Car Laws & Safety

Can You Drive a Car with the Airbags Deployed?

If you have ever been in a serious automobile collision, you have likely experienced airbag deployment before. However, just because the airbags have deployed, that doesn’t necessarily mean the car is not driveable! If everything is still working mechanically and electrically, you might be wondering: can you drive a car with the airbags deployed?

There are no federal laws that specify that you cannot drive a vehicle after the airbags have deployed. Make sure your car is in drivable condition and that you can access the necessary mechanisms. As long as your state laws allow it, you can still drive your car after the airbags have deployed.

There are several factors to consider before you drive a car with deployed airbags. Read below to learn what to do before getting behind the wheel.

What Should I Do Before Driving with Deployed Airbags?

There are a few steps you’ll need to take before you drive away with your airbags deployed. First, make sure the car is in drivable condition. The engine should still run smoothly, and you should be able to steer, brake, and accelerate as you normally would. As long as there is no functional or structural damage to your vehicle, it’s likely still drivable. 

The airbags should be fully deflated before you start driving again. While they will eventually do this on their own, you might want to pop them with some kind of sharp object to speed the process up. Once the airbags have been deflated, make sure you can still comfortably access all the car’s controls. If so, you can drive away from the scene. 

Is It Safe to Drive with Deployed Airbags?

Whether or not it’s safe to drive with your airbags deployed depends on your level of comfort. Getting into a car accident, especially one that causes the airbags to deploy, can be very unsettling.

Assess your mental condition, and make sure you’re comfortable enough to drive again. Driving in general is difficult enough, but driving when you have your airbags deployed may be more than you can handle. 

You should also consider how far you have to drive to either the mechanic or your home before driving with the airbags deployed. In the event that you get into another collision, you won’t have the safety buffer of your airbags to protect you. For this reason, you’ll need to be extremely vigilant and careful when driving without your airbags. If you would have to drive a long distance, it may be better to have the car towed.

What Should I Do After My Airbags Deploy?

If you get into a collision that results in the airbags deploying, the first thing you’ll need to do is check yourself and any passengers for injuries. While the damage from the collision may be minor, some people are injured by the airbags themselves deploying with such force. 

Most vehicles have a safety system in place that automatically shuts off the engine once the airbags inflate. This is because some accidents can cause fuel leaks, which may result in a fire if the engine is still running. If your car does not turn off automatically, turn it off yourself.

If someone in your car or the other vehicles involved is injured, call 911. If not, call a police non-emergency line so they can come out and write a report for insurance purposes. While you wait for the police or first responders to arrive, inspect your car for any serious damage. 

What Should I Look for After an Accident?

Once you make sure you and any other parties involved in the accident are okay, start inspecting your car for any damage. While minor damage is okay, some problems will prevent you from driving away safely. 

Some things to check out include:

The headlights and tail lights

This is especially important if you’re driving at night. You don’t want to drive when you can’t see well, as this can cause another accident. Make sure all your lights are working properly before driving away from the scene.

Fluid leaks

Check underneath your car to make sure there is no oil, transmission fluid, or radiator fluid leaking.

If you smell gasoline, do not turn the car back on. Not only is driving with a severe fluid leak a fire hazard, but it can also cause serious damage to your engine in a short amount of time. If you see anything leaking underneath your vehicle, it’s best to get it towed away.

The engine, radiator, and condenser

If possible, open up your hood and make sure the engine, radiator, and condenser are all in good condition. If you don’t know where these components are located on your vehicle, look it up on Google. It’s important to make sure these are all working properly, otherwise, your car may overheat on the road.

The wheels

One or more of your tires may have popped during the collision. The wheels may also be bent, loose, or otherwise unaligned, which can be very dangerous if you drive on them. 

Any loose parts

While they may not fall off immediately, collisions can loosen crucial components of your vehicle that may fly off while you’re driving. Check things like the front and back bumpers, as well as the axles. If these come loose and fly off while you’re driving, they can cause significant damage to either your car or others on the road.

Electrical issues

If the car seems okay after checking all of the above components, you can try turning it back on. If the engine sounds normal and everything is working well electrically, you should be okay to drive a short distance. 

Remember – you should only drive your vehicle a short distance with the airbags deployed, and only to your home or a mechanic. Make sure you are 100% comfortable before you decide to do so. If you have any doubts as to whether or not it’s safe, it may be best to just have the car towed.

Can I Cut Out Deployed Airbags?

If you can still drive your car after the airbags deploy, you might notice that it’s difficult to navigate the controls with the big, deflated airbags in your way. This is especially true for side-curtain airbags, which obscure your view through the windows. 

If you need to drive after your vehicle’s airbags have been deployed, you may want to cut them out. If you have a razor, pocket knife, or scissors somewhere in the car, cut out as much as you can before you get in and drive.

Airbags are no longer usable once they have been deployed. Since the airbags will already have to be removed by the mechanic, cutting them out enough to drive shouldn’t affect your insurance coverage.

If you are planning on driving your car to either your home or the mechanic, cutting the airbags out is your best option.

How Much Does It Cost to Replace Airbags?

Airbag replacement may cost anywhere between $1,000 to $6,000, depending on the type of airbags your car needs and how many need to be replaced. While the exact price per airbag replacement varies, you should expect to pay anywhere between $1,000 to $1,500 for each that needs to be replaced. 

Paying to replace airbags can be very expensive. Because of this, some insurance companies decide to declare a vehicle “totaled” instead of paying for the replacement.

Will Insurance Companies Cover Airbag Replacement?

Whether or not your insurance company will cover airbag replacement after a collision depends on several factors. Deciding factors include how much your car is valued at, whether or not you were at fault for the accident, and how many airbags need to be replaced. 

Airbag replacement is expensive. Due to this, insurance companies usually take into account the value and age of your car before deciding if they’ll cover replacement. If the price of replacement exceeds the estimated value of your car, the insurance company will usually declare it totaled instead. 

You have a better chance of the insurance company covering replacement if you were not at fault for the accident. Insurance companies are always more willing to help when the accident was caused by another person. There also may be stipulations in your policy that limit coverage to accidents caused by a third party.

It also depends on how many airbags need to be replaced. Since each airbag can cost over $1,000 to fix, insurance companies are more likely to cover the job if only 1-2 need to be replaced. If you need a new airbag for every spot in your vehicle, the insurance company may decide to total the car instead.

Why Does Airbag Replacement Cost So Much?

Although it may seem like a simple task to a layperson, airbag replacement requires a significant amount of work. In addition to replacing the airbags themselves, the following work is often necessary:

An airbag control module replacement, containing an impact sensor that cannot be used more than once

Seatbelt buckle and retractor replacement, because some are equipped with one-time-use pre-tensioners that tighten when the airbag deploys

An inspection of wiring and connectors to ensure nothing else has been damaged

Replacing an airbag is also often a difficult task for the person performing the repair. While replacing a driver’s side steering wheel airbag is relatively simple, other kinds of airbag replacement are very labor-intensive. 

What Are the Different Types of Airbags?

There are airbags located throughout a vehicle to ensure the safety of everyone inside. As of 1998, federal law requires that every new vehicle needs to have at least front, front-side, and side curtain airbags.  

Front airbags are typically installed in the steering wheel, as well as inside the dashboard on the passenger side. Front-facing airbags protect the driver and front seat passenger from any injuries that may be caused by hitting the steering wheel or dashboard. In some cases, cars may have front airbags underneath the dashboard to protect the driver and passenger from leg injuries.

The second most common type of airbag is side-front airbags. In the front seats, these are typically located inside the backrests of seats. In the back seats, they’re usually housed inside the side of the car itself right by the windows. Side-front airbags mainly protect the passengers’ upper bodies, preventing injuries to the torso in the event of a side collision. 

Curtain airbags are becoming more and more common, because they can protect passengers in both the front and back seats. Curtain airbags deploy from the ceiling right above the windows, protecting passengers from any injuries that may occur from hitting their head against the window. These mainly protect the upper body, including the head and neck. 

Why Are Some Airbags Harder to Replace Than Others?

Driver’s side steering wheel airbags deploy through a plastic cover that sits over the steering wheel. Because this doesn’t cause much damage to any of the car’s integral components, it’s generally pretty simple for mechanics to replace them. 

Passenger side front airbags also typically deploy through a plastic cover on the dashboard. However, due to their location, they sometimes rip through the dashboard and can affect the wiring and other components inside. Because of this, they typically require more inspection and therefore, more work to replace.

Since side airbags deploy through the front seats of the car, they have the potential to rip the seat material on the way out. If this happens, the seat cover will have to be replaced in addition to the airbag, making it a more labor-intensive process.

Curtain airbags in the front and back seats deploy from the ceiling. Because of this, they have a high chance of destroying the headliner, or the lining that covers the ceiling of the car. If a portion or all of the headliner needs to be replaced, it will add to the overall cost and time it takes to complete the job.

Final Thoughts

Driving a car with the airbags deployed may not be the most comfortable experience, but it is okay to do as long as there is no serious structural damage. Never drive a long distance with the airbags deployed, and only travel to the nearest mechanic or your home. 

Welcome to my car seat blog! As a mom of 3, I put together with other hard-working moms a highly informative one-stop car seat resource, full with many reviews and buyer guides. I hope you find it invaluable. Thank you for trusting me & my team! - Keren