Can You Put Airbags In An Old Car? (All You Need To Know)

For those with classical cars and similar vehicles, you may be interested in retrofitting them with the newest safety equipment, such as seatbelts and airbags.

Therefore, you may wonder if it’s actually possible to install airbags in older cars? If you’d like to find out, keep reading to see what I learned!

Can You Put Airbags in an Old Car?

Often, it’s impossible to put airbags in older cars, as airbags are specifically made for the model of the car they’re installed in. Older cars don’t have any designated airbags, so they typically can’t be retrofitted with airbags. Even in rare cases where this is possible, it is usually prohibited and expensive.

For more information on installing airbags into your car, keep reading below for useful facts and tips!

How Much Does It Cost to Install Airbags in a Car?

If your car has previously contained airbags, then the cost is usually $1,000 to $1,500 per airbag. However, this only takes into account the airbags themselves. If other parts need to be changed, your rate will likely be quite higher.

If the airbag module just needs to be changed, then it may run another $600. Whether or not this part needs to be changed after every wreck depends on the model of the car, as well as what went on with the wreck itself.

However, if your vehicle is a classic car and has never had airbags, then you cannot install them. While you technically could, it would cost so much that the price is prohibitive. No one installs airbags into classic cars for this reason.

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It’s impractical to retrofit sensors, control modules, and other components in a car that didn’t need to have them to begin with.

Furthermore, it can be potentially unsafe to retrofit a car in this way. The airbags may not work as they are supposed to, which can cause injuries.

Is It Possible to Retrofit Airbags?

If you try hard enough, you can retrofit an airbag. However, this is often very costly and difficult. In many cases, it may simply be easier to not retrofit airbags at all.

In some cases, you may be unable to make it safe without completely changing the car, which would defeat the purpose.

Furthermore, retrofitting an airbag must be done in a specialist workshop in many cases, but not just any mechanic will be able to do this.

In some cases, the manufacturer may offer retrofitting kits, making airbags quite straightforward to install. However, it will still be quite costly, since airbags tend to be expensive on their own.

For the airbag to work properly, sensors and control units need to be installed.

Retrofitting the steering wheel airbag is often the easiest, as you can simply change the steering wheel to one that works with an airbag. However, you may need a new steering column or something of that sort as well, which may not work for every car.

Side airbags are nearly impossible to install, as many older cars have cable harnesses in the side pillars where the airbags would go. You can’t remove these without affecting the stability of the car, and with them there, you can’t add airbags.

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Of course, adding airbags does increase your safety. However, it will come at a seriously high cost and may not always be possible depending on your specific vehicle.

Can You Drive a Car Without Airbags?

Can You Drive a Car Without Airbags?

Airbags don’t control the functionality of the car. Therefore, you should be able to drive it without a problem. Old cars were designed to drive without airbags to begin with, so you don’t have to worry about driving them without airbags.

Furthermore, there are no current laws that make it illegal to drive a car without airbags. If the car simply doesn’t have airbags or if they are deployed, then there shouldn’t be a problem.

However, it’s illegal in many areas to fuss with airbags, which includes removing them from a car that already has them.

Therefore, you can’t remove airbags from a car that already has them installed. If the airbags deploy, then it’s legal to drive them, but you cannot remove airbags manually.

Are Aftermarket Airbags Safe?

Car companies work to ensure that the airbags in their cars are properly installed. In many cases, these airbags need to be configured just right to work in that car, meaning each vehicle will have specialized airbags.

Aftermarket airbags are typically not configured in this same way and may lack configuration altogether.

In many cases, this may make them not deploy during serious accidents, or they may deploy after you go over a small bump.

However, there are no “legitimate” airbags from third parties. Therefore, most airbags you purchase from third parties are actually recycled airbags, which are also not safe.

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If you want to learn more, you can also see our posts on how long do airbags last, how many airbags are in a car, and how many lives do airbags save.


Typically, you cannot retrofit airbags into older cars. Sometimes, you can purchase a steering wheel that has a frontal airbag in it. However, this is usually the most you can do.

Car manufacturers go through a lot to ensure that the airbags in a specific car are as safe as possible. Often, this process involves a lot of calibration and testing, as the airbag will likely cause more harm if left untested.

2 thoughts on “Can You Put Airbags In An Old Car? (All You Need To Know)”

  1. I am planning to mount a 56 Dodge pickup cab/box onto the chassis, floorpan and firewall from my 2001 Dodge Dakota SLT pickup. The Dakota has at least two air bags in it, and I can switch the PS airbag off. I may use the Dakota steering column in the 56, but I do not plan to use the airbag. Also, when an airbag deploys in a crash (as I know from direct experience) the sudden expansion of the airbag displaces a LOT of cabin volume which is expelled through the Dakota can vents. The 56 cab has very limited venting, so an airbag deploying in it could cause a serious, instantaneous pressure increase in the cabin. That in itself could cause inner ear damage.

  2. Frontal airbags in a classic car make a lot of sense to me. A collapsible steering column would be good too. It would require some substantial engineering to use existing sensors and airbags, but a discrete or even an analog system that not include integration with seatbelts, antilock, etc. should be doable.


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