Buyer's Guide to Air Bag Sensors
- Airbags are necessary safety measures installed into your car due to regulations put in place by the FDVSS. Without these, your car’s year model and make will not make it into the market.
- Airbag sensors are the sensors that work to inform your car when you experienced a collision or some form of impact. There are two types of sensors, electric and mechanical.
- If your car has gone through a recent battery depletion, it’s airbag light is turned on, or if your multimeter test results show negative numbers, then these might be signs of a failing or a bad airbag sensor.
- It’s ‘safe’ to drive with the airbag light turned on, in the sense that your car won’t break down and that you won’t be flagged down by an officer. However, this could mean that your airbags won’t deploy when you come in contact with an accident.
- Airbag sensors are highly specific to a car’s year model and make. Their positions are also highly specific, meaning you will have to purchase one specifically made for your car. You will also have to enlist the help of a licensed mechanic in order to have it replaced given the variability and difficulty of the task.
- Airbag sensors can cost from $30 to $476, depending on your car’s year model and make.
As cars become faster and more efficient, the risk of danger becomes more and more imminent. This is why the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FDVSS) added requirements in assessing the road-worthiness of a car in order to reduce the probability of death in a car crash. One such additional requirement is the airbag. This is a standard safety equipment that inflates if your car gets into an accident, preventing you from hitting the hard materials inside your car. They are implemented as a safety regulation requirement due to the fact that cars can travel up to hundreds of kilometers per hour, and the safety of the driver and its passengers must be accounted for.
In order for these to work properly and inflate upon impact, airbag sensors are put into place to detect collision. In the old days, airbags were only installed on the front end of the car. However, modern requirements dictate that six (6) is the minimum amount, covering the sides, the front, knee, and the roof railings or side curtains. Some vehicles even go above and beyond, having ten (10) working airbags at any point in time. Your car has an equivalent amount of airbag sensors in order to detect impact and collision.
What are Airbag Sensors?
Airbag sensors are sensors put into place in order to detect impact or collision so that when you get into an accident, it would know which airbag/s to inflate. Aside from this function, these also indicate whether or not there’s a problem with your airbags. If there are, your airbag light located on the dashboard would turn on.
Types of Airbag Sensors
There are two types of airbag sensors, an electrical sensor, and a mechanical sensor. Their differences are stark, however, their functionality is the same. An electrical sensor is the more modern version, able to calculate how strong an impact is, and basing the release of the airbags on account of that information. These are more commonly found in recent models, as they are indicative of technological advancement. However, some people don’t trust them as much as mechanical sensors due to their nature of being dependent on the battery and wirings of your car.
A mechanical sensor, on the other hand, is more traditional in the sense that it uses more basic technologies, such as a spring and rollers. Even then, people regard this as the more reliable option, as these offer a sense of independence from the electrical components of a car.
What are the Symptoms of a Bad Airbag Sensor?
While your airbags may have problems of their own, airbag sensors can also incur damage from regular wear and tear. Listed below are some of the things you might experience if you have a bad airbag sensor.
Recent Battery Depletion
If your battery recently got depleted or discharged, you might also have to check the backup battery dedicated for your airbags. The common fix for this is usually just to fully charge your battery. However, in rare cases, you might have to have them checked by a professional.
What can cause the airbag light to come on? If your airbag light is turned on, or if it’s blinking in a successive pattern, something may be wrong with your airbag sensor. Still, this isn’t always the case, as your airbag system contains a lot of other parts. The light turning on is an indicator that something is wrong, although it doesn’t tell you which definite part is broken, or needs inspection.
Multimeter Test Shows Negative Results
This can happen when your airbag clock springs, which maintains the consistency between the airbag itself and its electrical wirings by continually interweaving in and out against the steering wheel, wear out. You may have to ask your mechanic to have this test done to your car, as a multimeter and the tools required are specialty tools.
Checking for a faulty airbag sensor is difficult and may entail the help of a licensed professional. However, given due diligence and proper maintenance, you most likely won’t have to worry about replacement very often.
Is it safe to drive with the airbag light turned on?
Yes, and no. A faulty airbag is a cause for concern. It was installed in your car for a reason, and that reason is to keep you safe in case an unforeseeable accident finds its way towards you for one reason or another. There are no ways for a traffic enforcer to know whether your airbags are functioning correctly, nor will your car randomly stop if it tells you that your airbags are broken. That is, until after an incident befalls you.
To ensure your safety, as well as the safety of your passengers, addressing your airbag lights is important. To reiterate and provide emphases; allowing your airbags to be compromised yields no mechanical failure, nor implicates you as a traffic law violator. You only pay your dues until after something unfortunate happens.
Finding the right fit
Air bag sensors are tricky to replace, as the enlistment of the help of a licensed professional is necessary. However, you may purchase the replacement through the website. CarParts.com offers search filters that allow you to narrow down your search to your car’s specific year model and make. You will have to purchase parts specific to your vehicle as their placement and size is dependent upon your car’s information.
How much is an airbag sensor replacement
Replacement airbag sensors cost at least $30. However, you can find options that may cost up to $476 depending on your car’s year model and make. Once again, you will have to purchase an airbag sensor specifically made for your car. Having one that isn’t specific for your vehicle will leave you with a spare airbag sensor that you will not be able to use anyway.
3 Questions to Ask When Buying a Replacement Air Bag Sensor
We've all seen those movies and TV shows where somebody hits or kicks a car's bumper and the air bag goes off - often in someone's face for comedic effect. But it isn't the bumper itself that triggers the airbags, but rather a collection of electronic devices called airbag sensors. Located strategically underneath the body panels of your automobile, the air bag sensor detects sudden deceleration and impact that the airbag control module uses to trigger the airbags.
If you are planning on replacing one or all of the airbag sensors in your car, here are some questions you should ask yourself before buying:
Have you tried resetting it first?
One of the things that many car owners don't know is that the sensors can still be reused even after the air bag has been activated. Aside from having a hefty price tag, replacement air bag sensors are also known to be difficult to calibrate, so trying to reset these sensors first before buying a replacement set is always a good idea. Depending on the vehicle you have, resetting the airbag sensor could be as simple as disconnecting the negative battery cables with the headlights on (to drain out the remaining power in the system) and reconnecting the cable. If the airbag warning light shuts off, the sensors have been reset successfully and no replacement is needed.
Where is the sensor located?
Once you've determined that the sensor is beyond salvation, the next step is finding out which of the sensors needs replacing. Air bag sensors are found on the front and rear bumper, the fenders, and the side support columns that activate the front and side airbags depending on area where the vehicle was hit. Each location has a distinct type of sensor mounted, so a front impact sensor, for example, is not likely to work if mounted on the side columns and vice versa.
Does it match your car's airbag system?
Automobile airbags are not built the same, as specific makes and models use a specific type of sensor. Thankfully, airbag sensors each have a distinct identification number, so when finding a replacement make sure the part number matches that of your vehicle.
Steps on Replacing the Airbag Sensors on your Auto
The airbag sensor, also known as the crash sensor, is a critical part of the airbag safety system in any car on the road today. These electronic devices are mounted across several locations around your vehicle to detect for collisions and, if such an event occurs, trigger the airbag to deploy. The exact number and location of these sensors depends on the vehicle, but in most instances they are clumped at the front and rear bumpers, front and rear fenders, and the side columns.
Once the airbag warning light comes on, it's a good indication that one of the airbag sensors is broken and needs replacing. Finding a replacement isn't that difficult, and installing one is easy enough for you to do as well. In this guide, we'll teach you how to change the airbag sensors in your car step by step.
Difficulty level: Moderate
- Replacement airbag sensors
- Phillips and flathead screwdriver
- Socket and ratchet set
Step 1: Find out where the sensors are located. Check with the owner's and the maintenance manuals for their exact location. Don't hesitate to call up the dealership for help as well.
Step 2: Switch the engine off and disconnect the negative terminal from the car battery. Leave the headlights on so that any remaining charge in the system is dissipated. Leave the car in this depowered state for at least 15 minutes before touching anything; the sensors are designed to function for a short time after losing power.
Step 3: Take off the panels covering the sensors. As we have mentioned earlier, these are located on the fenders, bumpers, and side columns of your vehicle.
Step 4: Unscrew the sensors from their mounting and disconnect the wiring. Most sensors have a wiring harness that you can press to detach the electrical connectors.
Step 5: With the old ones out of the way, attach the new sensors. Make sure that the wires are connected properly and the screws tightened securely. Reinstall the body panels you've also removed previously.
Step 6: Switch on the ignition and check the airbag warning light. If the sensors are properly installed, the light should stay off. But if it still lights up, you may have installed one of the sensors incorrectly or that the problem lies somewhere else along the airbag system.