Putting airbags in an older car


#1

My nephew is getting his first car; a 1991 Toyota Corolla. Pre-air bag. Can we get this car fitted with airbags? How much does this cost?


#2

I don’t know of anyone that would retrofit a car with airbags. As far as I know, cars with airbags typically have unique bumper structures which allow the impact sensors to do their thing correctly. Plus you have to wire the thing, probably swap steering columns, blah blah blah.

Here’s the thing: if you teach the kid to buckle up, he’s doing infinitely better than he would be, airbag or no. From what I see, the real difference between cars with airbags and no airbags comes in those with side-curtain airbags which create something of a cocoon around the cabin. A dash-mount airbag helps with whiplash and other neck injuries, but doesn’t seem to be nearly as helpful in an accident as the side-curtain bags.

Take what I say with a grain of salt, I’m not an engineer…


#3

No, you can not. Ask your lawyer why NOBODY would be willing to attempt this…


#4

Besides, as Josh alluded to, airbags aren’t that good. Indeed, they can cause more harm than they prevent.

First, airbags are a SUPPLEMENTAL restraint system, hence the SRS seen on airbag covers. This means they are designed to work with the proper use of the seatbelt. If one is not wearing one’s seatbelt, the airbags can cause serious injury or death. Also, airbags are very dangerous for children and shorter or lighter people. There have been cases of children being killed (including a number of decapitations) by airbag deployment.

Also, it seems many, if not all, manufacturers have had problems with airbags deploy when they weren’t supposed to. Obviously, if an airbag deploys while cruising on the highway, the driver is likely going to get in a collision due to the noise, smoke and outright shock from the airbag.

So, should you put airbags in your non-airbag equipped car? NO! Make sure your nephew wears his seatbelt - that is far safer than putting dubious ‘safety’ features into a car not designed for them. Oh, another thing - airbags have been shown to not reduce the chances of injury in a collision, but in some cases they have been shown to slightly reduce the severity of injury. However, wearing your seatbelt does reduce the chances of injury, not just the severity.


#5

No, it is not possible to have this done in a way that will be both safe and effective. If someone tells you that he can install airbags in a car that was not originally designed for them, he is a charlatan who is just attempting to take money under false pretenses.


#6

I am sure it is possible with enough money, but you likely be able to buy a new car with air bags for less than what it would cost.


#7

Either purchase a new car and or live with it as is.


#8

It would cost far more than the car is worth. You would need to switch steering columns and the dash board with a newer model that have the air bags. If it will fit. And then get the sensor system installed, too.


#9

I agree with everyone, it’s not going to happen. If, for some reason, you want an air bag equipped car, you are going to have to buy one.


#10

Airbags CAN be harmfull to a certain type of person…(short, small). That’s why many cars now come equiped with sensors to detect the weight of a person and won’t be activated unless that person is a certain weight.

For the rest of us Airbags are PROVEN to be far safer when used with a seatbelt then with a seatbelt alone. the NHIS has and other independent insurance companies have been gathering data for YEARS of HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of accidents with or without airbags. Very very few instances have Airbags NOT been a factor in the safety of the occupents. Something in the neighborhood of less then 1%. It’s the same argument we use to hear about seatbelts. “What if I fly into a river or lake with my seatbelt on…I’ll drown before I can get the seatbelt off!!” And HOW many times does that happen???


#11

Anyone who feels safer with air bags should definitely buy an airbag equipped vehicle. Personally, I think they should be optional in new cars, but it really doesn’t affect me because I don’t buy new cars anyway.

The OP needs to decide for himself if having air bags is important enough to justify the cost of a newer car.


#12

Anyone who feels safer with air bags should definitely buy an airbag equipped vehicle. Personally, I think they should be optional in new cars, but it really doesn’t affect me because I don’t buy new cars anyway.

If you LIVE long enough you’ll eventually have to buy a vehicle equiped with airbags…or you’ll only be buying vehicles 30+ years old.


#13

If you LIVE long enough you’ll eventually have to buy a vehicle equiped with airbags…or you’ll only be buying vehicles 30+ years old.

Exactly, my '73, '82, and '83 cars do not have air bags. My POS '92 jeep doesn’t even have them, but it does have plenty of other electronic crap that I don’t want/need (no more 90s or later vintage vehicles for me). In the future I will limit myself to mid-80s and (preferably) older vehicles; no air bags, ABS, traction control, catalytic converters, computers, check engine lights, daylight running lights, etc.

So if I do live long enough, I will actually only be buying only 40+ year old vehicles, although I have no intention of replacing my current little fleet anytime soon (although I may eventually replace all the parts, except the VIN number tags). There are a few other cars I would like to own, most of them are considerably older than my current cars. As I said, it doesn’t affect me.


#14

I’ve always wondered how people survived 50+ years ago with cars that didn’t even have seatbelts as an option in them. I could see adding lap belts in cars that didn’t have them, if you’re already ripping out the interior anyways, but adding airbags is too much of a liability for the shop/person who installs it. One wrong touch, airbag goes off while someone is just reaching into the car and injures them. who is responsible for that incident?


#15

Proven safer, but to what degree? I am by no means saying anything BAD about air bags, I don’t know why anyone would, they are a safety improvement. But there are some people who make it seem like a car is deathly unsafe if a car is not equipped with them and that’s simply not true.

I realize there is a fine line that you have to dance on when you’re talking about a new driver. In this case, however, you can take some solace in the fact that the Corolla is probably not capable of going fast enough to cause any serious damage in a head-on collision :slight_smile:


#16

OK, pretty good consensus. Thanks for your advice.


#17

Proven safer, but to what degree? I am by no means saying anything BAD about air bags, I don’t know why anyone would, they are a safety improvement.

I think the point is that americans have become incredibly risk adverse, and are willing to continually spend more and more money for increasingly diminishing returns. IMHO, we went past the point of “very silly” a couple of decades ago. I’m sure installing $5000 worth of airbags and other nonsense in a $10,000 tin can (that now sells for $15,000) will make it incrementally safer if you hit the right object at the correct angle and speed. However, any 16 year old can buy a 150 mph motorcycle for about $7000, but he can’t buy a civic without being forced to pay for all these “safety improvements.” Thanks big brother, but I’ll pass.


#18

You can do something more cost effective than installing an air bag on your 1991 Toyota. Find a politician who wants to crush all old/classic cars. Have him ride in the Toyota at all times. Then you will have equipped the Toyota with a windbag–much more effective than an airbag.


#19

I wish I could be free of air bags. Same for antilock brakes and stability control. Too much cost and too little benefit. My 83 corolla had none of that stuff and got 41 MPG and was fun to drive. 35 MPG driving locally.


#20

Just buy older cars (see my previous post). For the price of a new POS (maybe $20-25K), you can find some very nice older cars. You won’t have to deal with all that worthless crap and they are much more fun to drive (and work on). Just make sure you pick a make/model/year that is somewhat collectable so you will have an infinite supply of parts. It’s also nice to drive something you don’t see coming down the road every 10 seconds.