Car Airbag – 5 eye-opening and effective things to know

Car airbag, how often do we think about it? Why is there an airbag in a car? How does a car airbag operate? Today, I will share the answers with you in this article.

The automobile industry has boomed a lot in terms of safety. The car manufacturers, as well as the government, are also focusing more on car safety. The advanced modern-day safety features not only make the vehicle safer for the driver and passengers but also other road users. 

A car airbag is a crucial safety feature. If periodic service of your car is never due, do you keep the working of the airbags under check? Are they in working condition? I will discuss 5 important things about car airbags in this article.

Brief history of Airbags

John Hetric, an industrial engineer with a Naval background in the 1950s, invented the car airbag. Unfortunately, he met with an accident while driving with his family. Even though his family was safe, John Hetric got the idea of a car airbag.

He thought of an “inflated bag” connected to compressed air tanks. During a collision, the gas releases into the bag with a spring acting as an actuator, inflating the car airbag. He even filed a US patent application for all the mechanisms and working of an “inflated bag” in 1952. The US government granted him the patent in 1953. 

In India, most car manufacturers did not even bother about airbags. From July 2019, a driver airbag became compulsory in all cars. But, from January 1, 2022, dual front airbags have become mandatory. Now some manufacturers like Hyundai are giving 6 airbags as standard in their vehicles.

What is a car airbag?

In short, a car airbag is a safety equipment that inflates in case of a collision. They are made of stretchable material, more likely nylon. A car airbag operates if you wear a seatbelt. Car airbag, also known as Supplementary Restraint System (SRS), is usually present in the dashboard, side of the interiors, and the steering wheel.

car airbag

During a collision, the airbags inflate quickly due to a chemical explosion. It provides cushioning, which reduces the fatalities of your body colliding with the car’s interiors. The whole airbag system activates through sensors during a collision. The sensors work brilliantly. They start neither on minor collisions, sudden braking on speed bumps, nor on a big pothole. 

The force with which a car airbag inflates is so high that it can break the windshield. Hence, a car airbag is not designed for children as it can harm them immensely. Not only children but also many adults have faced issues like hearing loss and injury to the eyes.

How does a car airbag work?

Let us understand the workings of a car airbag in 8 simple points.

  1. At the time of the collision, the car suddenly stops, which also means it loses speed immediately.
  2.  An electronic chip (accelerator) detects this deceleration or sudden speed change.
  3.  If the deceleration exceeds usual, the accelerator triggers the airbag circuit.
  4.  The circuit of the airbag passes current through a heating element. 
  5.  A chemical explosive is present inside the airbag, and this heating element triggers an explosion. 
  6.  This explosion generates a massive amount of harmless gas, which inflates the airbag. All this happens in around 55 milliseconds or the blink of an eye.
car airbag

7. as the bag inflates, the plastic cover is blown away, and the airbag expands in front of the driver. The force with which they expand is so strong that it can crack a windshield!

8. the driver moved forward with high force due to the collision. Hence, deflation starts immediately as the gas escapes through small holes at the edges. By the time the car stops, it deflates completely.

5 Important things to know about a car airbag.

After learning about the airbags and their working, here are 5 crucial points one should know as a responsible driver.

The demand for safe cars and advanced safety features in vehicles is rising. Car manufacturers spend a lot of money on the R&D of new safety features. Further research on different types of car airbags keeps going on to make their customers safer by the manufacturers.

1. Types of Airbags.

Usually, there are 4 types of car airbags –

Frontal Airbags

Frontal car airbag is present at the center of the steering and also in the dashboard of your vehicle. They protect you from a hit from behind and in front of the car.

Side Airbags

The side car airbags are in the side panels of the car’s interior. They inflate when the vehicle gets hit from the side. The inflation time is less as compared to the frontal airbags. This is because the distance between the colliding object and the driver/passenger is less.

Knee airbags

Knee airbags protect your knees. The knee car airbag is located in the dashboard’s lower section of the dashboard, on the driver’s side right below the steering column, and on the passenger side below the glove box.

Inflated seat belts

There is a connection between the seat belt and an airbag. It provides utmost safety in the event of a collision. R&D is going on for a seat belt that also act as a car airbag when in collision.

2. Car Airbag and Seat Belts function together more effectively.

Research and statistics have repeatedly shown that a car airbag works with a seatbelt. The seat belt across the shoulder and on the lap keeps you intact/in place during a collision. The seat belt retracts immediately after a crash, also known as the ELR Electronic Locking Retractor. Once the car airbag inflates, the system releases the ELR. Hence allowing you to hit the car airbag in the least unsafe position. 

Sometimes, the car airbag is only operational if you wear a seatbelt. 

Click on the button to read our article, 5 benefits of wearing a seatbelt. 

3. Make a habit of sitting 10 inches away from the steering wheel.

A car airbag deploys very forcefully in a blink of an eye. It can break the windshield. Hence, there is a safe distance between you and the steering wheel, which is 10 inches. Sitting too close to the steering wheel can be dangerous as the car airbag deploy at a very high speed..

Here are a few tips on adequately seating yourself to benefit from a car airbag.

  • Push the seat back to the point where your feet comfortably touch the pedals.
  •  Point the steering towards your chest rather than your face.
  •  Recline your seat back to get those 10 inches. It will give you more room and added space.

4. A car airbag is not designed for children.

A child should not drive a car. But, sometimes, a stubborn child always wants to sit in the front passenger seat of a vehicle. So this information is crucial for the parents. Parents should never allow their child below a certain age and weight to sit in the front seat.

The reason is that a car airbag deploys at a very high speed. The force with which it deploys can easily break a windshield. And you don’t want that force on your child. A car airbag can harm and injure your child and can even kill. 

If you have a child in the car, make them sit in the center back seat of the vehicle.  

5. Each Car Airbag is Good For Only One Accident

Car airbags, once deployed, cannot be used again. There is no way to pack them back again as they can operate for one time only, not for multiple times.

If you had an accident and the airbags were deployed, get a professional to install a new kit immediately.

Take your next due service date. Keep the airbags under check regularly. Ensure they are in working condition for your and your loved ones’ safety! 

Disadvantages of Airbags

After learning the advantages, I am responsible for letting you know some disadvantages. Airbags and car manufacturers should speed up and bring new innovative ideas to enhance car airbag safety.

Here are 3 disadvantages that I have listed for your knowledge.

1. Inflation Speed can Cause Severe Injuries.

Furthermore, severe injuries, as briefed earlier, can be caused if the car airbag deploys due to the high force with which a car airbag deploys. Significantly, the person sitting close to the steering wheel can face internal injuries, severe fractures, and even death.

2. Talcum Powder Release

Basically, the engineers use talcum powder to ease airbag deployment. The talcum powder makes the nylon fabric airbag come out from the steering wheel easily as well as quickly. 

The drawback is that talcum powder gets dispensed in the air when the airbag deploys. It can cause not only breathing issues but also skin irritation for some people.

It can be hazardous for people with asthma. Medical professionals believe that it can cause asthma attacks and other respiratory issues.

3. Fire or Explosion is possible.

Nitrogen is used in the car airbag deployment process. When it deploys, the airbag is filled with nitrogen, a highly flammable gas. The car airbag mechanism allows it to deflate after a collision, filling the cabin with nitrogen. 

The fumes are generated due to the collision combined with nitrogen, which can lead to an explosion or fire. Though it happens rarely, try to get out of the vehicle ASAP. 

Final Words

In the end, safety does come at a cost. Drive carefully and safely. Take all kinds of precautions and safety measures to avoid accidents or mishaps. Obey the traffic rules and keep yourself and your family safe because “prevention is better than cure.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *