Do All Airbags Deploy in an Accident?

Do All Airbags Deploy in an Accident?

Since 1997, when airbags were introduced in vehicles, over 50,000 lives have been saved. The design and effectiveness of airbags are constantly being improved, and new ones are even available today. Given the number of airbags a car has, do all of them deploy in an accident?

Not all airbags deploy in an accident for many reasons. For example, frontal and side airbags are supposed to deploy only on moderate-to-severe collisions. Considering the force with which airbags deploy, having them all deploy at once can do you more harm than good.

This article describes how airbags work and explores the reasons your airbags didn’t deploy when you were hit. Also discussed is whether all airbags deploy in an accident and what happens if your airbags don’t deploy.

How Do Airbags Work?

Do All Airbags Deploy in an Accident?

John W. Hetrick created the first automobile airbag. He filed a patent for it in the US in 1951. There are many components that make up an airbag system, and they work together during a collision to protect you.

The components of the system are crash sensors, an inflator, a wiring harness, a clock coil spring, a diagnostic monitoring unit, indicator lights, and airbags. When in action, they work in these three steps:


  • When your car hits an object, it begins to decelerate quickly. An accelerometer is present to monitor the change of speed, and when a lot of deceleration occurs in a short time, it signals the airbag circuit.


  • The triggered circuit sends an electric current through a heating element that goes on to ignite chemical explosives.
  • Sodium azide and potassium nitrate are harmless chemical explosives usually used in the airbag system. The heating element ignites them, and they produce a large amount of argon or nitrogen gas.
  • The gas inflates the bag, and it slowly comes out of the nylon wrapping that embeds it in the steering wheel.
  • The gas fills the airbag and expands it until it bursts out of the dashboard or steering wheel where it is mounted.
  • The airbag rests between the passengers and the windshield, steering wheel, and dashboard. It protects them


  • Barely a second after deployment, the airbag deflates because of the holes in it. It moves out of the way even before the passengers realize anything that happens.

When an airbag deploys, it is normal to have dust, sound, and dirt around. Some injuries received from an airbag deployment are cuts, bruises, eye injuries, etc.

Why Didn’t My Airbags Deploy When I Was Hit?

Not all collisions cause airbags to deploy, and these are some reasons why they do not deploy:

  1. If the passenger seat is empty, advanced frontal airbag systems detect this and switch off the passenger airbag. They also switch it off if a person of small stature (like a child) is in the passenger seat.
  2. A used airbag that wasn’t replaced after a prior accident will not deploy in another accident.
  3. The impact of the collision was not sufficient to activate the airbag sensors. This happens in minor collisions and if your car was hit in a place outside the reach of the airbag sensors.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, where your car gets hit is a better indicator of whether or not your airbags will deploy. An example is seen when frontal airbags do not deploy in rear-end collisions.

  1. Something is wrong with the components of the airbag system. The clock coil can fail from wear and tear, the wiring may be faulty, the module may need to be reset, or your car batteries are dead.

If you are yet to replace your airbags after an accident, replace them as soon as possible. Also, if you see the airbag light on or an airbag service message, get your car to your local garage to have a full diagnosis done before fixing whatever problems may be present.

Do All Airbags Deploy in an Accident?

Do All Airbags Deploy in an Accident?

Not all airbags deploy in an accident. As stated earlier, frontal and side airbags only deploy in moderate-to-severe collisions. A moderate collision occurs when a car hits a stationary object at a speed of 8 to 14 meters per hour or more. A severe collision occurs when a car hits a solid, stationary object at over 28 meters per hour.

Other types of airbags deploy with collisions that affect their specific areas. Side airbags deploy when you get T-boned; rear-seat airbags get deployed in rear-ended collisions. Knee airbags may deploy with frontal or side airbags.

What Happens If My Airbag Didn’t Deploy?

If your airbag didn’t deploy in an accident, you would suffer injuries of varying severity from hitting the dashboard, windshield, side window, or steering wheel. Body parts affected include:

  1. Head and face – you may have fractures in your facial bones, damage to your eyes, a concussion, or even a traumatic brain injury.
  2. If your chest is hit, broken bones may ensue as well as soft tissue damage. A broken rib can puncture your lung.
  3. Whiplash, herniated discs, and spinal cord injury happen because of being thrown forward in a crash.
  4. Bones in your arms may be crushed. Muscles, ligaments, and tendons can also tear.
  5. Organ damage and internal bleeding can occur in severe crashes.
  6. At worst, there may be a fatality in the crash.

If your airbag did not deploy because it was defective, you can file for damages from the manufacturer. You will need to have a record of the accident, your medical expenses, and maybe witness statements of the crash to prove your case in court. 

You can file a claim for damages and get financial compensation for:

  • Pain and suffering.
  • Medical expenses for treating your injuries.
  • Future medical expenses for ongoing care and rehabilitation.
  • Miscellaneous expenses.
  • Wages you have lost because of missing work from your injuries.
  • Additional out-of-pocket expenses

To successfully claim damages, you must ensure that the airbag wasn’t deployed because of your negligence in maintenance. Remember to attend to any issues that come up when your airbag light is displayed.

Gui Hadlich

Hey there! I'm Gui. To be honest, I'm not really that interested in cars. But what I'm really, really not interest in is spending lots of money fixing my car up. Thankfully, I have a father-in-law who's obsessed with cars and a brother getting a PhD in internal combustion engines, so I get to learn about fixing cars. And with Fixing Engines, I hope to help you save a lot of money and take good care of your cars.

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