The Role of Airbag Components in Saving People’s Lives

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 20,160 motor vehicle crash-related fatalities during the first half of 2021—the highest since 2006. Aside from following road laws, one of the best ways to stay safe is to ensure that your car’s airbags are in proper working condition.

Airbags have been saving thousands of lives over the years. Studies have shown that frontal airbags have saved over 50,457 lives.

This article will discuss the various airbag components that save lives and airbag light behaviors to help you stay safe.

Airbag Sensor

The airbag sensor is responsible for detecting a crash and deploying the airbag. It is located at the front and side of the car. The front sensor detects a frontal collision, while the one on the side detects a side impact. The sensor sends a message to the airbag control unit (ACU), located in the steering wheel housing.

A seatbelt sensor is also part of some systems. These sensors detect if the driver and passengers are wearing seatbelts. Unlike the airbag indicator lights, there is no malfunction detected when the seatbelt lights are on. It only means that one of the car passengers has yet to fasten their seatbelt.

Airbag Control Unit

The airbag control unit has a microprocessor that monitors a series of diagnostic circuits. The microprocessor continuously calculates the strength and timing of the airbag deployment and performs pre-tensioning of the seatbelts to minimize the consequences of the crash.

The ACU also controls the deployment of the driver and passenger-side airbags. The unit activates igniters and initiates the pyrotechnic process that causes the airbags to deploy. It also triggers the warning light if a system malfunction occurs.

Airbag Lights

Airbag or Supplemental Restraint System (SRS) lights indicate the airbag system’s condition. When the light is off, it typically means that everything is in working order.

However, when the light is on, it can mean the airbag deployed on its own, pressure is building inside the airbag, or the system is experiencing a malfunction. It is best to have a professional check it.

Inflator System

The inflator system is responsible for the airbag’s inflation. It houses the igniters and sodium azide compartment.

After the ACU receives the crash sensor’s signal, it will send a message to the inflator system to kick things in motion. It means turning on the igniter, creating heat, causing the sodium azide to produce nitrogen gas, and inflating the airbag. All of this happens in twenty-five to fifty milliseconds.

Airbag and Cover

A vehicle’s airbags are made of nylon and polyester. You can usually find them in the steering wheel’s center pad, dashboard, front seat backrests, and door panels. The airbag deployment lessens the driver’s and passenger’s impact against the steering wheel and dashboard, helping reduce the severity of the injuries they can sustain.

Nylon airbag covers help maintain the integrity of the airbag system. The covers prevent foreign objects from contaminating the module and protect the bag from damage. 


Always make sure you have an active and intact airbag system and be mindful of the airbag light to ensure that you are safe on the road at all times. If the light is on, have a professional check it as soon as you can.

The airbag system is a life-saving device. Knowing how it works can help you keep your vehicle in top-notch condition and improve your chances of surviving a crash.

Safety Restore is a BBB-accredited post-accident restoration company specializing in seatbelt and airbag services in Westfield, MA. When your airbag was recently deployed, or your airbag light is on for no apparent reason, our experienced and knowledgeable team is here for you. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you!

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