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Independent study looks good for airbags

This independent study demonstrates that there is no reason why a corectly inspected and tested airbag should not be resold.
MVDA and BVSF recently announced that they had commissioned a joint independent research programme to look objectively at the re-use of airbag system components. A preliminary report was finalised just before Christmas and now a summary is available.

The full report is still being finalised, but it is hoped that it will be available in the summer. However, the results are sufficiently clear and this allowed the associations to feel confident enough to brief members on the content of the report. Understandably, the full details are only available to members but due to the importance of this issue the MVDA has let us bring readers the key points of the findings.

Commenting on the report, MVDA Chairman Chas Ambrose said “the whole subject of airbags is a very contentious issue and needs to be examined in a rational and dispassionate manner. There’s lots of ‘hot air’ and rhetoric, but little in the way of logical thought and data. For this reason, we asked somebody from outside of the industry; somebody without any vested interests to have an objective look at the subject and see if there were any reasonable grounds for justifying reuse. As it happens, after carrying out some interesting work they came back and said they couldn’t see why some airbags system components couldn’t be reused. Of course, it was entirely possible that they could have said quite the opposite – that there was no scope for re-use – but they didn’t. And, naturally we were very pleased.”

airbag testing tool
This simple meter allows the operator to quickly and easily test airbags.
It’s very important to put this work in its proper context. There is already a huge market for used airbag system components, but as it stands it’s completely uncontrolled. Just take a look at Ebay – there are thousands of airbags listed for sale, and let’s be clear - it’s not illegal. In fact, I would say that the vast majority of accident damaged vehicles requiring airbags and repaired outside of ‘approved networks’ utilise ‘recycled’ airbags. All we are trying to do is bring some order and control to an existing situation, and to level the playing field by allowing professional vehicle dismantlers that have previously been hesitant to sell these parts to be more confident. And of course, this would give some level of comfort to customers.

The executive summary also clearly states that some SRS components should never be reused, such as any from water and fire damaged vehicles, or the key ‘controlling’ parts that cannot currently be tested (e.g. the central control units). Critically, not only has the company that produced the report put forward procedures for handling and testing the parts, but it has also developed a testing tool, a website and a training course that will be available. MVDA members will be entitled to discounted rates.

The tool to check an airbag is relatively simple and what it does is exactly what the vehicle does when the airbag is in the car, both when the ignition is switched on and then regularly during the time the ignition remains on. The report’s researcher, Tony Weatherhead of Jema Associates warns readers not to be tempted to use a multi-meter to test an airbag as the currents and voltages involved are very small and a multimeter could easily actuate the bag - don't ever forget that these are bombs! Full details about the tool together and the associated training is available the website (the website will be up and running within a few days).

The timing of this report couldn’t have been better, with the dashboard SRS warning light having become a testable item in the MOT from March 2013.

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