Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls

Q: What will set off the airbags?

asked by on

What will set off the airbags?

The airbags are made to inflate in the case of a crash, but how severe of a crash does it take to deploy the airbags? This is a fairly common question, but doesn’t quite capture the complexity involved in the safety systems found in modern vehicles. There are a number of factors that contribute to the airbags inflating:

  • Direction: The airbags found in the vehicle are designed to assist the occupants in a front impact. If the truck is rear-ended or rolled over, the airbags will not go off. A side impact will set off the optional side airbags if the force is strong enough.

  • Speed: Low-speed crashes may not set off the airbags.

  • Angle: If the angle of the vehicle is not straight-on then it will influence which airbags ultimately go off. If the impact happens at the front driver side corner, then the passenger side airbags and possibly the passenger front airbag will not inflate.

  • Force from impact: A crash is not just about the speed of the vehicle, the amount of force the object the vehicle hits absorbs is also a big factor. A hypothetical “immovable object” will make the vehicle experience all of the force from the crash all at once, so the airbags are very likely to go off if the vehicle impacts a wall or other hard, sturdy object. On the opposite end of that spectrum, hitting something that will make the vehicle slow gradually will not set off the airbags. For instance, if the vehicle loses control and rolls onto a soft shoulder it may be stopped by mud or gravel.

Tip

Even in a low-speed crash, the seat belts, airbags, and any other safety equipment should be inspected afterwards to ensure that they were not damaged.

Was this answer helpful?

Need advice from certified mechanic? Get help now!

Over 1000 mechanics are ready to answer your question.
The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Ask a Mechanic
(100% Free)

Have a car question? Get free advice from our top-rated mechanics.

Ask A Mechanic
Over 10,000 questions answered!
  1. Home
  2. Questions
  3. What will set off the airbags?

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: How does the auto-reverse function work with power windows?

The power windows of your car are equipped with an auto-reverse feature. It’s designed for safety (pinch protection) – think of the doors in an elevator, or how your garage door will automatically reverse if something breaks the sensor beam....

Q: How do the front air bags work?

Your Honda Accord is equipped with front air bags that are designed to deploy during certain impacts (moderate and severe impacts, but not in minor accidents). Sensors detect the impact and calculate the severity. A signal is sent...

Q: Car does not move and Idles constantly with the check engine light on.

Hi there. It seems to be either a transmission issue or the traction control is engaged. The traction control is designed to apply the brakes when a wheel is spinning out of control. However, if the traction control was to...

Related articles

What Causes Hoses to Leak?
While the largest part of your engine is mechanical, hydraulics plays a significant role. You’ll find fluids at work in a number of different areas. Your car's fluids include: Engine oil Transmission...
P0052 OBD-II Trouble Code: HO2S Heater Control Circuit High (Bank 2 Sensor 1)
P0052 code definition HO2S Heater Control Circuit High (Bank 2 Sensor 1) What the...
P2103 OBD-II Trouble Code: Throttle Actuator Control Motor Circuit High
P2103 means there is a fault with the throttle actuator control motor circuit, likely due to a defective electrical component or part.