Airbags and Seat Covers

Hi All. I recently bought a 2011 Subaru Forester. My two little kids are already doing their best to make the car as filthy as possible, so I’d like to put seat covers on the seats. Seat covers should be fine for the rear seat, where the kids always ride. However, my car owner’s manual says not to “put any kind of cover or clothes or other objects over either front seatback”. So this would rule out front seat covers and kick mats to protect the seatback from my kids dirty shoes. My questions is: are the seat covers that are advertised as being airbag compatible really safe? Do they really allow the airbag to properly deploy in the event of collision? I’d really like to keep my car clean, but not at the expense of my family’s safety.

Thanks in advance for your advice.

I don’t know. But I would have a tough time buying a car seat cover that goes against the clear written warning from the carmaker. How would “Joe Schmoe’s Seatcovers” know, for a fact, that their cover won’t cause a problem?

Many seat covers can be spec’d for air bags. They’ll have a weaker break-away seam in that area
Check parts houses and dealers that order from Dash Designs or Cover Craft.

We bought one set for our Honda CRV. It had special pockets for the side airbags to deploy through. Never got to test it though :smiley:

They are a few companies, cover kings, is one, also look on costco’s site.

Seatbelts that are airbag compatible are commonplace now, but the car manufacturers will protect themselves via that statement you mentioned, since they have no control over what cover you install. However, check with Subaru and see of they offer a seatcover approved for that specific vehicle. It’ll be more expensive, but it should provide for proper airbag operation and also protect your rights should something happen.

At least in the manual for my 2015 Forester it also cautions against replacing the seat fabric or leather, or installation of additional fabric or leather on the front seat.

Small kids really shouldn’t be riding in the front seats no matter what. It’s not recommended as the geometry of airbags is designed for adults and back seats are much safer for kids even without airbags. Newer ones can detect when a lighter person is in the seat and adjust the force of the airbag inflation, but they can still injure very small kids and won’t provide the same protection they do for adults. Obviously, if there isn’t enough room for all the kids in the back seat one might have to sit in front, but that should only be when absolutely necessary and it should always be the biggest kid. That said, there is no way for automakers and seat cover makes to actually test all of the possible situations. They can try to make them compatible, but there is no way the automaker is going to sign off on possibly blocking safety features. Still, of all the things that can go wrong with a small kid in a front seat, the air bag inflating imperfectly is not something I would be too concerned about. Neither is a bit of dirt. Best to get them to take off their shoes.