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How to Replace Driver Side Air Bags

blown up air bags

If you’ve ever seen an airbag deploy, you will know that it is not a particularly pleasant experience. The airbag is designed to inflate in fractions of a second so that when you come into contact with it, the bag is deflating and slowing you down.

Thankfully the process of removing the airbag from the steering wheel is fairly painless. Undo a couple screws and it pulls away. Some manufacturers have started using spring loaded clips which are pressed in with just a flathead screwdriver.

  • Warning: The explosives inside can be dangerous if handled improperly, so always be cautious when handling airbags.

Part 1 of 2: Removing the old airbag

Materials

  • Drill bit
  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Phillips head screwdriver
  • Ratchet
  • Socket
  • Torx screwdriver

  • Note: Different vehicle manufacturers have differents methods of securing the airbag to the steering wheel. Check to see what type of screws, if any, are used to secure the airbag. It will most likely be a torx screw, but there are some that use a particular size drill bit to make it difficult to tamper with the airbag. Some manufacturers don’t use screws at all and instead have spring loaded tabs that you depress to remove the steering wheel. Check online or in the vehicle repair guide to figure out exactly what you’ll need.

disconnecting battery

Step 1: Disconnect the negative terminal on the car battery. You don’t want any power flowing through the car as you remove the airbag, as a small arc could set it off right in your face.

Tuck the cable away from the terminal on the battery so there’s no chance they will touch. Let the car sit for about 15 minutes to fully drain the capacitors.

screw holes on back of steering wheel

Step 2: Locate the screw holes on the back of the steering wheel. You may have to remove some of the plastic panels on the steering column to access all of the screws.

You can also turn the wheel to help make more room.

As mentioned before, some cars will have spring loaded tabs that you must depress. There will be holes with horizontal slots for a flathead screwdriver.

unscrewing an airbag

Step 3: Undo all of the screws and remove the airbag. Press in all tabs to pull out the airbag if you don’t have screws.

Now we can access the plugs to fully remove the airbag.

prying up the tab on the airbag connector

Step 4: Unplug the airbag. There will be two different connectors to undo.

Make sure not to damage these, or the airbag may malfunction.

  • Tip: Remember to leave the airbag lying face up so if it does blow, it doesn’t launch itself into the air and damage something.

Part 1 of 2: Installing your new airbag

plugging in new airbag

Step 1: Plug in your new airbag. Make sure to plug it in correctly or the airbag won’t function properly.

Give the wires a light tug to make sure they won’t come loose.

reinserting airbag

Step 2: Reinsert airbag into the steering wheel. Make sure no wires get caught and mashed between components when you put the airbag in.

If you have spring tabs, the wheel will pop into place and is ready to go.

screwing on airbag

Step 3: Screw in the airbag. Tighten the screws down with one hand.

Take care not to strip them or you will have a hard time if you ever need to replace the airbag again.

reconnecting the battery

Step 4: Reconnect negative terminal on the battery. Test out the horn and any functions on the steering wheel to make sure everything is okay.

If everything works, reinstall any panels that you removed before.

With the airbag replaced, you can be sure that you will have some protection in the event of a collision. If the airbag light comes on when you start the car back up, one of our certified technicians from YourMechanic will be happy to help identify any issues.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details
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