If you’ve experienced an automobile accident, chances are you and your passengers have come face to face with a deployed airbag. As traumatic as hitting an airbag is, parents everywhere know that they keep our children and us safe during auto accidents.

You may think that airbags only deploy in serious accidents, but that’s not the case. Airbags can deploy for any impact over eight mph, accidents which some may consider fender benders. 

If your airbags have deployed, but your car seems driveable, you may be wondering if you can remove the airbags to get yourself and the kids back on the road.

In general, you should not remove or replace your vehicle’s airbags. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration strongly recommends only authorized repair centers complete removal and replacement.

A car is no longer safe to drive with deployed airbags, and removal requires working with the vehicle’s complex electrical and safety system – long story short, it’s not safe for anyone other than a mechanic to remove or replace airbags.

What Do You Do If Your Airbags Deploy?

Before considering the removal of airbags, you need to know how to handle the situation they do deploy. Follow these steps to address deployed airbags in your vehicle safely:

1. Pull Over and Turn Off The Car

In many cases, newer vehicles automatically turn off the engine if airbags have deployed. However, if your car does not, you must pull out of traffic and turn off your vehicle.

Turning off the engine reduces the risk of fire from engine fuel leaks since leaks are more likely if airbags have deployed.

2. Exit the Vehicle and Assess Injuries

If you have not exited the vehicle and are able to, do so, but stay nearby until emergency services arrive. Take account of any injuries or damages to yourself and others involved in the accident while you wait for emergency services.

3. Call 911

If you’ve been in an accident, even if you think it is minor, call 911. You’ll want a police report filed and accident information recorded for insurance and medical purposes. Once you have assessed all injuries and damages to yourself, only then should you think about your car. 

What Do You Do If Your Airbags Deploy
An accident safety airbags deployed during the car accident

Can You Still Drive The Car If Airbags Deployed?

If you’ve walked away from an accident with nothing more than a sore neck and a scratched car, you may think you can drive off with the airbags deployed. Even if you plan to drive straight to a mechanic, you should never drive a vehicle with deployed airbags.

Your vehicle is no longer safe to drive, and until the mechanic resets the airbag system and new airbags are in place, your car’s electrical and safety system will not work correctly.

In addition, driving a vehicle with deployed airbags puts you and your family at risk of severe injury or death in the case of another crash.

Can You Fix and Reuse Deployed Airbags?

Replacing a deployed airbag isn’t cheap, but there isn’t a situation where you can fix the deployed airbagHowever, even. In fact, in most states, it is illegal to reinstall deployed airbags into a vehicle. So if a vehicle’s airbag has been deployed, you must replace it. 

Why Don’t Airbags Always Deploy In an Accident?

If you’ve been in an accident and your airbags didn’t deploy, you may think the accident isn’t that big of a deal. Or, you may have injuries from the accident, but your airbags didn’t deploy.

Unfortunately, both situations happen more often than you may think. There are three reasons why your airbags may not have deployed during your accident:

1. Airbag Programming

In most cases, an airbag won’t deploy if its programming requirements are unmet. For example, if your airbag system detects a moderate crash, it may not deploy the airbag because the seatbelt is enough protection.

Or, if your airbag system detects a small-stature passenger in the front seat, like a child, it won’t deploy to prevent the risk of airbag-caused injury or death.

2. Faulty Airbag

If your airbag did not deploy during an accident where you or your family sustained injuries, you might have a faulty airbag. Wiring damage, corrosion of airbag connections, and incorrect installation can result in airbag failure. 

3. Missing Airbag

If you drive a used vehicle, there is a chance your airbag didn’t deploy because the previous owner never replaced it after an earlier accident. It’s essential to verify that your used vehicle has a safety report and records on any accidents and resulting repairs for you to check before purchasing a used vehicle.

Dealerships legally have to include airbags in a used sale, but if you bought the car off the street, it might not comply with all auto laws.

Is It Dangerous To Remove Deployed Airbags?

If you’re worried about the price of replacing an airbag and want to cut costs by doing it yourself, think again. Working with the airbag system of a vehicle requires knowledge of your car’s electrical and safety components.

It exposes you to explosives and wiring that can put you at risk for injury. Mechanics have the training to handle these components safely. 

Additionally, you need to remember the function of the airbag: safety. Improperly installed or cheaply installed airbags may not provide the proper safety you and your family need to stay safe during a car crash. 

Can You Remove Deployed Airbags Without A Mechanic?

In general, you should not attempt to cut out your deployed airbags or remove them by any other means yourself. The best and safest solution in this situation is to have your vehicle towed to a certified mechanic for repairs.

Keep in mind that the NHSTA recommends only allowing authorized repair shops to do the work and some vehicle warranties and state laws require professional airbag removal and replacement.

How Are Deployed Airbags Removed and Replaced?

Removing deployed airbags is relatively straightforward to a trained mechanic, but it can seem like a complex project to a bystander. This is because the airbag system of a vehicle works closely with electrical systems and explosives that trigger the release of the airbag.

The intensity of the project depends on how many and which airbags are deployed in the car.

Removing Driverside Airbags

The driverside airbag resides in the steering wheel of your vehicle. Mechanics will disconnect the battery before beginning any work. To remove the deployed airbag, the mechanic will remove the airbag mounting bolts on the steering wheel to expose the wiring system of the airbag.

The mechanic then pulls the deployed airbag from the wiring connections. After the mechanic inspects the wiring and mounting components for damage or corrosion, they’ll attach a new airbag to the wiring components and reinstall the steering wheel. 

Removing Passenger Airbags

When removing side airbags, a mechanic will follow the same steps as a steering wheel airbag replacement. The mechanic must disconnect the battery and the airbag system reset to allow for proper replacement.

The passenger airbag resides behind the glove box, so your dashboard may require removal for proper replacement depending on the vehicle. 

Removing Side Airbags

Newer cars come with side airbags for additional protection. If your vehicle includes side airbags, replacement begins with the disconnection of the battery, just like every other airbag replacement.

Note that side airbag replacement generally requires the removal of interior car panels to allow access to the connectors and wiring for the airbag unit. 

Does The Passenger Airbag Always Need Replacing After An Accident?

Plenty of car owners wonder if an undeployed passenger airbag needs replacing after an accident. The answer is no. If you did not have a passenger in the front seat and the airbag did not deploy, you may not need to have the airbag replaced.

However, if injuries were sustained in the crash by a passenger and the passenger airbag did not deploy, you have a faulty airbag that needs replacing by a mechanic and reported to the NHSTA.

How Long Do Airbag Replacements Take?

Not having a vehicle throws a wrench into every parents’ life. If your car requires airbag replacement, you probably want to know how long it will take to get it done so you can have your vehicle back on the road. Like most automobile repair situations, the answer is, “it depends.”

Bear in mind that your auto insurance plays a role in how long it takes to get your airbags replaced. They may require you to get an estimate on repairs before covering any work.

Additionally, you might have to use a specific mechanic to get the repairs covered by your insurance, and you’ll have to comply with that mechanic’s schedule to get the work done.

However, once your car is in the mechanic shop, you can expect your airbag replacement to take at least a few hours, and that’s only for the airbags. Keep in mind that if your airbags are deployed, you might have additional damages that need addressing on your vehicle, like body repairs or seatbelt replacement.

However, in most cases, you can piecemeal out repairs so that only the essentials are taken care of at the earliest available appointment. For example, you can prioritize airbag and seatbelt replacement and always schedule paint and dent repair later.

How Much Do Airbag Replacements Cost?

The average cost for airbag replacement is about $1,500 per airbag. The total cost of your airbag replacement project will depend on the number of airbags deployed, the mechanic fees, and your auto insurance coverage.

Most auto insurances cover airbag replacement, but only after you meet your deductible. If you know your deductible is $1,800, that’s what you’ll have to pay before your insurance covers the rest of the repairs.

Additionally, keep in mind that your vehicle make and model can impact the cost and time of airbag replacement. For example, minivans and trucks tend to have more airbags than cars, so a replacement can cost more for those vehicles.

A Final Reminder On Airbag Removal

When it comes to safety on the road, your vehicle’s airbag plays an essential role. You should never compromise your vehicle’s security so that by attempting to remove or replace deployed airbags on your own.

Always work with a reputable mechanic to have your airbags remove and replaced to ensure your vehicle remains safe and secure for you and your loved ones.

Author

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