An airbag is an important protective feature in cars. Although they serve you well, there may be situations that require you to disable them. If it has a fuse, will removing it disable the airbag?
In most cases, removing an airbag fuse does not disable the airbag. This especially happens if the airbag deploys even when the power that drives it is cut off. You may have to figure out another way to disable the airbag.
This article looks at whether removing an airbag fuse disables the airbag. It also explores how an airbag system works and describes how to disable an airbag system. In conclusion, there are details on the circumstances that allow disabling of airbags.
How Does the Airbag System Work?
The concept of airbags was first discovered and patented by two English dentists, Harold Round and Arthur Parrott. They thought of it as a way to prevent the number of jaw fractures caused by car accidents.
The automobile airbag was first patented in 1951 by John W. Hetrick, in the US. An airbag system consists of an airbag, crash sensors, a wiring harness, an inflator, indicator lights, a clock coil spring, and a diagnostic monitoring unit.
Simply put, the airbag system works in three steps: detection, inflation and release, and deflation. Outlined below is a step-by-step description of how the system works.
- Deceleration occurs rapidly when a car collides with something. An accelerometer detects the change of speed and, if the deceleration is significant enough, it triggers the airbag circuit.
- Once triggered, the circuit transmits an electric current. The airbag circuit passes an electric current through a heating element.
- Chemical explosives like potassium nitrate (KNO3) and sodium azide (NaN3) ignite swiftly and produce a huge amount of nitrogen gas or argon.
- The gas inflates the bag, causing it to expand until it bursts out of the steering wheel or dashboard where it is tucked into.
- The inflated bag is in front of the driver, and he meets it instead of the steering wheel or dashboard when the force of the crash pushes him forward.
- In less than a second, the bag deflates and moves out of the way.
Talcum powder coats the bag to help it unwrap easily. Everything from inflation to deflation happens in approximately 100 milliseconds. In the blink of an eye, the driver is protected before he even knows that the airbag has done anything.
Will Removing an Airbag Fuse Disable the Airbag?
Your car likely has a fuse for the Secondary Restraint System (SRS) or airbag. In most car models, this will be fuse #40 on the fuse block. Removing this fuse may or may not disable the airbag.
Apart from the airbag, the pre-tensioners in the seat belts are also connected to the SRS fuse. These tensioners produce a little explosion charge in a collision that tightens and locks the seatbelt. This reduces the person’s motion during a collision.
You will notice if an airbag deploys in a collision, seatbelts that cannot be unbuckled will require cutting to remove the person. Instead of removing a fuse, go to a mechanic and install a switch.
It is better to control the airbag than to disable it completely.
How Do You Disable an Airbag System?
The easiest way to disable an airbag system is to turn off the ignition switch if you have one installed. Since 1998, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has permitted the installation of switches to enable you to deactivate an airbag system when needed.
You can read your manufacturer’s manual to see the steps you need to take. Some cars, like Mazda and Mercedes, have an automatic airbag disabling system that detects the presence of a car seat in the passenger seat.
Using a tricky system, you can also disable an airbag system manually. However, you are advised to have a mechanic or car dealer take care of it.
When Can You Disable an Airbag System?
Airbags are not meant to stand alone as a safety feature. They work together with seatbelts (as supplementary features) to minimize any injury that your seatbelt can’t prevent. Despite the bad press airbags have gotten, they do a good job to keep you safe.
Many of the car injuries and fatalities involving airbags happened because the driver was not wearing a seatbelt and then got too close to the airbag during the crash. When you wear a seatbelt, you are usually “safe from the danger zone” of an airbag; 10 inches away.
There are certain exceptions to the mandatory airbag rule. You can legally remove an airbag only after the NHTSA approves your written request. The recommended exceptions are:
- A medical condition
If a medical professional says, it is safer for the passenger to ride in the passenger seat with a de-activated airbag. Some conditions include angina, having a pacemaker, emphysema, having previous back or neck surgery, etc.
- A rear-facing child seat
In two-seat sports cars or other vehicles that have no space for a car seat in the back, you may have to put a car seat on the passenger side. The car seat must be rear-facing, and the airbag must be disabled.
The child’s head in this seat is closer to the windshield and airbag, and if the airbag is deployed, it can crush the child’s head. It is illegal to use a rear-facing car seat with an activated airbag in the passenger seat.
- A child under 13 years
If the child has a medical condition that requires monitoring throughout the drive, then the child can sit in the passenger seat, and only the passenger-side airbag should be disabled.
If the passenger seat is always empty, you can also disable the airbag. After getting legal permission to disable the airbag, an authorised shop or dealership must handle the work. What they do is install a switch that allows you to activate and deactivate the airbag as needed.
Thousands of people are injured in car crashes every day, and more than one million people die in these crashes. If you can do anything to protect yourself and your loved ones on the road, give it your best.