How to Know If a Used Vehicle Has a Deployed Airbag

Airbags are important safety innovations that have saved countless lives. According to the National Center for Statistics and Analysis, airbags have saved 50,457 lives and reduced frontal crash fatalities by 29 percent. That is why if you’re planning to buy a used vehicle, you must know if its airbag has already been deployed.

Depending on the situation, a deployed airbag may need a quick airbag module reset or a full-blown airbag system replacement. Although airbags are vital, replacing the system can be expensive. If you have doubts about the seller being less forthcoming with the system’s status, it is best to do a little digging yourself.

Here are a few tips you can follow to check if a vehicle’s airbag was previously deployed.

Review the Vehicle’s Accident History

A good way to check if a vehicle’s airbag has been deployed is to check its accident history. Minor accidents and collisions that slightly damage the rear and sides may not be enough to deploy the airbags. However, if you see big dents anywhere in the car or witness signs it’s undergoing major repairs, there is likely a deployment.

If you do not notice any damage to the car, do not rejoice just yet. Ask the salesperson or seller if they have a vehicle history report. Some sellers will readily provide the report for free, while others may not have it. 

If the seller does not have the report, you can apply to have a copy from the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS). Be reminded that you will be charged to get ahold of a copy.

Asses the Vehicle’s Airbag Cover

Airbag covers work to keep the airbag safe until deployment. These olefin covers are usually located in the dashboard and steering wheel for front airbags and under the seat-back covers in the front seats for side airbags.

Upon deployment, airbags will burst out of the airbag cover. In doing this, the airbag effectively splits the cover open. The cover may have been cosmetically repaired if you see any unevenness and signs of repainting.

Look for the Manufacturer’s SRS Emblem

Car manufacturing companies usually stamp the Safety Restraint System (SRS) logo on the airbag covers with their company emblem. They indicate that the airbag was intact when they first purchased the car.

It is possible to buy airbag covers with the manufacturer’s logo to make quick cosmetic repairs. However, no retail purchased cover will have the SRS logo in them.

Inspect the Vehicle’s Airbag Indicator Light

This is what you can do to test the airbag indicator light:

  1. Put the car ignition in the first position.
  2. Wait for the car indicator lights to turn on, including the airbag indicator light.
  3. Start the vehicle.
  4. Check how the indicator light behaves.

If the airbag indicator light turns on for a moment then goes out, it means the airbag system is intact. But if the light flashes or stays on, the vehicle may have some airbag issues that you need to address.


Yes, airbag module reset and airbag replacement will cost money. You may even think of it as an additional expense when buying the vehicle if they were honest about it. However, if the seller or salesperson was not entirely true about the state of the vehicle’s airbags of the used car you intend to purchase, you may want to step away from the sale.

Reach out to Safety Restore if you are looking for a BBB-accredited company to perform airbag system replacements and airbag module resets in Westfield, MA.  Our experienced and highly qualified team can perform a wide range of post-accident restorations, from airbag modules and seatbelt repairs to instrument cluster repairs and webbing replacements. Contact us today!

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