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Curious about replacing Airbag Inflator

I searched the board; I didn’t see any discussions about the Takata airbag situation.

This was a big problem. What was the problem?

I have a PDF file (which seems to be from Ford) which gives instructions on replacing an inflator in an airbag module for a Mustang. Its 2 pages long (with pictures) and seems really easy. The actual inflators (according to my research) are mostly sort of standardized.

Why was this such a problem?

The following is an excerpt from Consumer Reports, which reads in part:

“… At the heart of the problem is the airbag’s inflator, a metal cartridge loaded with propellant wafers, which in some cases has ignited with explosive force. If the inflator housing ruptures in a crash, metal shards from the airbag can be sprayed throughout the passenger cabin—a potentially disastrous outcome from a supposedly life-saving device…”

11 people killed as of the end of 2016.

I would find it hard to believe that Ford publishes instruction to affected owners to make DIY changes to the airbag system. You should never make DIY changes to the airbag system, even if you think it is easy. A great way to get seriously hurt or even killed. If you are concerned, contact Ford and follow their advice.


I am sure this was not “published to affected owners.” It seemed to me
to be a document intended for dealers or repair shops.

Doesn’t matter to my question. I am trying to understand why there was a problem.

For the model years 2007 through 2016 there are over 160 different airbag inflators for Ford cars - not including SUVs and trucks. ARC only makes 14 different inflators. ZF TRW makes about the same and of similar specifications.

How are there so many? What is the difference?

ARC Inflators
Automotive Inflators
Click product name for picture and information.

  • SH5 Hybrid Inflator
  • AHS Hybrid Inflator
  • CH5 Hybrid Inflator
  • Single Level PH5.1 Hybrid Inflator
  • Dual Level PH5.1 Hybrid Inflator
  • Single Level CADH/DH7 Hybrid Inflator
  • Dual Level CADH Hybrid Inflator
  • Single Level PH7 (90) Hybrid Inflator
  • Single Level PH7 (120) Hybrid Inflator
  • Dual Level PH7 (120) Hybrid Inflator
  • SP2 Pyro Inflator
  • MPD Pyro Inflator
  • Single Level DH8 Hybrid Inflator
  • Single Level PH8 Hybrid Inflator

What is your fascination with Ford parts when you can’t replace them anyway?

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Why are there so many different car companies with so many different models? Simple, because one car does not fit all needs. Same with airbags.

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I think we covered it in depth here a while back. It’ll be years before all the defective ones can be replaced and sounded like Takata would be going belly up before they could produce all the replacements. Kind of like having a bomb in your steering wheel.

03 trailblazer evidently has Takata airbags, but not subject to recall, I seem to remember hondas had the most deaths, and as it was due to moisture, arid parts of the country were being bypassed for recalls, might be fake news, who knows

There are a lot of different inflators because the regulations around the performance of the airbag are fairly strict. Not to mention the legal liability if the device doesn’t perform as required. Throw in a myriad of interior designs and hundreds of car models from dozens of manufacturers. Add in design changes that require a new part number for traceability (think GM ignition switches) even IF the new part can be used in the earlier cars.

That is why there are so many different part numbers.

From the supplier’s view, Takata has to make and replace all those inflators, at their cost, all while supplying their current customers. That may mean adding a 3rd shift to current plants or renting buildings to build just the recalled parts. They can only produce parts so fast plus the cash drain to produce them for free. You DON’T want Takata bankrupt as the solution to the inflator problem with then be cast upon the automakers. If that happens if will be years before the first replacement inflator will arrive.

I have had a car I no longer own have the inflators replaced twice and my current car is scheduled for a replacement next Friday. I’ve owned it a year.

But the inflator is just a stupid source of gas. It knows nothing.

There are three basic types. Just consider the inflators that have compressed gas - nothing that burns. It is a sealed tube of compressed gas. There is an electronic controller that does all the thinking. When the sensors determine there is a collision, a valve opens and allows the compressed gas into the bag. There is a second valve in the inflator. If it is not a severe collision, after a programmed time, the second valve will open and release the remaining gas in the inflator to the atmosphere. If it is a sever collision, the second valve will open at a later time which puts more gas into the airbag. They are really simple and rather clever.

And, BTW, here is a link to the instructions on how to replace a Ford inflator.


Takata air bag inflators use an igniter that starts a chemical reaction emitting gas at a very fast rate, inflating the bag. The initiator doesn’t just release just compressed gas. The problem with the Takata initiators is that the container holding the igniter chemical has small leaks that let atmospheric moisture inside. The water combines with the igniter. When it lights up during a crash, the chemical reaction is faster than designed for, and the explosion shreds the metal container it sits in. The shrapnel from the explosion is what kills and maims people.

The moisture/igniter chemical reaction was not foreseen by Takata and it took several years for the first initiators to become explosive. Add to that the small percentage of crashes per mile driven, there were several years before the death and injury rate became high enough to be alarming. The issue is supposed to be worse in higher humidity areas, like the Southeast US, but it appears that all affected Takata systems will be replaced anyway, with an emphasis on replacing those in high humidity areas first.

Oh contrare. The problem was actually foreseen by Takata and they had a big argument over it at the time with some fearing it could cause bankruptcy down the line. The top dogs won and they went ahead with the manufacture anyway. Same scenario repeated over and over by business, government, and other organizations. Someone sounds the warning bell and are ignored or end up dead.

Seems similar to what happened w/ the ambient temperature related space shuttle o-ring problem, the design engineers with the expertise recommended to postpone the launch saying it was too cold that morning.

If only. It is a container of chemical explosives that generate gas. The defective one reacted badly with water vapor, making them explode uncontrollably.

That is not how it works. With just precisely the amount of gas at precisely the exact pressures required to inflate the airbag. Since it is an ammonium nitrate reaction and not a pressurized gas that fills the bag, there is no “valve” to regulate the flow and pressure, The Takata inflator releases gas in a chemical reaction. Notice the “ammonium nitrate”… that is an explosive in any other context. Here, it is a gas generator.