A car’s airbags, along with its seatbelts, save thousands of lives every single year. As such, it’s important to make sure your airbags are fully functional every time you drive your car! It needs to be in perfect working condition so it can deploy as designed to protect you in the event of a collision.
How An Airbag Works
The airbag itself is a thin nylon fabric that’s folded into the steering wheel, seat, or door. The airbag sensor triggers bag inflation when a collision occurs—a minimum of running at a brick wall at 10 to 15 mph. The inflation system produces nitrogen gas to inflate the airbag.
When a collision occurs, this system should deploy within a fraction of a second to slow a passenger’s forward motion.
Airbag Sensor Maintenance
Your airbag sensor detects rapid deceleration of your vehicle. It then communicates the force of the collision to the airbag control system to trigger deployment.
Airbag sensors are usually placed in multiple places within a vehicle—inside the engine, seating area, and other locations. Your airbag’s control system tests the sensor circuit every time you start your engine. If the sensor has malfunctioned in any way, your airbag will not deploy properly!
One of the first signs of a malfunctioning airbag sensor is when your airbag light turns on for no apparent reason. Many drivers ignore this and go about their day—but it is a considerable risk that no one should take. Any aberration, no matter how small, can lead to your airbag failing to engage.
All drivers need to be aware of the following signs of a malfunctioning airbag sensor:
1. Flashing Airbag Light
If your airbag light is flashing on your dashboard, this means your airbag has been disabled. The warning light flashes in a specific pattern to indicate a troubleshooting code, and you can check your manual for what the code stands for.
2. Worn Airbag Module
Airbag modules degrade over time. If it’s exposed to light moisture or flood damage, the module will corrode, and the entire system will short circuit.
If your airbag module is worn, you need to get it replaced immediately.
3. Damaged Airbag Clock Spring
Airbag clock springs wind around the steering wheel and connect to the airbag system’s electric wiring. These springs also wear out over time, leading your airbag sensor to indicate that an error has occurred.
You will need to seek out an auto repair specialist’s help to diagnose a clock spring problem. If damage in the spring is confirmed, immediate replacement needs to be done.
4. Depleted Battery
If you left your headlights on overnight and you woke up to a drained car battery, chances are your backup airbag battery has been depleted as well. Recharging your car battery should help with this problem—but if your airbag lights are still flashing, there may be another malfunction somewhere in your control system.
Airbags are crucial for driver and passenger safety in the event of a collision. An intricate electrical system controls your airbag sensors and deployment, so any slight anomaly can lead to your airbag lights to start flashing. It’s important not to ignore this warning and immediately seek an auto repair professional to help you put your airbag system to rights.
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