As a car owner, you need to know how long different car components last, especially the critical ones such as tires and airbags. For safety purposes, your car needs to have well-functioning airbags that can protect you in case of a collision or a crash.
But, how long do these airbags last? If you’d like to find out, keep reading to see what I learned!
How Long Do Airbags Last?
Originally, airbags in older vehicles came with a replacement date. Automakers used to have labels and information on the owner’s manual that recommended replacement after every 10 to 15 years. This process also involves an inspection to confirm the airbags are working correctly. However, in the modern era, airbags don’t expire and can last the lifetime of your vehicle.
For more information about airbags, how long they last, the different types, and how to tell whether they’ve expired, keep reading for more useful facts!
Is There An Expiration Date On Airbags?
Drivers often question how they can know whether their airbags have expired and if they need replacing. As an essential safety feature of the car, this becomes a concern, especially when you need to service the other car parts.
Since the 1970s, when airbags were introduced, they have evolved over the years. Some car manufacturers had an expiration date for their airbags and a required inspection.
From the 70s to the early 1990s, automakers recommended a dealer inspection every 10 to 15 years as a cautionary factor. This was the case because the manufacturers were unsure of how long an airbag could last.
In the mid to late 90s, airbags started getting a lifetime rating. According to the manufacturers, the airbags could last the lifetime of your vehicle.
However, this doesn’t mean that airbags last forever. New model vehicles come with diagnostic systems to test the functionality of the airbag. When they become faulty, the airbag light illuminates on the dashboard to alert the driver of a problem.
Why Do Some Airbags Last Longer Than Others?
Today’s airbags last longer because the components used to make them are quite durable.
These airbag ignitors, also known as a squib, are now housed in a seal that’s more robust than ever, meaning they can last as long as the car. If the vehicle is not involved in any accidents, the airbags will stay intact for years without being deployed.
Initially, the seals were made of plastic and metal, which accumulated moisture over the years and led to corrosion of the airbag igniter. Because of this, the airbags were less responsive.
However, airbag seals today are made of glass and metal, which doesn’t let in moisture and is more durable.
How Do I Know If My Airbags Need To Be Replaced?
If you just purchased a new or used car, you need to know if airbags expire and when you need to replace them. So, how can you know if they need to be replaced? The most common indicators are listed below:
1. Some Airbags Have Replacement Dates
Your airbags’ lifespan depends on the brand and age of your car. As we’ve mentioned, modern-day vehicles don’t have an expiration date, but some older models have this critical detail.
After buying a car (especially older models) check the owner’s manual or research online to find the guidelines from your manufacturer about replacing your airbags.
If they need to be replaced, ensure you follow the guidelines indicated, which will mostly apply to cars that were manufactured before the mid-90s. If your vehicle is a pre-2000 model, it’s advisable to confirm if the airbags need to be replaced for safety purposes.
2. Airbag Light Comes On
Your car has a computer system that alerts you in case of a problem. When there’s an issue with the airbag, the airbag light illuminates on the dashboard to warn you of an issue.
Airbag light comes on due to seat belt issues, faulty sensors, a blown fuse, deactivated airbag system, minor accidents, or low battery backup. When this happens, you have to take your car to a professional for proper diagnosis.
In most cases, when the light comes on, you might have to replace the airbags, which is a clear sign that they have expired and your vehicle needs new airbags to function.
When you ignite your car, the airbag light should automatically come on and switch off within a few seconds, so if this doesn’t happen, it’s time to replace them.
How Long Do Frontal Airbags Last?
Your car is equipped with frontal airbags designed to inflate and deflate during moderate and severe crashes. Airbags are meant to protect the driver and passenger’s head and chest from contacting the vehicle.
In your car, the driver airbags are located on the steering wheel while the passenger airbags are on the dashboard.
In modern vehicles, these airbags last as long as the car. They don’t expire as long as they’re still in good condition and the airbag warning light hasn’t come on.
These airbags work together with the safety belt; therefore, they should be replaced when they’re not functioning properly.
How Long Do Side Airbags Last?
Side airbags are located in the seat’s backrest and inflate between the seat and the vehicle’s door. Compared to the frontal bags, they deploy much quicker in about 10-20 milliseconds due to the small space between the vehicle’s occupants and the side of the car.
These airbags come in handy to protect the car occupants from contacting the intruding parts of the vehicle’s sides during a crash.
Side airbags are divided into different variations- the torso airbag, which protects the torso, and the side curtain and head side airbag, which deploys from the vehicle’s ceiling to protect the head.
If your car is an older model, check the owner’s manual to confirm, because you’ll need to replace the airbags every 10 to 15 years. However, if your vehicle is much newer, it can last longer unless there’s an accident or damage.
How Long Do Knee Airbags Last?
Since the early 2000s, automakers now include knee airbags on their vehicles, mounted under the steering wheel to stop the front seat passengers from hitting a hard surface during a crash.
These airbags deploy under the dashboard to protect the kneecaps from shattering, which is a common injury in frontal collisions.
According to a study, these knee airbags can cause more damage and increase the risk of injury in some cases.
However, airbags last as long as the car’s lifetime, so if they deploy, you should have them replaced immediately.
How Long Do Inflatable Seat Belt Airbags Last?
Inflatable seat belts are categorized as airbags because they function similarly and deploy during a crash.
This seatbelt was designed to protect back seat passengers (i.e children and the elderly) who are at a higher risk of head, neck, and chest injuries during a collision. This helps in spreading the accident’s force across a wider body area.
Inflatable seat belts can last as long as a vehicle, unless they’re not deployed at any point. Therefore, in case of an accident, you need to have them replaced.
How Long Do Rear Airbags?
During rear-end collisions, these rear airbags protect the passengers in the back seat. Rear window airbags protect them from bumping into the back window and the rear center from crashing into each other.
Like the previously mentioned airbags, rear airbags can last for years. If your car is an older pre-2000 model, check whether they need to be replaced or checked. For modern rear airbags, they don’t expire unless damaged.
What Are Key Things To Know When Replacing Airbags?
Most drivers don’t know much about airbags since they stay hidden for most of the time. Therefore, listed below are some of the critical things you need to know about replacing airbags:
1. Resetting Sensors
After an accident, you need to replace the airbags and other components. After the replacement, you need to also have the sensors reprogrammed, otherwise, your airbag light will remain on. Therefore, ensure that you take your car to a professional to reset the sensors.
2. Use Original Devices
During replacement, ensure that the airbags are the same as the original ones in your vehicle, as aftermarket or third-party airbags might become problematic in the future and fail to deploy.
It’s recommended to have your mechanic install original parts for the safety of your car, especially when you have a collision.
3. Watch Out For Counterfeit Products
Counterfeit or faulty airbags are risky and can lead to fatalities. For instance, since 2015, the U.S. has had the Takata airbag recall, the largest airbag recall due to reported deaths and injuries, which has seen about 70 million cars recalled from 2015 to 2019.
Therefore, when replacing the airbags, have them installed at a legitimate shop with original products.
To learn more, you can also read our related posts on airbags trends & facts, if airbags can be replaced, and at what speed do airbags deploy.
Airbags installed in older car models didn’t last for long and needed replacing every 10 to 15 years, and also needed to be checked for damages. However, automakers are now designing airbags that can last as long as the vehicle with new technology.
Newer airbags are more robust, though you need to replace them as soon as the warning light goes on. In addition, if your car is an older model, check the owner’s manual for the replacement guideline.