a person driving a car down a sunny roadIn a span of 15 years, airbags saved 39,976 lives as stated in a report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. They are a key safety feature in cars, but as any other part of your vehicle, in some cases they might not always work properly. A malfunctioning airbag might not deploy when needed, so in order to preserve the safety of everyone on the car, you need to keep an eye on all of them.

There are automated systems that will provide real-time information on the state of every safety feature in your vehicle, and let you know if something needs a fix. As a part of your safety routine, you should check the state of all your airbags, especially before a long ride.

SRS Scanners And Airbag Failure

SRS, or Supplemental Restraint System, is the technical name for your airbags. When your SRS dashboard light is on, your car is letting you know that a malfunction in your airbags has been detected, and therefore, they have been deactivated. In other words, if you happen to crash, the airbags will not deploy. This is a serious safety problem and you should get it checked immediately.

An OBD system plugged into your car will identify what's the specific malfunction and what you should do about it. You can use this valuable information to decide your course of action. Some errors your OBD system detects are the result of a breakdown or a poor fix, while in other cases your airbag system might have a manufacturing or design defect. In this later case, you should immediately contact your car dealer and let them know about it so you can get a replacement.

When Airbag Malfunctions Turn Lethal

The mere failure in airbag deployment is risky enough, but there have been cases when entire fleets of vehicles get recalled due to a manufacturer or design flaw in the SRS. The case of Takata airbags might be the best known example of this. Recently, Honda confirmed the 16th casualty in the US due to a malfunctioning Takata airbag model. The massive recall of vehicles that ensued (over 42 million units in the US alone) forced the manufacturing company into bankruptcy. There was design flaw in these airbags involving the deployment system, which was triggered by a chemical compound called ammonium nitrate. This substance proved to be too unstable, provoking violent explosions and sprays of metal shards which would hurt or even kill drivers and passengers.

With the advancement of car safety tech, most vehicles have internal systems that constantly check on the state of all safety features, including the SRS/airbags. The driver will be warned immediately if a problem is detected. A more advanced OBD-II system will provide additional information on the general state of all airbags and safety features, and suggest which fix is required. These are bought separately from the car itself, but your vehicle should include a special OBD port where the scanner can be connected.

By: Alicia Law

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