Airbag Frequently Asked Questions


What will you see after an airbag inflates?

What makes an airbag inflate?

When should an airbag inflate?

After an airbag inflates, it quickly deflates, so quickly that some people may not even realize the airbag inflated.  Some components of the airbag module, the steering wheel hub for the drivers airbag, or the passenger side airbag may be hot for a short time.  The parts of the bag that come in contact with you may be warm, but not too hot to touch.  There will be some smoke and dust coming from the vents in the deflated airbags.  Airbag inflation does not prevent the driver from seeing out the windshield or being able to steer the vehicle, nor does it stop people from leaving the vehicle. In an impact of sufficient severity, the airbag sensing system detects that the vehicle is in a crash.  The sensing system triggers a release of gas from the inflator, which inflates the airbag.  The inflator, airbag, and related hardware are all a part of the airbag modules inside the steering wheel and in the instrument panel in front of the right front passenger.


The driver's and right front passenger's frontal airbags are designed to inflate in moderate to severe frontal or near-frontal collisions.  But they are designed to inflate only if the impact exceeds a predetermined deployment threshold.  Deployment thresholds take into account a variety of desired deployment and non-deployment events and are used to predict how severe a collision is likely to be in time for the airbags to inflate and help restrain the occupants.  Whether your frontal airbags will or should deploy is not based on how fast your vehicle is traveling.  It depends largely on what you hit, the direction of the impact, and how quickly your vehicle slows down.



How does an airbag restrain?

In moderate to severe frontal or near-frontal collisions, even belted occupants can contact the steering wheel or the instrument panel.  Airbags supplement the protection provided by safety belts.  Airbags distribute the force of the impact more evenly over the occupant's upper body, stopping the occupant more gradually.  But, airbags would not help you in many types of collisions, including rollovers, rear impacts and many side impacts, primarily because an occupant's motion is not toward those airbags.  Airbags should never be regarded as anything more than a supplement to safety belts, and then only in moderate to severe frontal or near-frontal collisions.