How do airbags work?

As the years go by, car manufacturers have focused more and more on the safety of the drivers and passengers in the unfortunate event of a crash. One such device we take for granted these days is the airbag. 

Airbags are commonly situated in the middle of your steering wheel, and on the dashboard in front of the passenger seat. Lots of modern cars have additional airbags within the A and B pillars, and even under the steering wheel for knee protection. They sit there inconspicuously, ready to save your life whenever the moment may come. But have you ever wondered how airbags truly work, and what makes them so effective?

As odd and counterproductive as it sounds, the device that saves your life is effectively an explosion happening right inside your vehicle. Don’t worry, though, as it’s a very controlled and calculated explosion, designed to provide support and restraint within a split-second. 

Modern airbags use an accelerometer to detect a sudden change of speed. The accelerometer is calibrated so that regular hard braking won’t trip it – only extreme forces such as ones experienced in a crash will set it off. If forces exceed the set limit, an electrical circuit is activated that provides current to a heating element.

The heat from the element is great enough to trigger a chemical reaction, which produces a huge amount of gas – usually nitrogen – that fills the bag. The force of the gas is great enough for the airbag to punch through the steering wheel or other interior barriers, ready to provide support for your head and body as you react to the sudden stopping forces of the crash. All of this happens within just a tenth of a second!

Unsurprisingly, with so many components having to work together so quickly, airbags can be prone to failure. Just a couple of years ago, Honda SA recalled thousands of vehicles across various models such as the 2012-2014 Accord and 2002-2014 Jazz due to faulty airbags supplied by Takata. Similarly, Toyota had to recall millions of vehicles worldwide recently due to a faulty ECU that triggered the airbag system. Both manufacturers are offering the recall work for free. 

But it’s not just newer cars with official recalls that can have airbag failures. Any vehicle at any time can have a faulty airbag system – and you might not know until it’s too late. Airbags are often overlooked, but they remain an important part of your vehicle’s general maintenance. 

With a maintenance plan, however, you can drive with the peace of mind knowing that all wear and tear – including the all-important airbags – are taken care of at correct timely intervals by qualified professionals, using genuine OEM parts. Not only does this make your driving experience easy, it also ensures that your vehicle is as safe as it can possibly be – an invaluable asset when it comes to your life. Contact MotorHappy today to get a quote on the best maintenance plan for your vehicle.

Airbags are so common today, to the point where they’re often overlooked. Next time you set off in your vehicle, take a moment to appreciate the nylon bag, ready to save your life at any time.

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