How do Airbags Work

Ever wondered how do airbags work?

Then you’re in the right spot, because airbags are an essential safety feature of modern day cars and have proven to save thousands of lives over the years

According to information published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2017, over 50,000 lives have been saved by frontal airbags. 

Though this news is great and an excellent reason for ensuring your vehicle is equipped with the best airbag designs possible, there is still a number of different things that you should know about these devices. 

One of the most essential is learning everything that you can about the following topics. 

What are airbags? 

Airbags can be described as passive restraints that have been installed in vehicles all over the U.S. and abroad. 

Dissimilar from the functionality of the seat belt that requires everyone to manually bulk up, airbags are designed with automated activation instead.  

Simply put, these devices are designed to deploy whenever a vehicle senses the possibility of a collision. 

They are made out of nylon and, upon impact, are inflated with either nitrogen or argon gas.

How do airbags work?

Before you buy any vehicle today, it is very important that you know exactly how your airbags work.

Fortunately, there is a wide range of information about vehicle airbags and their overall features. 

So, let’s get started by discussing its components.

1. The airbags in your vehicle are made of 3 separate components and they are listed below.

  • control module
  • at least one airbag
  • multiple sensors

Each of these components has been designed in a specific manner so that they can work efficiently and effectively whenever a collision occurs.   

Here is what happens, when your vehicle hits another object (i.e. others vehicles, a light pole, stop sign or etc.). 

  1. When your vehicle hits something while you are driving on the city streets or highway, it will begin to lose speed (decelerate) very rapidly.
  2. An electronic chip that is called an accelerator will detect the reduction or swift changes in your vehicle’s speed.
  3. If the reduction in speed is huge or significant enough, the accelerometer in your vehicle will trigger the airbag’s circuit. 
  4. Once the airbag circuit has been triggered, it will then pass an electric current via its heating element. Most manufactures may describe this process as something like the wires in a toaster.
  5. This heating element inside of these components will ignite a specially designed chemical explosive. (If you have an older vehicle, your airbags will usually contain sodium azide. Or, if you have one of the latest vehicles on the market today, your airbag may be filled with several different types of chemicals.).
  6. As these explosives begin to burn, they will generate large amounts of gaseous substances. These gases will be used to blow up the nylon bags with argon or nitrogen. The nylon bags in your vehicle may be located in more than one place inside of your vehicle. For instance, you may have an airbag behind your steering wheel, in front of your passenger (front seat), or in the roofing structures. 
  7. As this nylon bag fill up to its ultimate capacity, it will then blow off the plastic covers (i.e. the plastic cover of your steering wheel).  
  8. This bag will also begin to deflate as the driver of your vehicle moves forward and pushes against the airbag. Therefore, by the time your vehicle stops, the airbag may be completely deflated.

Are They Effective

Based on the studies and research that has been done since the airbags inception, there is a mixture of both advantages and drawbacks to their overall effectiveness. 

For instance, in 1995, Susan Ferguson and Adrian Lund published a major road traffic accident study that indicated fatalities were reduced by as much as 23% to 24%. 

The study that they published covered a period of about 8 years between 1985 and 1993. Therefore, vehicle airbags are directly related to the savings of lives and protection during these and other times. 

On the other hand, there are some drawbacks to installing airbags in a vehicle as well. In these research studies, airbags were the actual cause of injuries and death in both children and adults. 

This is one of the primary reasons why vehicle manufacturers are required to publish and post airbag caution signs in their vehicles today.

For instance, a parent should not place children in the passenger front seat if they are under the age of 13

Bottom Line

Many of today’s vehicles are equipped with airbags since they are standard and required by law. 

This protective passive restraint is automatically deployed in collision-related accidents and they are responsible for saving lives and protecting people from various types of injuries.

However, to ensure everyone in your vehicle is protected at all times, follow the cautions posted in your vehicle, particularly those related to the seating of children under the age of 13. 

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