Airbags could be what saves your life in the event of a collision but sometimes they can be what puts you in more danger.
Therefore, you may need to disable your airbags to prevent an accident. But how can you disable airbags? If you’d like to find out, keep reading!
How Do I Disable Airbags?
You can disable passenger airbags by using an on/off switch, which varies in functionality per model. However, disabling the driver’s side airbag is a little more complicated and is often illegal in some places if you do it without official permission from an automobile governing agency (ex. the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)).
If you’d like to learn more about the methods for disabling airbags, keep reading for more useful facts and tips!
How Do I Disable Driver’s Side Airbags?
Disabling the airbag system is risky because, on top of leaving you vulnerable in a crash, if an airbag deploys while you’re working on it you could get seriously injured or worse.
To disable the driver’s side airbags, do the following:
- Make sure that all your wheels are aligned and facing straight forward
- Cut off power to the airbag system by disconnecting the battery and leaving it unhooked for a couple of minutes to drain any reserve charge in the system
- Remove the airbag system’s fuse located underneath the seat. You should conduct thorough research to know the right fuse to disconnect so you don’t interfere with other functions
- Remove the knee bolster on the driver’s side
- Locate a yellow wire with a 2-pin connector and unplug it
- Except for the yellow wire, put everything (fuse, covers, battery, etc.) back the way they were
This method will disable the driver’s side airbag from the steering wheel but, as stated before, it’s dangerous and often illegal without authorization from a governing body, so this is purely for educational purposes and shouldn’t be conducted independently.
How Do I Disable Passenger Airbags?
You can disable the passenger airbag in some cars by using an on/off switch that is found in different locations depending on the manufacturer.
Do the following to disable passenger airbags using the switch:
- Locate the switch. Usually, it’s at the end of the instrument panel beside the passenger door, but sometimes it’s inside the glove compartment. It looks like the ignition and you can also use the ignition key to operate it
- When you find the switch, insert your key and turn it until the marker aligns with the OFF position to deactivate it and vice versa
- Start the car and check for an indicator light that tells you the passenger airbag is off
If you can’t find this type of switch on your vehicle, then yours might be a button on the console (the part of the dashboard between the steering wheel/gauges and glove compartment). To disable the airbags using this method, do the following:
- Locate the button on the console. It should have an image of someone in a seat with an airbag deployed
- Put the key in the ignition and turn it so the gauges light up but the engine doesn’t start
- Press and hold the button until lights on the button turn on and there’s another one near the gauges telling you that the airbag is disabled
- This second method also keeps the airbag disabled, even when you restart your car and you need to re-enable it yourself.
- If your car doesn’t have a switch, then you need to follow a more hands-on approach like you would to disable the driver’s side airbag.
- To do this, follow the procedure from the first section up until removing the fuse, but instead of taking off the knee bolster on the driver’s side, unscrew the dashboard cover on the passenger’s side.
- Locate a yellow wire and unplug it by pushing down on a green locking pin to disable the passenger airbags.
- Put the dashboard cover and fuse back after finishing, and reconnect the yellow wire to reactivate the airbag.
Will Removing The Fuse Disable Airbags?
Removing the fuse will disable the airbags, but doing so incorrectly disables the whole restraint system, leaving you completely vulnerable in a crash.
Two of the procedures outlined above mention having to take out the fuse, but they include more steps to target the specific airbags, and the fuse has to be put back in the end.
This fuse is important because it also controls other restraint features, most importantly the pretensioner seat belts.
An airbag is part of the supplementary restraint system (SRS), meaning it’s not the primary line of defence in a crash.
That role goes to the seatbelts, most of which are fitted with a pretensioner function that’s also connected to the same fuse.
When a crash is detected, these types of belts tighten so the seat’s occupants are pushed into safer seating positions and are less likely to jerk forward.
This is what makes disabling airbags safe, because pretensioner seat belts make it so that your upper body doesn’t move far enough to collide with the dashboard.
If the fuse is disabled, neither the airbags nor the pretensioner seat belts will kick in, meaning you’re out in the open.
You should only remove the fuse if you’re working on the car around areas where accidental airbag deployment is a safety concern and not when you’re going to be driving it.
Will Disconnecting the Battery Disable the Airbag?
Disconnecting the battery and waiting a few minutes to an hour will disable the airbags because it deprives them and the rest of the car of a power supply.
If you reconnect the battery the airbags will become reactivated.
As is the case with removing the fuse, removing the battery to disable the airbag is something you should do only when you’re going to be working on the car.
Is It Illegal To Disable Airbags?
It is illegal to disable airbags unless you have official permission from the NHTSA to do so in special circumstances, such as when the risk of an airbag deploying outweighs its benefits, as discussed below.
What Is A Good Reason For Disabling A Car’s Airbags?
As per the NHTSA’s guidelines, you can get permission to disable airbags if they would otherwise be more of a safety risk to someone in the front, such as children under 13 who can’t sit in the back because they need constant monitoring due to medical conditions or there are no rear seats.
It’s also granted when a smaller than average person is driving and needs to sit closer to the steering wheel where deployment is more likely to injure them.
If someone in the front has a medical condition, that means they’re safer without the airbag and would need a doctor’s note for authorization to deactivate.
Authorization is mostly only required for the driver’s side airbags and vehicles that don’t have the switch to disable passenger airbags.
If you want to learn more, you can also see our posts on how many airbags are in a car, at what speed do airbags deploy, and if airbags can be replaced.
You can disable driver’s side airbags, but the process is complex, dangerous and often illegal unless you have authorization from a government agency.
Disabling the passenger airbags is easier because some car models have a dedicated on/off switch, and it’s recommended for when you have a vulnerable passenger like a baby in the front seat.