Q: What determines if the air bags will deploy or not?

asked by on

What determines if the air bags will deploy or not?

While it might seem like your air bags should deploy during every accident, that’s actually not the case. Some aren’t severe enough to warrant it, while in other situations, deploying the air bags might actually cause injury if someone isn’t properly seated in the car.

Your air bag system is monitored and controlled by the computer and a network of sensors. The sensors read the severity and location of an impact and then send that information to the computer. The computer then determines if the criteria warrant deploying the air bags. There are a couple of other things that you should know here, as well:

  • You must be going faster than 12 – 18 MPH for any air bag to deploy. If you’re driving slower than this, the air bags will not inflate.

  • Even if the air bags are not inflated, it’s possible that your seat belt pretensioners will be activated. Have your belts inspected after every collision.

  • If there isn’t a passenger sitting in the front seat, the passenger front air bag will not inflate. It also won’t inflate if the passenger is not adult sized (a child, for instance).

  • Side and side curtain air bags only deploy in some side impact situations (the collision has to have sufficient force to trigger the system).

  • The side curtain air bags should deploy in a rollover situation.

  • The front air bags may inflate if your car strikes something severely with the undercarriage.

  • Some angled front impacts may not set off any air bags.

Tips

  • If an air bag has been deployed, it must be replaced. They cannot be reused.

  • Never attempt to replace an air bag on your own.

  • Never rely on the air bags alone. Always wear your seat belt and make sure everyone in the vehicle is wearing theirs.

  • Always have your seat belts inspected after an accident to determine if the pretensioners were deployed (even if the air bags didn’t go off).

Was this answer helpful?
The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details
  1. Home
  2. Questions
  3. What determines if the air bags will deploy or not?

Get an instant quote for your car

Our certified mechanics come to you ・Backed by 12-month, 12,000-mile guarantee・Fair and transparent pricing

Get a quote

What others are asking

Q: Air bag now says "off" pass seatbelt light beeps with nobody in the seat. What can that be?

This is likely related to the sensor in the seat that measures the weight put on the seat to know when to enact or arm the airbag. The airbag system uses a sensor in the seat to know when there...

Q: How do I use the daytime running lights?

The daytime running lights are mild headlights that can be used when driving your vehicle during the daytime. The daytime running lights will automatically turn on when the headlights are not turned on, the car is running, and the shifter...

Q: 2006 Mercedes Benz E55 W211 has the SRS lights that stay on

The light means that you have a problem with your air bag system also known as the SRS (safety restraint system). Those are very, very complicated systems. You're going to have to find somebody who has a star level tester,...

Related articles

How Do Power Car Windows Increase Passenger Safety?
Power windows are responsible for approximately 2,000 emergency room visits every year. When a power window closes, it exerts enough force to bruise or break bones, crush fingers, or restrict an airway. Though...
P0240 OBD-II Trouble Code: Turbocharger Boost Sensor B Circuit Range/Performance
P0240 code definition Turbocharger Boost Sensor B Circuit Range/Performance What the P0240 code means P0240 is an OBD-II generic code triggered when the Engine Control Module (ECM) detects the intake boost...
How to Avoid Back Pain in a Car
If you have back problems, sitting in a car for an extended period of time can be excruciating. Even without back problems, you could experience discomfort and soreness from...