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Airbags - there isn’t any reason for them not to be sold

Testing airbags should remove any question of their suitability for re-use.
In the last eNewsletter we asked the question, “Airbags are an accepted green part in the States so why not here? After all, Airbags are probably the most valuable element (after the engine and box) of a premature end of life vehicle, yet because of the insurers’ code of conduct, the safety related card is played on this one but it is hard to uncover any justification for it.

We looked at the tests, checks and required yard standards that have allowed airbags to be sold in the States last time but there is one area of testing that isn’t taken into account over there, or over here. That is the testing of the actual circuitry. Apart from the visual inspections, if the airbag circuits are tested and shown to be operational, then there is no way of differentiating between the used and the new oem item.

It is worth bearing in mind, whether new or used, there will always be that rogue airbag that tests OK but doesn’t deploy in an accident. This is the same for the new or used item but as such, it means the dismantler can only guarantee that the airbag is to the original equipment manufacturer’s standard.

So is it feasible to test the circuitry of an airbag? The simple answer is yes. Talking to someone who has worked within the airbag industry and was involved in the design of airbag deployment tools, he explained to us that this is definitely feasible. His feeling is that a tool could be marketed for around £150. He did stress that he was no longer involved in this market and was not interested in the development of such a tool himself but added that he had looked into the design and circuitry required.

What’s involved is passing a very low current through the circuit and measuring the resistance. This resistance would then indicate whether the bag was good with a green light or faulty with a red light and it would be as simple as that. There are issues such as the different connectors involved that would need to be solved but the idea of a tester for airbags is quite realistic. With an item such as this it is hard to see how the car or insurance industry could argue against it on safety grounds.

A couple of other points to bear in mind with airbags. Firstly, they are checked every few seconds by the ecu when they are in a car so this does make the need for further testing (apart from demonstrating that the item has been checked) unnecessary. With the rules on selling making you responsible for the cost of refitting as well as replacing, it would be worth your while testing to be sure before you sent it off. The other issue that must be considered is that the ecu may well need replacing as this could have set itself to indicate a fault due to the previous airbag deploying.

There are other potential hazards to consider, especially risks from static electricity deploying airbags if not handled correctly. This applies in particular to any units with tails fitted.

So, as we concluded in the last article, there are no real grounds for green airbags not to be saleable but it is up to the industry to put the case across to overturn the insurance industry’s current view. Airbags are an issue up for discussion at the CARS show so a great reason to get along there.

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