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Why Did My Airbags Not Deploy?

Why Did My Airbags Not Deploy?

Airbags are a critical safety feature in modern vehicles, designed to deploy in the event of a collision to mitigate the risk of injury to occupants. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that “frontal airbags have saved more than 50,000 lives over a 30-year period,” having been standard equipment in all passenger vehicles since the late 1990s.

However, there are instances where airbags may fail to deploy, leaving drivers and passengers vulnerable to greater harm when involved in a vehicle collision.

In this post, we delve into the various factors that can contribute to airbag non-deployment, shedding light on why it might occur and what steps you can take to ensure your safety on the road.

The Importance of Airbags

Before we delve into the reasons behind airbag non-deployment, let’s first understand why airbags are crucial in the first place. Airbags serve as a supplemental restraint system, working in conjunction with seat belts to provide an additional layer of protection during a collision.

We all know that airbags are a crucial safety feature in modern vehicles, designed to deploy rapidly in the event of a collision to protect occupants from serious injury or fatality. But how exactly do these inflatable cushions work?

Let’s take a look at a working airbag, step by step:

Sensor Detection

The deployment of an airbag begins with the detection of a collision. Modern vehicles are equipped with a network of sensors strategically placed throughout the car.

These sensors continuously monitor various parameters such as vehicle speed, acceleration, and deceleration. When a collision occurs, the sensors detect the sudden change in velocity and trigger the deployment of the airbags.

Rapid Inflation

Once the sensors detect a collision, a signal is sent to the airbag module, initiating the deployment sequence.

Within milliseconds, an igniter within the airbag module ignites a propellant, usually sodium azide or potassium nitrate. This chemical reaction produces a rapid burst of gas, inflating the airbag in 20 to 100 milliseconds (about 200 miles per hour).

Cushioning Effect

As the airbag inflates, it serves as a cushioning barrier between the occupants of the vehicle and the hard surfaces within the car, such as the steering wheel, dashboard, or windshield.

By absorbing the energy of the collision and distributing it more evenly across the body, the airbag helps to reduce the risk of serious head, neck, and chest injuries.

Controlled Deflation

After deployment, the airbag begins to deflate almost immediately. This controlled deflation is essential for preventing rebound injuries and allowing occupants to exit the vehicle safely after a collision.

Most airbags are designed to deflate within a fraction of a second after deployment, ensuring that they do not hinder the escape of occupants or impede the effectiveness of other safety systems such as seat belts.

Common Causes of Airbag Non-Deployment

  • Sensor malfunction: One of the primary reasons why airbags may fail to deploy is sensor malfunction. Modern vehicles are equipped with a network of sensors designed to detect various parameters such as vehicle speed, impact force, and seat occupancy. If any of these sensors malfunction or fail to accurately detect a collision, it can result in the airbags not deploying when needed most.
  • Electrical issues: Another common cause of airbag non-deployment is electrical issues within the vehicle. Like any other electrical component, the airbag system relies on a stable electrical supply to function properly. If there are faults in the electrical system, such as a blown fuse or a wiring problem, it can prevent the airbags from deploying as intended.
  • Defective components: In some cases, airbag non-deployment can be attributed to defective components within the airbag system itself. This could include faulty inflators, defective airbag modules, or issues with the deployment mechanism. Manufacturers are responsible for ensuring the quality and reliability of these components, but defects can still occur, leading to potentially dangerous situations for vehicle occupants.

Vehicle-Specific Factors

Aside from these common causes, there are also vehicle-specific factors that can influence airbag deployment. These include:

  • Vehicle type: Different types of vehicles may have varying airbag deployment criteria based on factors such as size, weight, and structural design. For example, larger vehicles like SUVs may have different deployment thresholds compared to smaller passenger cars.
  • Age and condition: The age and condition of a vehicle can also impact airbag deployment. Older vehicles may have outdated airbag systems that are less effective at detecting and responding to collisions. Additionally, wear and tear over time can affect the overall reliability of the airbag system.

Steps To Ensure Airbag Deployment

While airbag non-deployment can occur due to a variety of factors, there are three steps that you can take to help ensure that your airbags function properly when needed:

  1. Regular maintenance: Regular maintenance is crucial for ensuring the proper functioning of the airbag system. This includes following the manufacturer’s recommended service schedule, addressing any warning lights or diagnostic trouble codes related to the airbag system promptly, and resetting the airbag module.
  2. Stay informed: Stay informed about any recalls or safety notices related to your vehicle’s airbag system. Manufacturers may issue recalls to address known defects or issues that could affect airbag deployment. Keeping up to date with these notices can help you take proactive measures to address potential problems.
  3. Avoid modifications: Avoid making unauthorized modifications to your vehicle, especially to components related to the airbag system. Modifications such as aftermarket steering wheels or seats can interfere with the proper deployment of airbags, compromising safety in the event of a collision.

Airbag non-deployment can occur for a variety of reasons, including sensor malfunction, electrical issues, and defective components.

Vehicle-specific factors such as vehicle type and age can also influence airbag deployment.

By staying informed, conducting regular maintenance, and avoiding unauthorized modifications, you can help ensure that their airbags function properly when needed, enhancing safety for yourself and your passengers while on the road. And in the unfortunate event that you are involved in a car accident where your airbags don’t deploy, our attorneys at GDH Law are here to help.

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