Of the many high-tech life-saving features in modern vehicles, none could possibly be more critical than the airbag. Its purpose is simple: when your car collides with something, the airbags will inflate quickly and then deflate to protect you from hitting the inside of the vehicle. Almost all cars have airbags that deploy from the steering wheel and the dashboard. Still, some newer models also have airbags that deploy from other parts of the cabin, such as the side pillars.
However, no matter how lifesaving airbags are, they’re not always perfect. In Australia alone, there have been massive recalls triggered by faulty airbags over the years. What’s worse is that there are situations where airbags are stolen, missing, or have deployed without the knowledge of the car owner. This is a real concern especially if you’re planning to buy a used car, which may have deployed its airbags at some point.
So, in this article, you’re going to learn about the following:
- How to know if there’s a problem with your airbags
- How to know if your airbags have deployed before
- Whether deployed airbags are safe to use or not
- And can airbags be reset or replaced
How do I know if there’s a problem with my airbags?
The simplest way to know if you have a problem with your airbags is to mind the lights on your dashboard. Even older vehicles have a little red light that looks like a person in a chair with a large round airbag facing them.
When you turn the key in the ignition, you’ll see that airbag warning light come on for just a while. Then, it should go off, just like the other warning lights on your instrument panel. If, however, the light stays on, that means there might be a problem with the airbag.
Your trusted mechanic could diagnose the problem. However, some people prefer taking the car directly to the manufacturer to identify what’s causing that warning light to turn on. If it is necessary, you should replace the airbags immediately.
You may also check out our article on the Takata airbag recall and find out if your car is affected. Always keep in mind to never take airbag safety for granted!
How do I know if the airbags had been deployed?
That is a critical question to ask, especially if you're buying a used car. Anyone who tries to sell you a vehicle might try to downplay any negative aspects, including deployed airbags and accidents.
If the seller does not mention about the state of the airbags, you should ask them about it. Regardless of what they say, you don’t have to take their word for it. You can visually inspect the car to determine if the airbags have deployed in the past.
Here’s what you need to look for: check the airbag cover on the steering wheel and inspect the dashboard on the front-passenger side. If the airbags on either side have deployed, they would have split the cover or dashboard open.
If those parts were repaired or replaced, you’d be able to notice uneven surfaces or the slightest variation in colour.
If they had been deployed, are they still safe to use?
So what if the airbags had deployed? They reset it, and it should be fine now, right? Well, not really. Once an airbag deploys, you can’t use it again.
First, the airbag itself may be compromised. The design of the bag makes it so that it can cushion a person’s impact. Still, it’s not designed to do that repeatedly.
Second, airbags are inflated by mixing chemicals that produce hot nitrogen gas. So, if that chemical reaction has already happened with the inflator, it needs to be replaced.
Take no chances when it comes to airbags. It could mean the difference between life and death in a car accident!
Can airbags be reset or replaced?
Firstly, let’s be clear about what we mean by doing a ‘reset’ on deployed airbags. If you mean resetting the airbag module, which is essentially the little computer that controls the airbags system, then yes. You can get a qualified mechanic to reset it for you.
However, if by 'reset' you mean stuffing the deployed bag back where it came from, then no. You can't do that. As mentioned before, those bags aren't safe to use anymore after they deploy. Plus, airbag units these days do not allow you to stuff the bag back inside.
Instead, what you should do is to get the entire airbag replaced. These airbags are usually called ‘replacement airbags’.
The best option would be to buy a brand new one from the vehicle’s manufacturer, though that can be quite expensive. Alternatively, you could buy airbags removed from other cars (not deployed airbags).
Where can I get replacement airbags?
As mentioned, you can buy them from the dealership. You can also buy replacements for any part of the airbag system pretty quickly. Whether you’re searching for airbag parts like sensors, modules, assemblies, or the airbag itself, they’re all available on the open market. If you’re comfortable dealing with your trusted mechanic or workshop, then that would be an excellent place to start your search. A mechanic who’s familiar with your vehicle will know the exact car parts that will work for your needs.
The easiest way to find replacement airbag parts would be to head on over to Carpart.com.au. There, you can browse the extensive list of ads from all over Australia and pick the airbag replacement parts you need. Another way to do it is to try out the Parts Finder. All you have to do is fill in an online form with details about your car and the airbag replacement parts you want. Then, that request will go out to sellers all over the country. Those that have what you’re looking for will then make you an offer, and from them, you can pick the seller with the most competitive quotation.
By Ray Hasbollah