is, it protects against a side impact as well as a roll.
Clearly, this is a great safety feature, except for one problem which is, to what extent can the car tilt before the sensors will activate the airbags?
If you only use your car on normal roads, then you hardly have to worry about this. But if you decide to take a spin off-road, then it could be a real problem.
The reason is that off-road terrains can be undulating and there could be instances when the car will tilt. This perfectly normal event could be misinterpreted as a roll by the sensors and if that happens, the side curtain airbags will be activated. Rather than protect the driver, activating the airbags, in this case, can be fatal.
To prevent this from happening, cars like Toyota with RSCA installed come with a button to enable the driver to manually override the airbags.
What does RSCA Off do?
When the RSCA feature is turned off, the RSCA button on the instrument panel will light up to alert the driver that the safety feature is off. The RSCA off simply implies that the side curtain airbags would not be deployed if the car should get involved in a rolling accident.
If you had manually overridden the feature to prevent accidental deployment of the airbags, then all you need to do is turn it back on when you deem it is safe to do so. But if you had not manually switched RSCA off but the indicator shows that the feature is off, then you should turn it back on.
How do I turn RSCA back on?
Whether you had intentionally turned off RSCA or not, it is advised to turn it back on otherwise you would be missing out on a very important safety feature. Before turning on make sure that you’ve taken necessary precautions. Such as when driving off-road, or when there’s a kid in the front seat.
To turn on RSCA, simply press the button once. In some Toyota models, you may have to press and hold the button for about three seconds, and the RSCA Off indicator light should go off. If however, the light doesn’t go off, then try restarting the car. This works in certain Toyota models as well where the RSCA feature will automatically turn on whenever the car is started.
Remember, when the light is on, that means the RSCA feature is turned off, but when the light is off, that means the RSCA function is turned on. This goes the same way for the backlit RSCA button.
What are the benefits of having the RSCA active while driving?
Front airbags are the norm and up till now, few automobile manufacturers install side curtain airbags in their vehicles. However, this doesn’t mean that the side airbags are less important. Here are a few benefits that come with having roll-sensing side curtain airbags.
Protection from side crashes and rollovers – while front airbags will protect against a head-on collision, they barely provide any protection against crashes that happen from the side. The only layer of protection is the doors which aren’t very helpful. By acting as a layer of cushion between the driver and the door, side airbags reduce the rate of injury and fatalities associated with side crashes.
Protection against partial ejection – another common scenario with side crashes is that the driver or passenger is partially ejected from the car’s window. That is, either their head or limbs get thrown out from the window while the body is still held in place by the seat belt. As you can guess, this will cause severe injuries to the body part that happens to be out of the window. Side curtain airbags also stop this from happening.
They cause less injury – compared to front airbags, side airbags are known to be less hazardous. This is not to say front airbags are a hazard, but side airbags are known to be effective in preventing cranial traumas. This typically happens when the driver or passenger gets too close to the front airbag when it’s deployed.
The impact of the airbag and the force of the moving body can cause severe head injuries. This was the issue with the first-generation front airbags that deployed with so much energy. Modern front airbags have less impact force and using a seat belt will drastically improve the chances of avoiding a head trauma from contact with a deploying front airbag.
Roll sensing – the crown jewel of the side curtain airbags is the roll-sensing feature. This sensor detects when the car is rolling and deploys the airbag to protect the driver and passenger. This reduces injury to the head and torso from impact with the door when the car is rolling.
Are there any specific driving situations where I should turn the RSCA system off?
Yes. There are some driving conditions where you may need to turn off the RSCA feature in Toyota. Although I’ve mentioned this within the article, let me summarize it here;
- Off-road driving: When driving off-road, especially on uneven terrain or inclines, the RSCA feature can sense the car tilting and interpret this as a potential roll-over incident. This could cause the airbags to deploy unnecessarily, leading to serious injuries or damage. Therefore, it’s recommended that drivers turn off the RSCA system when going off-roading.
- Child in front seat: If you’re holding a child in your lap while driving in the front seat, it is advised that you turn off all passenger-side airbags including RSCA mechanisms as they are much closer than other airbags like front airbags. In such cases where children need to be transported by car seats and cannot fit comfortably in rear seats due to space constraints on vehicles such as pickup trucks and two-seater sports cars with no backseats then should be securely fastened using an approved child safety seat positioned correctly and away from active SRS components like side curtain shield ATMO/BDS making them vulnerable to deployment causing severe bodily harm.
- After an accident: If your vehicle has been involved in an accident or sustained damage from either a collision or simple wear-and-tear over time leading up till now specifically relating closely within areas tied into SRS component placements/locations It’s best practice for safe measure if one seeks professional help before ignition permitting any form of electronic feedback!
- Carrying heavy loads: The weight distribution changes significantly when carrying heavy loads; this means more weight will be concentrated towards specific parts like suspension resulting even lower ground clearance causing faster depreciation rate increasing likelihoods triggering false positives activations of sensors within these systems!
- Routine Maintenance & Repairs of SRS Components: During repairs of SRS-related components like airbags, seat belts maintenance activities – it’s strongly advised to ensure that all repair work is done by qualified technicians who understand the proper handling of these systems. Accidental activation during routine inspections could cause severe injury or death and can be avoided through smart/mindful actions if deem necessary in asking professionals for help!
What should I do if the RSCA warning light remains illuminated after turning the system on?
If you have tried turning the RSCA warning light off by pressing the RSCA button and restarting the car but it won’t budge, then there could be a problem with the system. The RSCA system is made of three main components; the sensor, the airbag inflation mechanism, and the control module.
If any one of these components is damaged, it could cause the RSCA light to come on and all efforts to turn it off would be futile. Possible damage to the sensor could be disconnected wire, corroded wire terminals, or an electrical short circuit. The airbag mechanism consists of a gas inflator that inflates and deflates the airbags within a very short time to protect the driver.
If the mechanism is damaged, it could also trigger the RSCA light. The last possible reason why the RSCA light will not turn off may be due to a fault with the computer control module. If you notice that the RSCA light won’t turn off despite attempts to do so, It is advisable to take the car to a mechanic who can correctly diagnose and fix the problem.
Are there any known recalls or service bulletins related to the RSCA system in Toyota vehicles?
No. There has been no known service recalls directly related to the RSCA system in Toyota. However, Toyota was among several automobile manufacturers affected by the Takata airbag recall which affected all Toyota models manufactured between 2002 and 2017. This issue was specific to the Takata airbags and had nothing to do with the RSCA system in Toyota.
How does the RSCA system in Toyota vehicles compare to similar systems in other car manufacturers’ models?
Toyota’s RSCA feature is in a class of its own. While most other automobile manufacturers do have advanced side airbag technology, only Toyota has successfully implemented a roll-sensing airbag technology. But here’s more about similar systems developed by other automakers!
For example, General Motors offers a StabiliTrak Electronic Stability Control system that integrates a variety of sensors and features designed to help maintain control of the vehicle during sudden changes in direction or road surfaces.
BMW has its DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) which uses sensors that measure steering angle, lateral acceleration, and wheel speed to detect instability and applies brakes independently across each wheel before an accident occurs.
Many modern vehicles are equipped with electronic stability control (ESC), which is mandated by law since 2012 for all new passenger vehicles sold in the US market. ESC serves as a foundation for more advanced systems like RSCA and works by detecting loss of traction during understeer or oversteer events and applying brakes selectively to specific wheels.
While there may be differences among various automakers’ RSCA technologies in terms of the exact sensors used or how they interact with other safety systems such as airbags, the ultimate goal is generally consistent: to prevent rollover crashes from occurring altogether and reduce injury severity when they do happen.
What maintenance steps, if any, should I take to ensure the proper functioning of the RSCA system in my Toyota?
The RSCA system, like many other airbag technologies, hardly requires any maintenance at all. Everyday driving will not have a direct effect on the system except for the sensors that are constantly monitoring the positioning of the car to determine if to trigger the airbags or not. Other than that, this system is well hidden and out of sight until an occasion calls for it to be deployed.
Toyota’s roll-sensing side curtain airbag is a one-of-a-kind technology. Despite being a groundbreaking tech, the system isn’t installed on all models of Toyota. You can find it in the Tacoma, Tundra, and the RAV4. Although the RSCA system is among the top safety features to have, it also has its limitations, some of which I have highlighted in this article. Now you know what the RSCA system is and what it means if RSCA is Off in Toyota.
Engineering Coordinator with 5+ years of experience in the automotive manufacturing industry. Currently supporting vehicle development and new model launch activities at Honda Development and Manufacturing of America. Skilled at managing engineering teams, overseeing prototype builds, coordinating testing, and driving continuous process improvements. LinkedIn