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Oct 30, 2014

How to Know if Your Airbags Are Working

Posted By in Maintenance Tips | No Comments »

Making sure that your airbags are working is an important part of regular car checkups. It will help you feel safer and more confident driving your car to know that you’ll be protected in the event of a serious accident.

Air Bag Diagnostic Test

The most common way to perform an airbag check is to use your car’s built in airbag diagnostic test. Most cars now feature systems which can perform a variety of checks to ensure that all relevant systems are working correctly. Check your car’s manual to see how to perform this check on your vehicle.

If the system detects an error, it will let you know what the problem is by flashing the airbag indicator light. The diagnostic codes are double digit numbers which are displayed by flashing the light, pausing to indicate the second digit, and flashing the light again.

For example, two flashes followed by a pause and then four more flashes would refer to diagnostic code 24 which means that the output feed is open.

There are up to 53 diagnostic codes depending on the make and model of your car. Some common codes include:

12 = low battery voltage
13 = airbag circuit grounded or shorted
14 = primary crash sensor circuit grounded or shorted
21 = airbag is not mounted correctly
32-25 = problems related to the airbag on the driver or passenger sides
41-45 = error in primary sensors

After using your airbag diagnostic you will need to reset the airbag light. You can ask a professional to do this, but it isn’t terribly hard to do it yourself.

To begin, loosen the retaining nut on the negative cable wire and remove the clamp from the negative terminal of your battery. Wait a few seconds before reconnecting. Make sure the retaining nut is tight and then turn on the ignition and check that your airbag light has been reset.

There are several reasons why an airbag may not deploy during an accident, and it doesn’t necessarily mean there is something wrong with your car.

Airbags are not designed to go off at the slightest bump, as studies have shown that airbags which deploy when they are not needed often pose a greater risk to the driver and passengers than the accident itself. The most common reasons for airbags not to deploy are:

  • Not hitting the speed threshold required to trigger them
  • Not triggering passenger sensors that let the car know someone is sitting in that seat
  • The accident not occurring in a direction associated with those airbag. For example, front airbags will not deploy for side impacts or rollovers

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