Do Airbags Work When The Car Is Off? (Not Moving, Battery Off + More)

Car accidents could happen at any time and they’re not confined to when you’re driving, as someone could just as easily crash into you when you’re stationary.

Therefore, in situations like these, you need to know whether your airbag will deploy. So, if you’d like to find out, keep reading to see what I learned!

Do Airbags Work When The Car Is Off?

Your car’s airbags will not deploy when the car is off because their control unit doesn’t have an active power supply, even if you have the key in the ignition. Airbags will only deploy if you have turned the key in the ignition and the car is on, even if you didn’t turn it far enough to get the engine running.

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about whether airbags work when the car is off, when the car is parked, when no one is in the seat, and more!

Can An Airbag Go Off Without Power?

Modern vehicles come with electrical or electromechanical airbag systems that require a working power supply to be able to detect crashes and deploy airbags.

If there’s no power, such as when the battery is disconnected or the car has been off for a while, airbags will not deploy.

Some vehicles from the 1990s had purely mechanical airbags, however, and these did not require a power supply to deploy.

Rather, Mechanical airbags had one component that would get tripped by impact above a set threshold, and then it would proceed to trip more mechanical components in a chain reaction that would finally deploy the airbags.

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However, mechanical airbag systems are less common now as they’re not precise enough and are more of a safety risk because you can’t easily disable them when you have to.

Will An Airbag Deploy If The Car Is Not Moving?

If your car isn’t moving because it’s been turned off for a while, the airbags won’t deploy if it gets hit.

However, if you’re stationary but your engine is running, then your airbags will go off if you get hit.

As long as your car is running, the airbags have an active source of power and they’re primed to deploy if the sensors detect a collision.

Do Airbags Deploy When a Car Is Parked?

Do Airbags Deploy When a Car Is Parked?

If your car is parked, isn’t running and has been sitting for a prolonged amount of time, then the airbags won’t deploy if the car is hit.

However, airbags are set up in a way that allows them to deploy for a short while after the car has been turned off.

Their control module has access to power for a brief window following when the vehicle is turned off that accounts for crashes that happen before the occupants all get out of the car.

Do Airbags Deploy If No One Is In The Seat?

Some cars will not deploy this airbag if no one is in the front passenger seat.

A lot of modern vehicles come fitted with airbag sensors in the front passenger seats that scan for the presence of an occupant (on the passenger seat) and whether the seat belts have been fastened (on both seats).

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If they don’t detect someone in the front passenger seat, then the airbag on that side will not be deployed.

Sensors also affect airbag deployment on both seats depending on the status of the safety belts.

If seatbelts have been fastened, the airbags will not deploy on light collisions where there is little risk of the occupant(s) crashing into the dashboard.

Instead, the belts would tighten using the pretension functionality to keep inertia from jerking the car occupants too far forward.

Can Airbags Go Off Without a Battery?

Can Airbags Go Off Without a Battery?

As stated above, mechanical airbags do not require a power source like a battery in order to detect crashes and deploy.

However, electrical and electromechanical airbag systems have a brief window after the power supply has been cut off (e.g. disconnecting the battery) where they have enough charge stored to successfully deploy if necessary.

This is why you’re advised to wait several minutes to an hour after disconnecting your battery to start working on your car in a scenario where accidental airbag deployment would be a safety risk.

During this time, the power supply will steadily discharge until it depletes and the airbags can no longer go off.

Do Airbags Deploy For No Reason?

Airbags can deploy for no reason, but it’s not a common occurrence. Accidental deployment occurs as a result of manufacturer defects (i.e. why vehicles are recalled) or recent work on your car that has interfered with the airbag system.

Some professionals say that random airbag deployment could be the result of installing electronic components that go into the dashboard like DVD players, radios, docking stations, etc.

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For this reason, you should leave upgrades and other work that could interfere with the car’s electrical system to qualified professionals.

However, if an upgrade is something you feel you could do on your own, make sure you disconnect or disable the airbag system before getting started and reset it when you’re done. Note that airbags could also deploy randomly if you have defective crash sensors.

To know more about airbags, you can also read our posts on how long do airbags last, if you can put airbags in an old car, the pros and cons of airbags, and how do airbags in cars save human life.


Airbag systems can deploy even when the car is not moving, provided it is on or was on a few moments before a collision. For example, if you get hit while waiting at a red light, your airbags will deploy.

If the car has been off long enough for the reserve power supply to discharge then the airbags will not deploy. This is because the electrical and electromechanic airbag systems used in modern cars, unlike older mechanical airbag systems, require an active power source to function.

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