Plenty of people wonder about airbag maintenance, or maybe even worry about it. After all, you regularly service other parts of your car, so why not the airbags? They are one of the most critical safety items, so having them not work properly in a crash could have serious consequences. At the same time, airbags haven’t been around as long as seat belts, so knowledge about maintaining them isn’t as widespread.
How Airbags Work
To understand why airbag maintenance is necessary, you need to have at least a basic understanding of how they work.
Your car has sensors embedded in different areas, like the bumpers, which are connected to the airbag inflator with wiring. When enough force is exerted against those sensors, a signal tells the inflator to do its job. In most setups, potassium nitrate mixes with sodium azide, which makes nitrogen gas. That sudden creation of nitrogen gas fills the airbag.
Airbags are made of a thin nylon fabric. It’s folded up compactly, with a cover designed to tear when the bag inflates. This is why airbags pop out so quickly.
Do Airbags Need to Be Replaced?
The answer to this question is that it depends. Some owner’s manuals suggest that they do after a certain period of time. Others don’t say, and still others mention getting the airbags inspected. Read the manual that came with your car to see what the manufacturer recommends. Just remember that when manuals for older cars were written, airbags were pretty new and manufacturers themselves weren’t too sure about how they would age.
Some airbags will last as long as the car they are in. Airbag maintenance is sufficient for some, while others may need to be replaced entirely. If your car is over ten years old, it might be a good idea to have the airbags checked out. The worst way to find out is for a crash to inform you of how everything works. Airbags are something you don’t really want to take a chance on because they may save your life.
If you are concerned, it’s best to err on the side of caution and get an inspection. Have a professional inspect your airbags and give you a recommendation about what to do. The worst thing you can do is wait and see.
Airbag Maintenance and Replacement
Most vehicles have a diagnostic system for the airbags. If you see an SRS light come on, that means the airbag system is experiencing trouble and airbag maintenance may be required. You should have it inspected professionally right away, because the consequences of not following through could be severe.
Always use a reputable shop to have airbags serviced, especially if you need replacement bags. Some unscrupulous businesses have used knock-off airbags that have come into the country illegally. Even though they look legit, these airbags can be downright deadly, so any cost savings comes at a steep price.
Repacking airbags is also dangerous and not legitimate. No good shop will engage in this practice, because the potential for getting the setup wrong is too high. If you get a vehicle with funny bulges in the airbag areas, that’s usually a sign of a repacked airbag.
Costs of Replacement Airbags
How much replacement airbags cost really depends on the make, model and year of your vehicle. They can be quite expensive, but that’s not necessarily the case.
Even if an airbag costs a considerable amount, it’s a good idea to stick with Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) bags, instead of aftermarket options. Buying OEM parts may drive the price up, but at the same time you will not need to worry about the quality. Since a quality airbag could literally mean the difference between a minor injury or loss of life, it’s better to invest in your safety.
If you’re in need of a quality shop that has extensive experience with inspecting, maintaining and even replacing airbags, give T3 Atlanta a try. We only use reputable practices and parts, ensuring your airbag system works just as it was designed, so you can rest easy knowing if you ever need the airbags to work, they’ll do their job properly.