Toyota Highlander Airbags Didn't Deploy

Hi there,
I have an '05 Toyota Highlander. In July of 2011, while at a dead stop, my family was rear ended on a fwy at 70-75mph. We were pushed into a large SUV in front of us. Airbag sensor light was on after accident, but airbags did not deploy. Back end damage was certainly more severe than front end damage, but both ends needed repair. Anyway, I have been told by Toyota and the body shop (that was “recommended” by my then auto ins. co), that it was fine that airbags didn’t deploy; but no response on why sensor was on. My belief is that had airbags deployed, might not have injuries I’m dealing with. Anyone have real answers on this airbag issue? Toyota does not.

What kind of injuries do you have?

Airbags do not deploy in every crash. In some crashes they would do more harm than good and so the computer does not fire them.

The major crash was from behind, your injuries may be more due to that, and airbags would not have helped. Without a detailed investigation it’s impossible for us to say.

Do you recall if the dash lights on your Toyota flashed for a seat belt warning when the seat belts were engaged?

We have a 2000 Toyota. With the belts disengaged the dash seatbelt lights are off. As soon as we engage the belts, the dash lights for the seatbelt begin to flash. It’s something to do with the switch in the retractor and looking around online is not an uncommon problem. Might yours have been the same?

I’ve always wondered if securing the seatbelt(s), which causes the seatbelt dashboard warning light(s) to flash, also turns off the airbag(s)…

Airbags are intended to help protect you from injury in front and side impacts, not in the event of rear impacts. Even though there was a (secondary) frontal impact, apparently it was not severe enough to trigger the airbags.

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“.Anyway, I have been told by Toyota and the body shop (that was “recommended” by my then auto ins. co), that it was fine that airbags didn’t deploy; but no response on why sensor was on.”

They are correct. The airbags will generally not go off if you are rear ended, as they would typically be of little benefit in most rear end collisions. And in this case your secondary collision wasn’t bad enough to set the airbags off. The light you saw after the crash could indicate that the airbag system was damaged in either collision.

@speered It’s possible that the ETRs (electronic tensioning retractor) deployed. They are part of the SRS system, and once deployed must be replaced.

Personally, I wouldn’t worry about it.

Not every impact results in airbag deployment. There are certain thresholds that must be exceeded, criteria that must be met, for an airbag to deploy.

Most likely, the SRS control module did not “see” a need to deploy the airbags.

By the way, has anybody bothered to hook up a factory level scanner and retrieve SRS codes and look at data?

Until you do that, you’re just guessing.

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Air bags dont go off like in the movies. If you are stopped your air bag will not go off. A side air may, not a the ones in the dash or steering wheel. You most likely would have been hurt worse if the dash bags had gone off. Its no fun being hit by a air bag. That what would have happen. Also a rear hit in stopped vehicle in the worst hit for the people inside I can think of. You are lucky as most times someone neck or back is broke in these kinds of hits. My bet as to why the air bag system was damage with the front end damage.

Thanks everyone for the feedback.

FYI, one of the requirements for the airbags to deploy is speed at the time of the impact, and you were stopped at the time of the initial impact. Not sure why, because if you were stopped and someone coming from the other direction were to hit you head on, I would think that you would want the airbags to deploy.

As stated bags do not go off everytime. Sometimes it has to do with point of impact vs sensor location. I have seen this in the past, lamp illuminates but no bag so it happens. I have also seen the seat belt pretensioners blow but no bags.

I have a 2021 highlander and was just in a bad accident a couple days ago. I was hit from behind (while sitting at a stop sign) the car that hit me did it as if he was just traveling straight thru me. This was nit a fender bender. The impact happened at a high speed (maybe 55-60mph) he hit me and pushed me into cross traffic where the front of my car plowed thru the passenger door of an escalade. The only airbags that went off were my driver side wall airbags. My steering wheel airbag didnt deploy. Because of this I bashed me jaw off the steering wheel resulting in a severely bruised chin and concussion. Anyone in here disagree with my belief that the steering wheel bag should have definitely deployed after a rear AND front collision? Who do I express my concerns with first? Dealership?

I do. The force the airbag shoots out at is extremely high. If the front impact isn’t that high, then I don’t want to be blown in the face by an airbag unnecessarily. (note I’m not disagreeing with your particular accident, just the assumption that it should be automatic deployment).

You can tell them about it, they can pull the SRS data. You could also contact NHTSA as well.


The reason only the side air bags deployed is because they were the only ones needed to keep you from getting a fatal injury. While you have a bruised jaw and concussion you are alive. Be thankful for that. Had the front air bag deployed you would have had a bruised face jaw and maybe chest. Plus you would have had burns to the exposed skin on your face. Air bags are violent but are meant to keep you alive not cushion you comfortably


However, thanks to Hollywood, many–perhaps most–people think that they are pillow-like cushions that inflate–and deflate–slowly, rather than the rapid and extremely forceful way that they really deploy. And, of course, Hollywood never shows the burns that can result from contact with an airbag.


I can’t believe you got hit at 70 MPH if the vehicle isn’t totaled!

Obviously something happened to the airbag system. Either the pretensioners activated, or something got messed up like some wiring for the airbag system came disconnected, and that would also explain why the airbags didn’t deploy.

Rear end crashing is not part of any standard crash test.

Nothing happened. Manufacturers don’t design airbags to go off in rear end collisions.

I do seriously doubt that the guy was doing 70mph. I’ve been rear-ended twice while stopped at a red light. Pushed me into on coming traffic. First time my vehicle was totaled. Second time it was a new truck, but still caused significant damage. In both cases the driver was only doing about 40.


+1… on all points.

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Wrong again, you’re batting 0.000.


Pretty soon, he will be in negative numbers.

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