Our vehicle’s airbag systems are a great example of how sophisticated our motor vehicle safety systems have become. We’ve certainly come a long way from the days when seats belts were optional.
While most of us know what airbags are designed to do, the information surrounding airbag diagnostics and maintenance is often not very clear. Does my airbag need maintenance? Does it expire? In most cases, unless the airbag has already deployed, the answer is no. But let’s dive in for a more detailed look.
What Are Airbags and How Do They Work?
Front passenger airbags are mandatory in motor vehicles and have been since 1999. Airbags are designed to provide an extra level of safety for drivers and passengers.
Airbags are inflatable cushions built into a vehicle that protect occupants from hitting the vehicle interior or objects outside the vehicle during a collision. For example, other vehicles, objects such as trees, and animals like deer and moose as we know well in Maine!
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that as of 2017, 50,457 lives have been saved by frontal airbags.
How do airbags work though? According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety:
“The instant a crash begins, sensors start to measure impact severity. If the crash is severe enough, the sensors signal inflators to fill the bags with gas in a fraction of a second.”
Like many other technologies, airbags are constantly being improved. In addition to front airbags, there are side airbags and in some cases, rear airbags. Improved technology has also created more sophisticated means of determining when to deploy an airbag.
Do Airbags Need Diagnostics or Maintenance?
Drivers are accustomed to the need for replacing worn out tires and fuel filters. But what about airbags? Now that we know how crucial these are, do we need to have them periodically replaced? What about routine maintenance?
In most cases, you do not have to replace or service your airbag unless they have already deployed.
But that’s not the only scenario where you may need to replace an airbag or require airbag diagnostics – airbag recalls from vehicle manufacturers are not uncommon.
We advise checking to ensure there are no open recalls on your vehicle’s airbag system. For one example of this, in 2016 the NHTSA issued an alert on the Takata airbag recall that affects millions of airbags. According to the alert:
“Long-term exposure to high heat and humidity can cause these airbags to explode when deployed. Such explosions have caused injuries and deaths.”
That’s a hell of a warning!
On the NHTSA website you can enter your vehicle identification number (VIN) and determine if there are any recalls – we recommend doing so as soon as possible.
Airbag Warning Signs
Compared with older vehicles, modern vehicles typically have more advanced warning systems and sensors, and thankfully this often includes airbag warning lights.
If at any time you notice a warning light regarding your airbag, you need to bring your vehicle in for service immediately. Airbags provide a significant amount of protection and any warning light on the dash related to your airbag should be taken seriously.
Whether it’s for airbag diagnostics or for something else, if you find yourself in the Lewiston, Maine area, get in touch with Berube’s Complete Auto Care. We can assist with airbag diagnostics as well as many other vehicle services to keep you safe on the road.