Why Your Shop Should Worry About Faulty Airbags

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Why Your Shop Should Worry About Faulty Airbags

Faulty inflators are fueling concern for airbag service safety. According to reports, this includes approximately 34 million vehicles in the U.S. and over 85 million individual airbags, when we consider steering wheel, passenger and side airbags.

Shop precautions are critical to avoid accidental airbag deployment on any airbag-equipped vehicle when shop services are being performed. (On page 52 of this issue, we’ve provided information regarding airbag deactivation procedure examples.)

The important thing to remember is that we simply can’t ignore the potential risks involving accidental airbag deployment. Just as we take precautions when dealing with vehicle lift safety and exposed fuel or fuel vapors, we need to be acutely aware of the potential dangers when dealing with airbag systems.

Apparently, the problem with Takata airbags is two-fold. In some reported cases, Takata airbags have deployed “without cause,” such as when a person opens the passenger door, when cruising without hitting an object, etc. The other issue involves metal fragments/shards resulting from the pyrotechnic unit exploding apart, either during a “no cause” airbag deployment or as a result of a collision, where the airbag is intended to activate.

Reports indicate the problem seems to be caused by a lack of desiccant (drying agent) in the charge canister’s ammonium nitrate-based propellant, which can cause the chemical to become unstable. Apparently, the level of humidity in the air contributes to this danger. It seems as though more attention (in terms of recall priority) affects vehicles that are operated in high-humidity areas. If the chemical reaction ignites with enough force, the metal cartridge that contains the propellant may rupture, resulting in pieces of metal and plastic acting as projectiles, ripping through the airbag, into the passenger compartment area with excessive force.

The list of potentially affected vehicles may increase as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigations continue. See for a list of makes, models and model years.

Share your war stories

Our upcoming December issue will feature our annual “Techs Helping Techs” section. We invite all of our readers to send tech tips that they’d like to share. This includes any repair procedures you’ve handled that would aid other technicians in figuring out puzzles in terms of diagnostics. Your published tech tips will be credited with your name and your shop’s name. Send your tips to by Nov. 1, 2017.    ■

Sorry to see Jacques leave

Our long-time friend and acclaimed technical contributor Jacques Gordon is retiring. Jacques, a true professional, has done an outstanding job for ASP, and his in-depth articles have provided a wealth of useful information for our readers. While I wasn’t exactly thrilled to hear of his decision to stop writing, I understand his motive — to spend more time with his family and his hobbies. His expertise will be sorely missed, and we wish him well. Although it’s hard to fill his shoes, we will be debuting a new highly qualified writer in our next issue.

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