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Kia airbag did not deploy

My sister fell asleep driving her Kia Rio on the interstate to Army Reserve training. Her car hit - head on - the upcoming end of a guard rail and that drove the radiator back into the engine. Neither fender got damaged. She had her seat belt on and hit her head on the steering wheel; cut her head; concussion; dislocated part of her hand. The airbag did not deploy. She was unconscious for over an hour. The highway patrol was concerned that the airbag did not deploy but the guy rebuilding the car (3 hours from us; $7000 worth of damage) says it didn’t necessarily need to deploy because there are only 2 censors and both censors must trigger to deploy. However our local mechanic says there are 4 censors and any one of them will deploy the airbag. She has a bumper to bumper warranty on the car from the dealer where she bought it used. Question 1: should the airbag have deployed? Question 2: how should all this affect the 60,000m warranty which is still in effect? Question 3: any other ideas on things we should consider? Thank you - we love your show and think you do a lot of good. Debra Jones

When you first turn on the key, the “air-bag” warning light should illuminate, along with several other warning lights. After a few seconds, the air-bag light should go out. If this sequence does not happen, then the air-bag system has been disconnected or previously deployed and the warning light disabled. This is common with salvage vehicles that have been rebuilt, as is being done to your car now…And no, repair shops are not required by law to replace deployed air-bag systems when they repair these vehicles. After they have been run through several auctions, nobody knows nothing…

It’s possible that the impact was not severe enough to trigger the airbag(s). They are designed to deploy only under certain conditions, and although this would certainly seem to qualify, apparently the computer didn’t think so. I was once in a crash that I thought was pretty hard, but the airbags did not deploy.

Be happy she had her seat belt on. This could have been a lot worse. The seat belt is still the PRIMARY restraint. The airbag is just a supplement.

I suggest you read the warranty very closely. The crash may have been the end of any warranty coverage. Warranties cover defects, not crash damage, and they will blame every subsequent problem on the crash.

In my opinion a Kia Rio with $7,000 worth of damage is not a car I would want to keep. If the insurance company isn’t going to total it, I’d sell or trade it as soon as I could after it comes out of the body shop.

There could be hidden damage that won’t show up right away. Since this is a front wheel drive vehicle, everything that’s important is right there in the front, and your sister could start having all sorts of issues in the not too distant future, and as I said, the dealer will probably blame everything on the crash (whether it’s true or not) and deny any warranty claim.

A lot of guardrail ends on highways are now built to yield to impact. That fact, coupled with–what sounds like–non-catastrophic body damage from the impact leads me to theorize that the impact may not have been sufficient to trigger the airbag. However, this is just speculation on my part.

I would suggest that this incident be reported to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), via their website. If there are multiple reports of airbag deployment failure on this model, they can mandate a recall of that model for free repair of the airbag system.

You think the bag would have blown but I have noticed that SOMETIMES, if a sensor is mounted low and the impact was high the bags won’t blow. What I mean is if the sensor is mounted on the frame rail behind the impact bar and the impact was high sometimes they do not always blow. I have also inspected several vehicles that have rolled that did not blow the bags.
I have also inspected one vehicle that took a big hit in the front and broke the mounting hole in the sensor so that this sensor was not held in place, dangling by wires and therefore the bag did not blow.