The airbags in your car are one of those things you probably take for granted. We all know that these devices are there, but most of us (thankfully) never have to worry too much about them. That’s because it takes a pretty solid hit to trigger these things, so only a serious collision will cause them to deploy. For those of you who are dealing with post-accident repairs, you might be wondering: Can I fix those airbags and re-use them?
Can Air Airbag Be Fixed After An Accident?
The short and obvious answer to this question is no. It is not recommended or advisable to re-use the same airbag more than once. This is true for several reasons, some of which are inherent to the design of an airbag.
An airbag is essentially just an inflatable cushion that deploys at high speed. As such, its main purpose is to provide impact padding for a human body. However, there are a couple of things that control the deployment of these cushions.
Reason One: Ruptures Will Prevent Inflation
Like any other inflatable device, an airbag must be free of holes and ruptures. Because of the rough and abrasive way in which these bags are deployed, they tend to take a little damage when a crash occurs. In fact, this is their primary purpose: To absorb the damage that would normally be inflicted on the person within the car.
If a rupture occurs, or if the airbag has even the slightest leak, the bag will not inflate properly. However, it gets a lot worse than that. Last year, Honda found that 16 people died as a result of airbag ruptures caused by a faulty initiator.
In some of the more extreme cases, the control unit itself ruptured. This not only kept the airbag from inflating, but also send shards of jagged metal debris into the driver’s face. Obviously, you do not want this to happen to you.
Reason Two: Airbags Use An Explosive Charge
So, have you ever wondered what causes the airbags to shoot out from the dash so quickly? The answer is a little bit surprising, and it may even disturb you. When an impact occurs, an electrical signal is sent to the airbag control unit. This control unit then uses that electrical signal to detonate a small explosive charge.
In case you’re wondering, the explosive in question is called sodium azide. Once it is ignited, it will quickly decompose. Once this detonation/decomposition occurs, a lot of nitrogen gas will be produced. This nitrogen gas inflates the airbag, creating the fast-inflating effect that is needed for a device of this type.
As you might guess, that charge of sodium azide will only work once. That’s the problem with explosive-actuated devices…they have to be replaced with each use. Thus, there is no way that your airbag will work a second time until that sodium azide charge has been re-installed. This must be done by a professional for several reasons.
Reason Three: Sensors And Control Units Can Fail
As we mentioned earlier, airbags are deployed through the use of an electronic control unit. This control unit is connected to several impact sensors, which are distributed in strategic locations around the vehicle. There are usually two of these sensors: One inside the engine and one near the passenger seating area.
As you might imagine, these sensors, and the control units to which they are attached, can fail. Since your life may literally depend on the proper functioning of these devices, they need to at least be checked before another airbag is installed.
For an example of how bad these failures can be, let’s look at this news report from last year. It seems that the U.S. Government is (or was) investigating a large number of deaths caused by faulty airbags. More importantly, they said that most of these deaths were caused by a defective control unit.
Costs Of Replacing An Airbag
So, now that you know about the need to replace your airbags after every deployment, you might be asking yourself: How much money will that cost? Unfortunately, we don’t have any good news for you in this department.
On average, an airbag replacement will cost $1,000-$6,000. That’s a big spectrum, and your position in that spectrum will depend on several things. These determining factors include the make and model of your car, which and how many airbags were deployed, and which parts need to be replaced.
Some people are under the impression that insurance companies will declare any car to be a “total loss” if the airbags have been deployed. Although this sometimes does happen, it’s not as simple as some would have you believe. In any case, your insurance company will write the car off as a “total loss” is the costs of repair are higher than the value of the vehicle itself. Because airbag jobs tend to be expensive, older and less-valuable cars may be declared a total loss for this reason.
Can I Fix My Airbags Myself?
No, absolutely not. Because of the complex electronics involved, and because airbags use an explosive charge for their initiation, it is just too dangerous to do this job yourself. In fact, they probably won’t even sell you sodium azide without some kind of license or approval process, as it is highly dangerous.
Even if it weren’t for the dangers of sodium azide, we would never recommend that you do this kind of job without the help of a professional. Your life may depend on this job at some point, and that peace of mind is well worth the cost of replacement.
As you can see, airbags are meant to be single-use items. The title of this article posed a simple question, but the answer is not all that simple. We hope that we have done a good job of explaining this subject and that you will fill out the contact form below to receive more of our expert advice.