Thu. Jan 21st, 2021
Understanding Car Safety

Understanding Car Safety: How Do Airbags Work?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, airbags have saved 50,457 lives from 1987 to 2017. That’s enough people to fill a major league baseball park!

Have you ever asked yourself, “How do airbags work?” Most people take their car airbags for granted, but the science behind them is actually quite interesting! Here are a few fun facts you can share with your family and friends.

Inflating on Impact

The purpose of car airbags is to protect your head and neck during a collision. They work by inflating the moment a vehicle starts to slow down after it hits something and deflating as soon as the person’s head makes contact with them.

It’s important for the bag to deflate right away, or the person’s head would bounce off it, snapping back and causing damage.

The Science Behind It

How do airbags activate? Let’s take a look!

Airbags include an accelerometer, which is a device that detects changes in speed. If it detects that a vehicle is decelerating at a rate above a preset speed (which is the average braking speed) it will trigger the airbag circuit.

When this happens, the circuit releases a small electrical current. This current travels into a heating element which then ignites a chemical explosion. The result is a huge rush of harmless gas rushing into a nylon bag.

The airbag is located inside the steering wheel and in the passenger-side dashboard. Some vehicles also have side-impact airbags. When the air rushes in, the bag rapidly inflates, lessening the impact on the driver’s and passenger’s head and neck.

As soon as the head comes into contact with the bag, the air begins to rush out through small holes located around the edges of the bag. If the bag works properly, it should be completely deflated by the time the vehicle comes to a complete stop.

Common Problems

You count on your airbag to protect you and your passengers, however, there are some reasons why an airbag might not deploy. Some common issues include:

  • Certain types of collisions – airbags might not deploy in rollover collisions or during side or rear impact crashes
  • Defective airbag sensors – this could be a design flaw, software, or calibration issues
  • Defective electrical components – this could be due to faulty clock springs in the steering column, defective wiring, or other electrical issues
  • Severed wiring – sometimes, during a crash, the wires can be severed, causing the airbag to fail
  • Airbag module defects – this is typically due to a manufacturing or design defect

If you’ve been in a collision and your airbags didn’t deploy, it’s in your interest to find out why not and possibly pursue a lawsuit against the liable party.

As a safety precaution, it’s also a good idea to occasionally visit a mechanic who knows how to check if airbags are working.

How Do Airbags Work? Now You Know!

Now you know the answer to the question: “How do airbags work?” Don’t you feel smarter already? Next time you’re in the car with someone you want to impress, you can share this newfound knowledge!

Don’t go away quite yet. We’ve got many more interesting articles about all things vehicle-related. Scroll through a few more of our posts now!