Car air bags didn't deployed


What would make the driver & passenger air bags NOT deployed in a head-on collision? The car was totaled.


Ah, this explains your other question (to which I gave a somewhat glib response before reading this post; for this I apologize).

The most likely cause would be a faulty sensor. However, this should have caused the airbag light to come on, assuming the light wasn’t burned out.

I hope no one suffered additional injuries as a result of the airbag failure.


in some vehicles it takes a very good jolt to blow the air bags. even though the car is totaled it may very well not have set off the airbags. depending on the conditions of the accident. it is very unlikely that the airbag light would be burned out.

just my thoughts. Also i hope no one was hurt in the accident.


Thanks, guys.
Thank God no injury. I (chest) bumped into the steering wheel & have sore muscle (arms, shoulders, back) & my daughter has a sore knee. What, by the way, are my options against the dealer. It’s a 98 Corolla.


I do not have a lot of specific knowledge of the airbag systems, but this issue is closely related to some things I used to do for a living (electronics, sensors, and “energetic” materials; and post-incident failure analysis).

  1. NYBo and sutter1 are absolutely correct (see also NYBo’s comment at your other post, regarding the built-in test of the sensors and other electronics). However, I THINK the system has more than one sensor so …

  2. If BOTH bags failed to deploy (and IF the passenger bag was enabled), then I would tend to discount the sensors or the energetic elements (the gas generators) because getting the two failures is highly unlikely (both sensors or both bags). However, “lot related problems” do happen. And I have been wondering about aging effects on the energetic materials. (For comparison, in military aircraft the energetics that blow off the canopy and eject the pilot’s seat are changed routinely.)

  3. So we have to ask: “What are the single-point faults that cause both bags to fail [which, I guess, is the question you are asking], and why would the built-in test not detect them?” That’s where I would need more knowledge of the system. I think the built-in test would catch most of the easy guesses.

Some people are paid to care about that. I think that the vehicle manufacturer and NHTSA would both be interested in your data point – IF the built-in test was working.


On a 10-year-old car? You’re on your own unless you just bought it from a dealer and there was a warranty or some sort of fraud can be proven (like removal of the airbag light). Sutter1 also makes a good point. If the car isn’t hit just “right”, a lot of damage can occur without triggering the airbags. And it wouldn’t take all that much damage to have an insurance company declare a '98 Corolla a total loss.


I have the impression that the air bags are warranted no matter how old the car is. Does anyone know what governemnt agencies or their website regarding air bags & air bags warranty? Thanks.


“What, by the way, are my options against the dealer. It’s a 98 Corolla.”

More than likely, no options. Did the car come with a warranty? If so, read the terms of that document and it will tell you what your coverage is.


Was the air bag warning light working before the crash?


“it is very unlikely that the airbag light would be burned out.”

Unless someone removed the bulb because maybe they disabled the air bags or did not want to fix them if they had gone out.

I did not see the original message So I also hope there was no injury and I don’t know if there would be any reason to suggest the current owner may have disabled the light, but that seems unlikely.


It’s just another hint that government regulation doesn’t always work. Airbags don’t have a good reliability reputation. Good would be 100%. It could fire off any second though. You just never know how long after the crash the airbag could deploy.


Warranties don’t run forever and since the vehicle is going on 11 years old chances are the warranty was up 5 or 6 years ago.
I think about 5 years from new is the extent of airbag warranty.

Buy the car new? How many miles on it? If you bought it used how long have you owned it? SRS light working before the wreck? Some info might help.


I would tend towards saying it just wasn’t a serious enough collision. Airbags are designed to save your life not prevent the minor injuries you’re describing. If anything, you might have been hurt worse had they gone off.


Good to hear (read) no one was injured.

If you were wearing your seatbelt with shoulder harness why did you hit your chest on the steering wheel?

Unless I’m mistaken, the minimum distance (allowed) from the steering wheel to the driver is 10".

If your daughter is big enough to be sitting in the front passenger seat and was properly buckled in, how was she able to bang her knee on the dash?

When you started your (collision) journey with your daughter, did the air bag light (test) flash on the dash a few times then go out?
Did it come on at any time?

Why do I get the feeling we’re not getting the whole story?

Is there a previous post we should read before this one?


Roadrunner has some good points. If you were close enough to the steering wheel to hit your chest on it, and likewise with your daughter and the dashboard, then either a)the seatbelts didn’t work properly or b)you were too close to the dashboard, or c) you weren’t wearing your seatbelts. If a, then that really sucks, but not much you can do about it now. If b, then it’s a good thing the airbags didn’t deploy - they are known to cause injuries to vehicle occupants if said occupants are too close to the airbags. There have even been cases of young children being decapitated by an airbag. If c, and I hope it’s not, then you better start wearing your seatbelt before you get yourself or your family killed.

In any case, there are usually at least 2 sensors in the front bumper of cars to determine when airbags should deploy. In order to deploy, both have to be triggered. It’s possible that the angle of collision, or severity, was not enough to trigger both sensors. By the way, airbags don’t prevent injuries - the cances of being injured in a collision are the same with or without airbags. However, they have been shown to reduce the severity of injuries suffered. So you likely would have still been injured, but the severity could have been less… although, if indeed you were positioned too close to the airbag, then it’s quite possible you could have injured much more severely than you were. One should always attempt to be at least 1 foot away from the airbags when in a vehicle.


I can tell from personal experience that it’s possible to bruise your knees in an accident with your seatbelt on. Admittedly, this was a compact car (mid '80s), and I have rather long legs. BTW, one of my fantasies is that everyone who gets a driver’s license has to ride a rocket sled (properly restrained, of course), that gives the equivalent of a 25mph barrier collision. Once you’ve experienced even a moderate impact, it makes you think differently about what driving means, and what restraints are for.



We had seatbelts on. The impact of the collision threw us forward. The air bags didn’t deploy. I was going about 30 mph (35 mph zone), was already about a meter from the pedestrian lane of the other side of the street when the other car turned left in front of me going very FAST. It happended so fast. And yes, it was green light.
Previous to this post, I wanted to know if there are any required scheduled maintenance on air bags. There is this so called IMPLIED WARRANTY. Basically, it says all products are warranted to work for the purpose for which it was manufactured. There’s no time limits. If you look at your TV, VCR, camera, washer, dryer, etc…they all have this implied warranty, aside from the regular (express) warranty.