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Passenger Side Airbag Dash Cover

Purchased new Ford Escape five years ago. Except for basic maintenance every
few months at the dealer, I’ve had five years of problem free driving. Yes, I like
this SUV!

I realize the attached image is blurry, but you can easily see the dashboard cover
for the passenger side airbag.

When the outside air temperature drops below 50⁰F the top of the airbag cover
makes a rapid tick-tick-tick sound. It’s a low level sound, but very annoying.
My sister has long fingernails. I asked her to tap rapidly on a plastic laminate
countertop. That’s the sound I hear from the airbag cover.

During the spring and summer months the tick-tick-tick vanishes. Obviously, the
plastic is contracting when it’s cold and expanding when the air temperature rises.
If I run the heater for 15 minutes the cabin air temperature rises and the rapid
ticking slows down and eventually stops.

In my shop I found some 3/32" very flexible black vinyl. I cut a strip and pressed
it into the crevice (red arrow on image) at the top of the airbag cover. I hoped it
would silence the noise. It helped a little, but not enough.

What can I do to silence the tick-tick-tick forever?Airbag%20Cover

Why would you think the cover itself is ticking? There is no driving force to do that. It can’t contract then expand rapidly enough to make a tic tic sound.

I would suggest that there is an actuator (motor plus sensor) that has driven to the end of travel and tries to drive further because the sensor is telling it to. Hence the tic tic tic noise. Super common on GM trucks. The shim you installed just blocks the noise somewhat. Take it to you mechanic, tell them what you are hearing, did to quiet it and that will direct him to the actuator behind the airbag cover.

Whether it helps with the noise or not, I suggest removing the shim. Do you really want to take a chance on it being sent straight toward your eyeballs at high speed in a crash?

3 Likes

Very good point Lion9car .

I never intended to leave that shim in place forever. I just wanted to see if it would
stop the ticking sound.

I discovered the exact location of the ticking noise by asking a friend to drive a few
miles, while I occupied the passenger seat. When I pressed gently near the top of the
airbag cover the ticking stopped. The narrow gap from the top of airbag cover to the
dash is wider on the left-hand side. I can easily flex the upper left corner because
the gap is slightly wider.

Mustangman, electronics was my profession for many years. I thought it might be a relay
chattering or motor/sensor like you described. The question is, why does the ticking stop
when I apply finger pressure to the top of the airbag cover? Also, why does the ticking
stop during the spring and summer or when the heater raises the temperature inside the
cabin?

An electromechanical device like a motor or relay would not stop making noise when I
apply finger pressure to the top of the airbag cover or completely stop ticking during
the warmer spring and summer months. Seems logical, right?

Buying this new Escape was a strange experience for me. I’m accustom to performing
at least 50% of all needed repairs and maintenance. The Escape has a very lengthy
comprehensive warranty. The last thing I want to do is void the warranty! A few weeks
ago a mechanic (at the Ford dealer) told me that five year old battery was good. Well,
after a few days I had starting trouble. Fortunately, it started after charging the battery.
I immediately drove to Firestone and purchased an Interstate battery. Not cheap, but
in my experience Interstate is the best aftermarket battery you can buy.

I’ve removed airbag covers on other vehicles. Before touching the cover you disconnect
both battery terminals and ground the positive terminal for 15 minutes. That discharges
the airbag firing system (capacitors, etc.).

Once the cover is removed, a mechanic (or me) will probably find a quick solution to the
great tick-tick-tick mystery!

I’ll answer 2nd one first - because you, the driver move the temperature controls to a different position in the spring and summer so the actuator isn’t at its travel stop anymore.

I’d say the ticking doesn’t stop, it is now damped to the point you can’t hear it anymore. It may also be engine vibration that is driving the cover to vibrate. You touch it and it no longer vibrates. The cover is loose. The engine mounts being rubber, are affected by ambient temps causing the noise to go away in the cold.

I’ll fall back to my original reply

I am a mechanical engineer that has worked with electro-mechanical stuff as well as doing “squeak and rattle” work to quiet project cars for decades, FWIW.

Given that, my best tool to making things quiet is black (or colored) duct tape. Disassemble the cover and cover any edges that might rub or rattle with duct tape. Use the appropriate color Cut really thin strips to stick between contacting edges. Add tape over the clip-holes. Poke a hole so the clip goes through. It tightens the connection and damps squeaks and rattles. All this is behind the covers that need to open if the airbag deploys, not in front.