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Air Bag 101: How to Replace an Air Bag on a Budget

replace an air bag

Learning to replace an air bag is perhaps not the first thing most of us think of when our car unexpectedly deploys and we have to make decisions.

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But why not?

There are thousands of guides online to doing it yourself and the process, while technical, is still just a series of steps to follow. And what's the alternative – scrapping your car over a deployed airbag?

Plus, there's the added benefit of saving a few bucks on the cost to replace airbag units by not going to a professional mechanic. Join us, today, as we break down how to replace an airbag on a budget, and let's get you from deployed to perfect working order without breaking the bank.

replace an air bag

Can You Do Your Own Repairs?

For car owners who want to carry out their own airbag repair or replacement, it's important to consider whether it's worth it, overall. Most of us go this route in an attempt to save some money, but there can be unintended costs associated with making a mistake. Damaged car repairs can stack up quickly and, depending on your make and model, that price tag could be enough to make you pursue a DIY option.

But take a moment to consider the results. Repair or replacement is an option. But it depends on the skill and confidence of the person, and whether the effort is greater than the cost to a specialist.

DIY enthusiasts with some level of experience to their name and access to reliable repair tips and advice could repair or replace an airbag. Car airbags are fickle and may malfunction at the drop of a hat. An improper repair may cause the airbags to deploy, and this is often not a proper deployment, either.

Once deployed, the validity of these airbags becomes compromised your time spent repairing or replacing it will be wasted. Unless you're an experienced car technician, the best course of action is to take your vehicle to a reputable professional to do this work for you.

But what if that's just not an option? In these cases, we urge readers to purchase or download a repair manual. These will provide detailed instructions on how to replace the airbag, including clearing the code from the sensor. If you do not clear this code, the airbag may automatically deploy when the car is turned on, so it's incredibly important to make sure you've cleared it.

Keep in mind: the power of an airbag in deployment is higher than a lot of people think. It's important to replace or repair them properly, or a second deployment may injure your hands, face or body.

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Legal Restrictions

For those of you who want to replace airbag units on your own, you'll be happy to hear there are no restrictions on this kind of work. You don't need to go to any sort of authorized dealer or mechanic to fo this work, except when the work butts up against your car's warranty.

Remember that these parts are important to your continued safety during your daily driving. Do not wait to go to a repair shop or carry out your DIY repair if you need to replace the airbag. If you need more information, search for it or contact your local car dealer and get the job done as soon as possible.

Let's Start Repairing

Before we start, one thing needs to be made clear: every car is different, and the guidelines listed here are informational only. You'll need to pair this advice with proper research into your car's specifics, so all of your T's and I's are dotted before you start.

Technical work is almost always best left to certified professionals. Since we're going it solo, you're doing so at your own risk, ultimately. Incorrect installation may result in accidental placement and personal injury.

The message here is, “Do everything in your power to make sure you get your installation right.” Alright, let's get started.

replace an air bag

Disconnect Battery Terminals

Before starting, disconnect the terminals from the battery. Then allow the vehicle to sit for one hour, minimum, for any battery backup to be completely discharged.

Don't Probe The Airbag With Your Meter

Never test the airbag's terminals or connectors with the probes of your meter. It only takes 2-to-3 ohms for an airbag to deploy, and these terminals can supply enough current do exactly that. From side airbags to roof, knee, foot, and seat airbags, the same rule applies.

Storing An Undeployed Bag

If you've had to remove a live airbag as part of your project, you should store it in an antistatic bag with the vinyl side up. That last part is important because, if it accidentally deploys with that side down, it will become a high-powered projectile.

Replace The Airbag Control Module and Sensor

If the airbag deploys, the airbag control module will need to be replaced or reprogrammed. This is the base computer in control of your airbags. When this system detects an issue, it displays a warning light on the dash panel. Following an accident, most systems lock the module, preventing any potential future deployments.

Start by finding the control module. Check the manuals for your vehicle and any other relevant documentation or software. If you are taking on a DYI project like this, this part may take time, but you should be able to find the module pretty reliably.

Obviously, you'll also need to purchase a new module to use in the replacement. Once you're ready to replace it or to reprogram the existing module, the next step is a simple matter of following the instructions to the letter.

Make sure to find relevant documentation on how to replace airbag sensor units as well, as any bags which have deployed will have lost theirs.

The Diagnostic Airbag Module

Disconnect the battery terminals and discharge the battery backup. Turn the steering wheel to access each driver airbag module bolt or attachment pin bore. Remove all hardware, as needed, as well as any wiring, horn wires, ground straps, and airbag connectors.

In the event that the airbag connector melts, cut the wires to the coils and replace them with new clock springs.

Keeping The Budget Modest

The question of how much to replace airbags comes down to a few factors. It's a question of what resources you have available and how patient you can be. Visit local auto yards and ask about old, unused airbags. Small repair shops may have access to low-priced deals, and you'd be amazed by what you'll find online.

Replace An Air Bag On A Budget

Taking matters into your own hands and deciding to replace an air bag all on your own is a big step. If you do your homework and stick to the standard replacement guidelines, there's every chance you can save a lot of money on a DIY project.

For more on this and the fascinating world of old, recycled, and scrapped vehicles, check out the rest of our awesome blog content today!

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