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How Often Should You Check Your Car’s Airbags?

By Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S. on July 29, 2020

Seeing your mechanic for regular tune-ups can mean the difference between life and death in a car accident. But many drivers simply focus on oil changes and new tires. What about safety features, such as airbags? These invaluable devices can be the key to preventing a severe or fatal head injury, but only if properly installed and maintained.

What Makes Airbags So Important?

Frontal airbags saved over 50,000 lives from 1987 to 2017, as reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). They can significantly reduce the risk of your upper body or head striking the interior of the vehicle in a crash. When a moderate to severe collision occurs, a signal from the electronic control unit of the airbag system is sent to an inflator in the airbag. A chemical reaction is started by an igniter in the inflator as the igniter produces a harmless gas, inflating the airbag in less than 1/20 of a second. This creates a cushion for your head and upper body when thrown forward in a crash.

Side Airbags and Auto Accidents

Side airbags are designed to inflate in a side-impact collision to prevent vehicle occupants’ heads and chests from hitting intruding parts of the vehicle’s frame, the other vehicle, or an object such as a pole or a tree branch. A side airbag may be the only thing between a person’s head and the vehicle that T-boned them, as window glass shatters inward during a crash.

Side airbags must deploy very quickly—within the first 10 to 20 milliseconds after the crash, because of the small spaces that exist between occupants and the sides of vehicles. Collisions with narrow objects, such as trees or telephone poles, can cause side airbags to deploy at speeds as low as eight miles per hour. In cases of more widely distributed side-impact collisions, they can deploy at 18 miles per hour.

In addition to checking your car’s primary airbags for drivers and front passengers, it is important to review the safety features of your side airbags to prevent against passenger injuries.

Replacing Your Airbags after an Accident

General practice suggests you should inspect your airbag system every 10 years from the manufacture date of the vehicle and every two years thereafter. If you are buying a used vehicle, get a pre-purchase vehicle inspection performed by a skilled mechanic, with particular attention to the airbags. A faulty auto part or improperly installed airbag may not deploy properly, leading to a catastrophic head injury and potentially death.

In addition, after an accident, you should have them completely replaced as airbags can only deploy once. This should be done at an authorized repair center before you drive your vehicle again, otherwise, you may be a victim of an airbag scam. Unscrupulous mechanics sometimes pocket the cost of high-quality airbags and install inferior, inexpensive airbags or no airbags at all. To ensure this doesn’t happen to you:

  • Ask to see the repair shop’s invoice for the new airbag to ensure it was purchased directly from the manufacturer.
  • Ask the mechanic to let you inspect the new airbag before it is installed in your vehicle to ensure it is in a sealed package from the manufacturer.

Airbag safety is key to preventing catastrophic injuries during a crash and improper maintenance by a repair shop can be grounds for a claim against them.

Injured by an Airbag?

If you have been injured in a car crash, or an airbag failed to deploy or injured you, contact Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S., to schedule a free consultation. We can review your case and determine what type of claim you can file, whether it is a car accident claim against an at-fault driver or a product liability claim against a negligent manufacturer or repair shop. We resolve more than 90% of our cases without a lawsuit, but will not hesitate to go to trial if necessary to recover the compensation you deserve. Call us at (425) 228-3860 or toll-free at (888) 228-3860 to speak to an experienced legal team.

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