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How to tell if your vehicle airbags work

Almost all vehicles these days boast airbags – for passenger safety.

| Motoring Guru | Some vehicles have them in front, rear, and side. Unfortunately, many vehicle owners never check to know if the airbags are either in place or in good working. Many assume the only way to find out is when they deploy in case of an accident that causes an impact which crosses a predetermined threshold or is at a certain speed.

But you can check easily if your vehicle has airbags and if they are in the right working order. There is an airbag indicator light on the dashboard. To see it, simply turn the ignition key to the first position, and pause there. This is the indicator light test position. You should see all the indicator lights turn on, including the airbag light. Next, turn the ignition to the start position and start the vehicle. Take note of the airbag indicator light. If the airbags are fine, the airbag indicator light should come on momentarily and go out. If the light stays on or flashes, there is a problem with the airbag system. Take the car to a good mechanic.

Such problems are common in second-hand cars. You buy it but the seller hides information from you about an accident that caused the airbags to deploy.

You might find that after the airbag deployment over a not-so serious accident, the modules and the cover were replaced. But the electronics involved in airbag deployment were not replaced. Instead, the airbag cover was merely repainted or a cosmetic one was fixed. Not that cosmetic airbag covers often do not have the vehicle manufacturer’s emblem and the SRS (Safety Restraint System) logo on it. If the SRS logo is missing, those are cosmetic airbag covers and there is no airbag inside it.

This is because when an airbag deploys, the airbag cover splits apart. The split cover can be repaired. But it might not be as even and smooth as the original. Check for such abnormalities.

In some cases, a vehicle might have a dashboard that looks newer than the rest of the car. In such as a case, look out for indicators of airbag deployment because, when there is an airbag deployment, both the driver and passenger side airbags will have deployed. Since the passenger side airbag is located inside the dash, an airbag deployment will split the dash open. That means a dashboard replacement is required.

The other problem is when airbags deploy accidently. This can be dangerous for people in the vehicle. It is also an expensive problem to fix. So what causes it?

Each vehicle airbag has a sensor system that determines its airbag threshold. In case of an accident, the increase in pressure in the sensor area as the metal and other parts of the vehicle become compressed causes the sensor to adjust. When a certain threshold is met, the sensor activates the airbags to deploy. Airbags deploy accidentally when the sensor threshold is set improperly. Have a mechanic test it. A good mechanic can test the sensor without activating the airbags. The sensor threshold can be reset to a higher level if necessary. But if the sensor is faulty sensor, it is best to replace the system wholesale rather than attempt to adjust it.


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