Does anyone replace non-deployed airbags.....ever?

toyota
avalon

#1

There’s a sticker in my car that advises that the airbags should be replaced when the car is 10 years old. My mechanic said the cost of replacement may be greater than the value of my car and most automobile manufactures now advise replacing the airbags after 15 years. Does anyon ever replace non-deployed airbags?


#2

I suppose some people do change them out but the airbag systems have sensors built in to alert the driver when an airbag fault exists. The airbags should be replaced when the vehicle has been in a serious crash even if the airbags did not deploy. If the cost of new airbags exceeds the value of the vehicle it’s time to start shopping for a newer and safer mode of transportation.


#3

Agree; if there is no problem, I would leave them alone. After all, airbags are a SUPPLUMENTARY restraint sytem. The main reason was that many states would not enforce seat belt wearing and the feds forced airbags into cars to accomdate who did not wear them.

My car has no such warning to replace them at 10 years. Of course, if the light goes on, indicating a problem, I would correct it. If we enforce replacement at 10 years we end up like Japan where any 10 year old car is virtually worthles because of all the goverment dictated replacements that are “needed”. Those cars are routinely exported as scrap (about $300 wholesale)by the boatload to countries with left hand traffic.

I visited a body shop some time ago and there was a Mustang, about 4 years old which had had a frontal collision. The manager said the airbags alone would be $5000, plus the body work, which was just over half that. If the car had been older it would have ben totalled.


#4

I have never heard of ANYONE doing this…This is just more CYA stuff so that when these old beaters get in wrecks and things don’t work as expected, they can point to the warning that they TOLD you to change them. They never expected you would really want them changed…


#5

They (automakers) probably ‘expect’ you to buy a new car after 10 years. But out here in the real world, many of us either cannot afford to do that, or we have better uses for our money. :slight_smile:


#6

I don’t know the direct answer (I’ll check my Owner’s Manuals later today), but here’s some background info from my career experience, direct and indirect, with systems using energetic materials: explosives, propellants and pyrotechnics – the chemical stuff that generates the gas to fill the “air” bag.

Parts of the system can be tested (even self-test or built-in test): the electronics; the sensors (to some extent); and (again, to some extent) some types of igniting devices for the energetic materials. That’s what the warning lights can tell you.

The energetic materials themselves can’t be tested without firing, nor can the bag itself. After all, how could you test a bullet?

The chemists, chemical engineers, mechanical engineers, etc., etc, who develop those materials and systems try like the dickens to predict the effects of age, but it’s a hard job. Often, the best you can do is accelerated aging tests, with the hope that you are getting it right. Then you have to apply risk-appropriate caution to determine replacement intervals, and use in-service testing to improve your knowledge and adjust the intervals. (The in-service testing would typically include both analytic lab tests – chemical/metallurgical/etc. – and live firing tests; but it’s all destructive testing.)

As somebody pointed out here, automobile air bags are a back-up system. Having one fail to fire is usually not as bad an event as fail-to-fire in a torpedo warhead or a bomb or a mine or an aircraft crew escape system (“ejection seats”). (An aside: every couple of years some military pilot who had ejected would come down to where I worked and thank them for saving her/his life.)

(While spontaneous firing is a pretty bad event for the air bag, it is almost always worse for the military system. And predicting and preventing spontaneous firing is even harder.)

Warheads last for many years, but explosives are not like air bag propellants. Air crew escape systems, that use energetic materials which are more like air bag propellants, were replaced much more frequently (I think it was like one- or two-year intervals). But the manufactured quantities of those items were way less than, say, bullets. I had no experience with bullets (or artillery rounds), and I’ve wondered about their lifetimes and about how the lifetimes were determined.

When air bags came in, I thought that the huge manufacturing quantities might give the opportunity to get some better service life predictions. Maybe that’s what is happening now. Read the Manual, and watch what the manufacturers are doing. They have a big financial interest (product liability) in getting it right.


#7

The manual of our Sentra just says to “inspect” the airbag at 10 years to see if all the connections, etc are still intact. On our Toyota there is no such inspection; preumably the self-checking feature that lights up on the dash does the job.