Automotive Maintenance And Detailing


Automotive Maintenance And Detailing

How do airbags work?.

Today’s vehicles are equipped with airbags to ensure the safety of drivers and passengers alike.   It might make some people wonder how do airbags work and can it save lives in an accident.

The airbags use to reduce the impact on the driver and passengers when the vehicle is crash or overturned. That is because when you are seated in a moving car, slow or fast, it has kinetic energy. Your body will be like a movement weight.  If there is a collision with an object in front of the vehicle, your body will continue to move forward with a mass that is several times greater than bodyweight.  It is depending on the speed at which you are going.

Immediately stopping the movement of the body in an emergency, for example, in an accident, a seat belt is needed to fasten you to the seat.  The airbag is activated to slow down and absorb the body impact caused by the speed of the vehicle.

So having an airbag doesn’t mean you won’t have to wear your seat belt. You are necessary to use it together to achieve maximum efficiency in reducing accidents. In the automobile industry, it is called passive protection.

Airbag operation system

The airbags, known as a supplementary restraint system (SRS), are activated only in severe collisions. You won’t find that it works when braking hard. That’s because the airbags are deployed when the built-in shock sensors around the vehicle are activated, such as speed sensors, impact sensors, car body angle sensors. The signals from these sensors are sent to the airbag control module to process the speed of the collision, such as vehicle speed, acceleration, braking, seat belt wearing, etc.


When the airbag control module activates the airbag, it will ignite the gas contained in the airbag assembly. The sodium azide (NaN3) with potassium nitrate (KNO3) stored in the airbag reacts and expands the Nitrogen gas inside rapidly in fractions of a second before your head or chest hits the dashboard.


The white powder will spread out, but it’s the chemical powder that will use to coat the airbag sheet so that it loosens quite ease when the airbags explode.


However, the inflated gas will also flow rapidly through a hole in the back of the airbag to prevent excessive impact on the driver or passenger. However, it will suspend long enough to protect you until the accident is over generally, no more than 10 seconds.

How many types of airbags are there?

The airbags in a vehicle

Vehicle airbags come in a variety of shapes and purposes. The most common standard airbag installs on the driver and passenger sides. Cars that are currently on the market, even in budget models, must be equipped with at least two airbags.


It also has airbags installed in various interior and exterior cabins such as side curtain airbags, knee airbags, front-seat side airbags, seat belt airbags, pedestrian airbags. And, most recently (2021), a luxury car from Europe has developed an airbag for the rear passengers. This airbag mounts on the back panel of the front seats. It will activate in the event of an accident.  It uses a cushioning effect on the rear passengers to reduce the impact of the chest and face injuries on the front seats.


The airbags installed in these areas of the vehicle will only work when the relevant impact sensor is activated. A frontal collision may not trigger the side curtain airbags, as the purpose of this type of airbag is to protect passengers and drivers whose vehicles are hit by the side. But sometimes, it is activated if it is a frontal collision violent enough that the side sensors are triggered.


The curtain airbags also work when the car is turning over in an accident. The vehicle’s angle sensor signals the airbag control module to activate the airbags if the car’s angle exceeds the default value. In such a case, all airbags are activated at the same time to provide maximum protection.


The knee airbag is a new type of airbag installed in the cars under the steering column unit. The reason is that, in the event of a car crash, the collapse of the engine compartment will push the steering wheel unit towards the driver. The driver’s knee will injure from hitting the steering column or the plastic parts.


Seat belt airbags are airbags hidden within the seat belt straps for both the rear and front passengers. In the event of a severe collision, the seat belt slightly retracts to hold the passenger in the seat. This airbag is inflated from the belt to reduce chest injuries. It is very beneficial for rear passengers in most vehicles without front airbags.

The pedestrian airbag

Maintenance and Precautions about the airbags

Maintenance of the airbags is not required, but be careful when repairing airbag-related parts. The airbags are ready to work even if your car is over ten years old. You don’t have to remove it to check or replace anything to keep it in good working condition.


However, it is essential to be very careful not to do anything that causes the airbags to explode. For example, dismantle, repairing, or replacing the steering wheel, removing the front console with the passenger’s airbag, removing or installing the headliner, removing the knee airbag, remove and install the airbag type seat belt. It is necessary to repair or do anything directly related to these airbags to cut off the electrical system.


You need to remove the negative terminal of the car battery before repairing it. That’s because the airbag system relies on the car’s 12-volt ignition. If you have successfully disconnected the power supply, it assumes that the airbags are not accidentally activated.


An airbag explosion can cause injury or death, especially for children.


 Most vehicles will have a driver alert system if an airbag system malfunctions. The airbag warning light will light up to alert you that something is wrong. It is therefore imperative that the vehicle be inspected with a workshop immediately for safe driving.

Pay attention to the manufacturer recall.

In recent years, some airbag manufacturers have produced substandard airbags installed on certain brands of cars, both American and Japanese. The problem is that when the airbag is activated, it will splash metal debris, causing death.

In this case, the vehicle manufacturer and the airbag jointly held the responsibility of referring the vehicle model back and replacing the airbag free of charge. Therefore, you should check with the car dealer whether such problems occur or not for the safety of you and your passengers.

Can you repair the airbags after an accident?

You can repair the damaged airbag in an accidental car by replacing a new one and resetting the airbag control module.

The driver’s airbag is damaged, but the passenger’s side airbag may or may not be damaged depending on whether the vehicle has an airbag deactivation switch or not. Some countries’ vehicle and safety laws may allow the child seat mounted in the front seat. Therefore vehicles in such these countries are provided with a switch to turn off and on the airbag.

The airbag module is needed to reset before reuse

You can replace all accidentally blown airbags, such as a complete replacement of the steering airbag, passenger-side airbag, curtain airbags. On some vehicles, you may need to replace the entire console as an airbag explosion damages the dashboard.  Some car models are mean to have a dashboard cover for airbag assembly, so you can replace only this part without replacing the entire console.

The most important thing after a new airbag replacement is to reset the airbag control module. Most cars have a module box installed in the center console between the front seats. You will need to remove or have a technician remove it so that your car dealer or a qualified mechanic can reset the data in the module box.

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