back to articles | July 28, 2022 | Anne Ahumada

Categories: Useful Automotive Information

How to Check if Your Car’s Airbag is Defective and What to Do About It

Here’s what you need to know about your car’s airbag system, how to check for defects, and what to do in order to ensure safety for you and your loved ones.


Airbags, together with seatbelts, are the primary safety features of any road vehicle. No matter how unlikely you are to experience a collision, it's important to assess your car's airbag functionality to immediately resolve issues before they take a toll on your life. If found to be defective, airbags can lose lives instead of saving them.

Prospective and current car owners would do well to routinely check airbag functions and be informed of product recalls. For example, there have been recent reports of defective airbags in GM vehicles caused by faulty switches. If such airbags were checked earlier, road accidents and injuries would not have occurred. You can browse this website to read more about the resulting lawsuit if this case piques your interest.

Car owners need to know how to identify and deal with faulty airbags to prevent unfortunate accidents and tragic losses. In this article, we've narrowed down some tips on how to check your car's airbag sensors and promptly deal with defective ones.

How Do Airbags Work?

An airbag works by slowing a passenger’s motion within a span of a few milliseconds as they hurtle forward during a collision. An airbag, known technically as a supplementary restraint system (SRS), is designed to inflate when the vehicle slows down during an accident and deflate once all vehicular motion has completely stopped.

Airbags work with your vehicle through sensors. The sensors in the front of your vehicle send electric signals that trigger a chemical reaction and release the nitrogen gas needed to inflate the airbag. Sensors are particularly critical since they signal a crash and execute the deployment of an airbag.

Studies have shown that airbags helped reduce road fatalities due to head-on collisions by 23-24 percent. But while airbags have been proven effective, you should not solely rely on them as a safety precaution. Airbags are meant to work with other safety measures such as seatbelts to provide enough protection.

How to Check Your Airbag System

When assessing your vehicle’s airbag system, you should bear in mind some common airbag problems. One of these is the potential to smother when the inflated airbag causes too much pressure that drivers suffocate. There is also the problem of facial, back, and neck injuries, which can be caused by airbags inflating directly onto your face due to a maladjusted steering wheel. If you want to assess the airbag system of your car without having to simulate an accident, here’s how to do it.

Check the Icons and Indicators

Most contemporary car models have an icon indicating the presence of an airbag. During the pre-ignition stage, turn your car’s ignition key and pause to test your airbag’s indicator light. All indicator lights should go on, including the airbag icon which should turn off after a few seconds. If the light flashes or stays on, you might need to take your vehicle to a professional to address potential malfunctions.

Check Your Car’s Dashboard

If you’re buying or driving a secondhand car, you should inspect it for signs of prior airbag deployment. Cars that have deployed airbags before need to be replaced after every use. If the airbag cover looks suspiciously more furnished than the rest of the car, there’s a chance that its airbag has not been replaced.

Gather the Right Info

Of course, you can always ask your seller for information about your vehicle’s airbag system. They can provide you with information regarding the testing of components such as airbags. When buying a used car, make sure to gather details such as the vehicle's comprehensive accident history.

You can also check for your car's Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to gather pertinent information. Once you’ve acquired the VIN, you can use the manufacturer’s website or designated government sites to check for information on testing, inspection, and recalls.

What to Do with a Faulty Airbag Sensor

Sensor malfunctions are the primary culprit for dysfunctional airbags. The reasons for faulty sensors include exhausted batteries, broken clock springs, and damaged modules due to wiring damage. While you can DIY fixes such as resetting airbag sensors, it’s strongly recommended to let the professionals handle the job. If you think that your airbag sensors may be damaged, a professional can quickly and properly install replacement parts. To prevent further issues down the road, invest in routine maintenance activities to ensure that your car's airbag system is working as intended.

Stay Up to Speed on Your Safety

Accidents are bound to happen anytime, which is why we spend money on precautionary measures such as auto insurance to prevent our loved ones from shouldering heavy burdens. While ultimate road safety is never guaranteed, staying aware of your car’s inner workings and driving responsibly can save lives other than your own.