How do airbags work? Everything you need to know

by Zelmarie Roets | 03 Sep 2020 | Tips

Do you know how airbags work? We’re here to tell you everything you need to know about them, from who created airbags to how they work.

What are airbags and how do they work? 

Like seatbelts, airbags are a type of car-safety restraint system designed to stall injury in the event of an accident. These gas-inflated cushions, built into the steering wheel, dashboard, door, roof, and/or seat of your car, use a crash sensor to trigger a rapid expansion of nitrogen gas contained inside a cushion that pops out on impact to put a protective barrier between passengers and hard surfaces.

Airbags are known as SRS’s (Supplemental Restraint Systems) and are designed to work in conjunction with a seatbelt, and not to replace it. It employs a pillow-like bag that rapidly inflates when the vehicle strikes a surface or another vehicle, creating an air-filled cushion to help absorb energy and create a buffer between the occupant and the hard surfaces of a car.

As quick as the airbag inflates, it can deflate, with this escaping air further absorbing the energy transferred.

Impacts over a certain force are registered by sensors fitted to the vehicle and interpreted by the Airbag Control Unit (ACU). The ACU then determines the severity, angle and other variables and triggers the airbag modules. The gas generator produces nitrogen, through an instantaneous chemical reaction, and inflates the airbag in under 30 milliseconds.

Airbags come in various shapes and forms and the most common types of airbags are as follows:

-Driver airbag

-Passenger airbag

-Curtain airbag

-Seat-mounted side-impact airbag

Airbags help prevent your body from folding over the seatbelt and making contact with the hard surfaces while the seatbelts help keep you correctly positioned for the airbag to work effectively.

Extensive studies show that airbags help reduce the risk of fatal injuries when used in conjunction with seatbelts, so be responsible and buckle up.

The History of the Airbag:

Allen Breed held the patent to the only crash-sensing technology available at the time. Breed had invented a “sensor and safety system” in 1968. It was the world’s first electromechanical automotive airbag system.

In 1964, Japanese automobile engineer Yasuzaburou Kobori was developing an airbag “safety net” system that employed an explosive device to trigger airbag inflation, for which he was awarded patents in 14 countries. Sadly, Kobori died in 1975 before seeing his ideas put into practical or widespread use.

Over the years, cars have become considerably safer. In the last 30 years, massive strides have been made in safety through the integration of active and passive safety systems. As a result, vehicle accidents and collisions now have a greater survival rate than ever before.


Remember to let the person who is buying your car know if the car was in an accident!

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