Friday , September 29 2023
Home / In The Magazine / How to tell if your vehicle airbags work

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.



  1. There is only ONE WAY to determine if an air bag is ‘good’. Those who actually believe they can determine the INDETERMINABLE, must first decide that they believe they have a good functioning seat belt. 1 Put assumed to be good seat belt on. 2 Start vehicle. 3 Drive vehicle and point vehicle at good sturdy object,in as straight a line as possible.4 Press and hold gas pedal to floor.5 Lean back… Brace yourself…. Please understand,I am NOT a sick person,nor do I find accidents or airbag malfunction amusing,I have a very valid point here,based on 20 years studying 15,000 motor vehicles,airbags,their design,history and related issues.With all the fraud,counterfiet,modifying,damage and deterioration of airbags,and salvaging of them from vehicles with totally unknown history,uncertainty exists with all airbags,and remains until their exact moment of deployment.

    • What you say is sadly true…It would seem with all the possibilities of genuine purposeful fraud e.g. transistor jumpers to fool the computer to just plain old ignorance and and or stupidity by now the e National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would require a way of at least being able to identify each bag and it’s serial number without having to tear the car apart to do that. A giant leap from one single little light that can be bypassed. Perhaps a transponder within each bag that tells the computer it’s there and it’s serial number. This would eliminate the ability to use the transistor jumper trick which is being used everyday giving 10’s of thousands of individuals drivings cars they think have air bags that don’t…evil stuff…needs to be stopped.

      • It would also allow you to know where and what each airbag in your car is, it’s age and if it has been recalled…Things need to advance in this department…your scenario of crashing into something is the only dangerous and expensive way to know for sure up to now.

  2. k dog,THE SRS GURU

    There have been recalls of airbags due to insufficient levels of propellant.The levels of propellant, If any,are immeasurable.The indicator lamp guarantees nothing,as it cannot measure propellant,and it’s proper cycling has been circumvented by fraudsters. I find the act of repainting,repairing airbag covers disturbing,as bonding and strengthening such tear seams,can cause back pressure into inflators,possibly within old deteriorated second-hand airbags(junkyard airbags sourced from vehicles with totally unknown history). Seems a recipe for disaster,possibly unwarranted recalls and unfortunately death or disfigurement.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *