Airbags in an old Van?

Can we put airbags in a 1988 DOdge Ram Van? Also, can we replace the engine with a deisel? and Nancy


I won’t say either thing is completely impossible, but the amount of money involved would FAR exceed purchasing even a slightly used vehicle.

You’d have to find some other steering wheel that can accomodate the airbag, and somehow make it fit properly on the column. Then there’s installing all of the crash sensors, and I don’t even know how you’d put a passenger airbag in.

As far as the engine, it would be a 100% custom job, and you’d need to do more than just change out the engine and mounts. The suspension, driveline, transmission, etc would ALL need to be beefed up to handle the extra weight and torque.

In short, unless you’re willing to spend WELL into five figures, it can’t be done. Maybe not even then.

This is not just a matter of buying airbag equipment and bolting it into a vehicle.

When vehicle manufacturers design the supplementary restraint (airbag) systems for their vehicles, it takes some experimentation for them to figure out the exact placement of the sensors and the airbags, as well as the “fine-tuning” of the entire system for the unique structure of each model. This is done by building prototypes and crash-testing them until they achieve the optimum results. Unless everything works with great precision, not only would the protection afforded by the system be minimal at best, but it is possible for it to inflict greater injury on the driver and passenger than if no airbags were present.

Unless your budget includes enough money to buy several identical Dodge Ram vans, several sets of airbags, sensors, and airbag modules, hire a consulting engineer, rent the appropriate test facilities, and redesign the dashboard in order to accomodate the passenger airbag, then I don’t think that this can be done.

Believe it or not, installing a diesel engine (and a new transmission, and “beefier” suspension components) would actually be easier than the airbag project. Mind you, it would not be easy (or cheap), but at least it would be easier to implement than the whole airbag idea.

How large is your budget for these projects?

Your response was both comprehensive and thoughtful. Thamks for the guidance! NOw we have some ideas of what is possible and what is not.

Rick and Nancy Welsh

Your response was both comprehensive and thoughtful. Thamks for the guidance! NOw we have some ideas of what is possible and what is not.

Rick and Nancy Welsh

The answer to your question is NO. Just buy a diesel P/U and put a topper on it. That’s as close as you are going to get. Emissions regulations make it impossible to swap engines if you are subject to any sort of smog testing.

It would probably be easier to put both a diesel engine and a gas engine in your Dodge than it would be to install airbags.

For bags, this is what you would need to do. Locate a late model Dodge van that has airbags installed. Remove the ENTIRE system, wiring harness, control unit, steering column, dashboard, everything, and modify YOUR van so all this stuff fits. Will this work in the event of a crash?? Who knows?, but you will have spent a lot of money in the effort…You can BUY an airbag van for much, much less if you feel airbags are that important…

The easy solution for your situation is to install a Washington Politician in your van. This will solve two problems:

  1.  You will then have a windbag in your van. This is much better than an 

  2. A Washington Politician performs like an old diesel engine--makes a big
  stink and a lot of noise, but doesn't move very fast.

One warning: Once you install the Washington Politician, it will be very difficult to remove.