What Happens When Airbags Deploy?

With the Takata airbag recall  in the news, many drivers have a renewed interest in airbag safety and design. One of the most common questions they have is what happens when airbags deploy in an auto collision? Knowing how airbag systems work gives you a better understanding of what goes into maintaining and repairing them.

Alan’s Collision Center in NE Philadelphia understands airbag systems very well as the auto body repair experts are familiar with airbag replacement after a collision. The key point for all drivers to know is that OEM parts for airbags are a must. When airbags deploy, it is not safe to repair them and reinstall them in a vehicle. No airbag should be reused at any time; every vehicle should have a new original part manufactured by the auto manufacturer.

When Airbags Deploy

The most important parts of the airbag system are the crash sensors. Located on the front and side of the car, they send signals to the airbag control unit when they sense a moderate or severe impact. The airbag control unit reads the signal and inflates the airbag. All of this takes place in less than 1/20th of a second.

There are two types of crash sensors used today. Electrical sensors contain a circuit switch designed to activate when the mechanism completes an electrical circuit. Mechanical sensors, on the other hand, work independently of the electrical system, so they cannot be deactivated (like an electrical sensor can) when disconnected from the car battery. Instead, they are activated by a firing pin which triggers a small explosion when sensing a crash force.

Crash sensors are the most technically intricate and expensive part of an airbag system.

The other key component of the airbag system is the inflator. When the control unit senses there is a crash, it sends a signal to the inflator system. This sets off a chemical charge, which produces an explosion of nitrogen gas and inflates the airbag. Once it has deployed, the airbag will automatically deflate itself.

How much does it cost to repair airbags?

Fixing a deployed airbag is a complicated and labor intensive repair. In many cases the crash sensors and inflator mechanism will need to be replaced as a result of damage from a crash. The cost to repair an airbag will vary depending on the type of car and which airbags need to be replaced. It can range from $1500-$2000. 

Dennis Winokur, owner of Alan’s Collision Center in NE Philadelphia, says that a Honda airbag is worth about $700. Thieves frequently steal airbags from Honda vehicles and sell them to salvage yards. An airbag installation can easily cost a vehicle owner $1000.

There can be other costs also associated with airbag repairs. Sometimes a deployed airbag will damage the steering column and electrical wiring in the steering system. In some model cars the steering column is designed to collapse in a collision as a safety precaution.

Another potential repair cost resulting from airbag deployment can be the bowing of doors or rear hatches. This can happen from a temporary over-pressure in the passenger cabin when the airbags deploy and the car windows are up.

The airbag system of your car is one of the most important safety features to protect you and your passengers from serious injury or death. Our I-CAR Gold trained technicians at Alan’s Collision Center are committed to using OEM parts, re-installing the part when airbags deploy and ensuring you drive a safe vehicle with safe features and function.