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I have a 1994 Geo Prizm with almost 250,000 miles on it. Last week the airbag light came on. It has not been confirmed, but my mechanic believes it is a bad sensor. My expereience with sensors is that they are not cheap. Given the age of the car I am inclined to spend as little money on it as possible. Also, I have heard that airbags of this era are not that good, especially if you are short (my wife is 5’ tall). So my questions are:

1. How much less safe is this vehicle without its airbag given its vintage or

2. Do I spend $$$ to fix it or

3. Junk/sell the otherwise functional car

My experience with sensors is that the parts are usually fairly expensive, but there’s usually very little labor associated with replacing them, so you should figure out exactly how much it will cost to keep the airbags working. Realistically, this car probably isn’t all that less safe without the airbags working-- they sold plenty of them without airbags-- but since this car isn’t the safest in the world to begin with I’d definitely want to keep them working.

  1. It’s NOT less safe. As long as you fasten your seatbelt you will be fine. The airbag is a “supplemental” system, and will only activate under a specific set of circumstances.

  2. Only you can decide.

  3. If this were my Prizm I’d continue to drive it as long as possible, but I would not spend one dime to repair the airbag system.

I would forgo any repairs on this and simply use your seat belt. Your car is at or nearing the end of its useful life.

You didn’t mention if it was the drivers or passengers side airbag. Like that blue collor comedian said: When the dealer asked him if he wanted the option of a passenger side airbag on his new car for $500 bucks extra, He replied: “Now how does that affect me?”…then the dealer goes “If you cause a wreck, the airbag might save your passengers life. Well if I don’t purchase the airbag, that means there are no witnesses?”…Ha.

Actually spending the money to get it fixed is a call you and you along are going to have to make. If you can get an estimate for free, you will have a better idea on whether or not it is worth it for you. There are a lot of arguments for and against. If you don’t get it fixed, and get in a wreck, and get paralized, and the airbag might have prevented your serious injuries, was spending the extra $500 or $1000 worth it? You betcha! If you drive it for another 3 years and are a safe driver and don’t have any problems, then the $500 seems like a waste of money. If you are a good driver and are willing to take chances, which you are, otherwise you would be driving a large car, they go buy a roll of electrical tape and cut off a 1 inch piece and cover that light up. You might have trouble passing your safety inspection if your state has one, but that might be down the road or nothing to worry about.

Could just be a seat occupancy sensor, these are not to hard to put in (I haven’t done a GEO but BMW’s were not bad) it’s just dealing with hog rings and material.

It’s NOT less safe. As long as you fasten your seatbelt you will be fine. The airbag is a “supplemental” system, and will only activate under a specific set of circumstances.

I seldom disagree with MC and this time it is only slightly disagreeing. You will be slightly less safe without the air bags, assuming you are using seat belts. Air bags with seat belts is the safest, next is only seat belts and only air bags is not much above nothing. That is taking into account the slight chance of injury from the air bags themselves.

As for final conclusion, I agree totally with MC.