Reader Question: Making Airbags Safe?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Dmitriy asks: Is there a device which prevents an airbag from being deployed? If there isn’t one, or if their sale is prohibited, how can I make one?

My reply: Some regular cab trucks – like my ’02 Nissan Frontier – have a keyed switch that enables the passenger side air bag to be disabled. This was necessary because of the danger of air bags; in a regular cab vehicle, it is not possible to place a child in the back seat – away from the air bag – because there is no back seat. Interestingly, this is an admission – although tacit – about the danger of air bags.

Unfortunately, the driver’s air bag can’t be disabled – at least, not legally. This includes the defective Takata air bags – which are known to be not merely dangerous but lethal. The government will not allow even a temporary “off” switch to be installed- since it might give people ideas.

But, it is possible to turn an air bag off by modifying the system yourself – which you’ll have to do, because no shop will touch this job, because of the threat of a Hut! Hut! Hutting by government goons – who care much more about “compliance” than they do about your life.

The technique involves two things – cutting power to the air bag while also retaining the function of the “SRS” or “air bag” light that comes on (and goes off, if the air bag system is operating) when the vehicle started up. In states that still have saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety inspections, it is necessary for the air bags to appear to be in working order. The inspector will fail the car if the “SRS” or “air bag” light comes on and stays on – indicating a problem with the system.

The procedure for disabling an air bag and keeping the light from narcing you out is readily available online – and I expect some of the regulars here will chime in, purely for educational purposes, of course!

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. Good morning eric. I inherited via Richey Bros. Auction a Volvo(can’t recall the number)road tractor.

    One day I’m in some really rough stuff and the airbag nearly pops out of the steering wheel. I stopped to see what was happening. Next thing I know, the entire apparatus is in my hand. There were 2 wires sticking out of the airbag portion and two wires sticking out of the steering wheel. I folder both sets of wires opposite direction, wrangled with the damn thing a bit and got it stuck back on. There was no way for the wire to contact each other then. It lead me to believe someone had disabled it electronically and then disabled it physically. I really don’t know since it would seem you could unplug it and not have it activate.

    Anyhow, I made sure the thing couldn’t pop out again(well, I tried to but it did that again)but quit sweating having it go off. If questioned about it, I would disavow any knowledge of the situation.

    We had another Volvo at the time. I looked at it, same set-up but firm in it’s mount. I was scared to try to remove it like the other. I hated to see that truck go but the Norther Pacific had other plans. I’d love to do that to the Z 71 and we’d both be safe since it also has a cut-off via ignition key for the passenger side.

    I worry about leaving it off but WTH, it is what it is and when I’m driving, the wife wouldn’t be happy if I turned it on.

    The reason I have some doubts as to not being liable for the passenger if I’m driving, there was a case several years ago of a guy picking up his infant son, installing him via child seat in that seat since it was a regular cab pickup. Later a car would pull out in front of him and his bag went off and the child’s bag didn’t. The child was killed and he was nearly so. He awoke to being chained to a hospital bed and long story short, was eventually convicted of something along the lines of 1st degree manslaughter for not turning the air bag on.

    I find it hard to believe it was a jury trial but then again, who knows? People are really stupid when they’re formed into a jury.


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