Airbag Safety System

Let's learn how a car airbag safety systems works, shall we? An automotive airbag safety system is designed to help keep passengers safe in the event of an accident by inflating itself when a car strikes an object at speeds above 8 to 14 MPH, and then automatically deflating at temperatures of 200°F in case of fire.

If an airbag warning light is on while driving the airbag safety system has been disabled and will not activate in the event of an accident which is dangerous. Your vehicle goes through a diagnostic check to ensure the system is operational, if the computer detects a problem it will shut down the system while illuminating the airbag warning light.

Airbag Warning Light
The technical term for the airbag safety system is supplemental inflatable restraint or (SIR), cushion restraint system, or supplementary restraint system (SRS) depending on the car maker. Airbag triggering systems have become more advanced and sophisticated, helping to prevent injury and death.

To reduce the impact force of first generation bags which caused some injury in their deployment, multi-stage inflators have been developed to help control this deployment based on whether the crash is severe or moderate. According to research, airbags when accompanied with seat belts, reduces the number of deaths in automobile accidents by 22%.

Airbags were first commercially available in the 1970's and were derived from a system used in aircrafts in the 1940's. At that time drivers were not required to wear seat belts (can you believe it? It seems so stupid now) and airbags were considered a seat belt replacement. In 1971 Ford introduced an experimental airbag system, General Motors followed in 1973 by introducing their airbag system which integrated the first two-stage deployment method.

One significant difference between the early airbags and those used today, is that the passenger side airbag was placed at the bottom of the dashboard, protecting the knees, instead of above the glove compartment. The initial airbag system was enhanced and replaced with the supplemental restraint system or SRS which was introduced in the S-Class Mercedes-Benz in 1980, Porsche was the first to introduce the passenger side airbag.

Also See: Airbag warning light questions and answers

An airbag inflation module is located at the center of the steering wheel which contains the nylon style airbag and inflation unit. There are four or more impact sensors around the vehicle which will send a signal to the main SRS computer in case of an accident. An electrical signal is then sent to discharge rapidly expanding gases through an orifice located at the rear of the airbag which immediately fills instantly to cushioning the impact of the head and torso to prevent injury. The steering wheel airbag is contained within a trim cover, which is designed with a molded seam that tears open as the airbag deploys.

Drivers Side Airbag
Also See: Steering wheel airbag removal guide

If you even wondered how to remove a steering wheel airbag please watch the video below:

The passenger side airbag operates in much of the same manner as the drivers side with the exception of a weight sensor located in the passenger seat which detects the presents of a person or infant sitting in the seat. The technology behind the infant detection has been advanced throughout the automotive industry with the use of weight sensors telling the system if someone is sitting in the seat weighing 75 pounds or less which automatically disables the passenger side.

Passenger Side airbag
Even with the technological advancements in this safety system passengers should be set back away from the airbag and not lean forward when they drive or ride to avoid any adverse effects of the airbag in the event of an accident. Some cars and trucks are equipped with a manual control switch that will disable the system for small children and infant seats.

Passengers Side airbag Control Switch
Door side air impact bags were introduced to aid further safety which is located inside the seat, door panel or side molding. Some side airbags can be located in along the roofline, back seat or the inboard edge of the door sill.

Side Airbag System
Before working with or removing an airbag disconnect the negative battery terminal for 10 minutes. This will prevent accidental discharge of the system before attempting removal or repairs.

Airbag Cartridge
Also See: Airbag questions and answers As airbag system increase in technology expect many variations of safety systems to continue to evolve in complexity.

Article first published