CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Airbag & sensor

I recently bought a 2000 Ford Ranger 4 banger that had had a one-on-one with a tree.The tree won but damage to truck was minimal. Driver side airbag deployed so I have replacement but not installed it yet. Does the airbag sensor have to be reset or replaced ? I’ve read on 'Net that it will reset itself once bag is replaced. (I have code 19 right now.) Any guidance or info would be appreciated.

I get queasy thinking about DIY airbag work. I think its one of those instances where if you have to ask then you shouldn’t be doing it. The stakes are high - partly having to do with functionality in accidents, but also in terms of having inappropriate deployment. So I think you should have a pro do this aspect of the restore on the truck.

Opinions will vary. That one is just mine.

Where are you getting the “code 19” from?? 12 years ago, airbag controllers did not reset themselves, the control module self-destructed when a fault in the system was detected and had to be replaced…You need to get the airbag operation data for your model vehicle before you start working on it. There are more to these systems than meets the eye…

If you don’t have the proper training or repair manuals for a DIY airbag repair then it’s better to let the pros do it. It’s sort of like DIY bomb disposal…you may get lucky or you may not.

All sensors on the front have to be replaced. You also have to replace the clock spring. It is what the air bag plugs into. You also need to inspect all the wiring in the damaged area. This is not a job for a DIY. Take it to a pro.

The sensors have a gold ball that go’s forward to make contact and fire the air bag. They do not reset. The truck’s computer will do a self check and should keep it from going off, but I would not count on it. Static can cause the bag to go off. Be real care full handling it.

The 'bags are triggered by sensors mounted up front…They are CONTROLLED by a separate module, which monitors and controls the entire system, usually separate from the other control systems…Everything has to be “just right” for the system to self-test (every time you turn the key on, watch the 'bag light) and arm itself…Any problems and the light stays on and the system is deactivated…

In other words, if it was as easy as plugging the new one in and tightening things back together, the previous owner would have done it.