How Do Airbags Work?
Airbags are a standard feature for all cars on the road today. They are used to keep vehicle occupants safe during high-speed collisions. They don’t always deploy, as seatbelts are sufficient in keeping occupants safe during most fender benders. So how exactly are airbags triggered to deploy? How do they know the difference between a small fender bender and a high-speed crash? Lastly, what should you expect if an airbag is deployed while you’re in the car?
Essentially, your car determines that you’ve been in a high-speed crash and deploys the airbags upon severe deceleration. In day-to-day driving, your speed changes at safe rates by breaking and accelerating. Your car recognizes these speed changes, so your car will not deploy airbags even if you were to slam on the brakes. Also, the airbag sensors are stored in the front end of a vehicle. So, there’s nothing you can do from inside the vehicle to force them to deploy. Air bags are only triggered when the front end of your vehicle decelerates. The front end must decelerate so quickly that the car determines there has been a high-speed crash. An example of this would be changing from 40 mph to 0 mph in just one second.
As soon as this deceleration takes place, the airbag circuit is triggered. The airbag circuit creates heat and quickly heats up metal wires on the circuit. These metal wires then burn a small number of explosive chemicals stored in your vehicle. The burning of these chemicals creates an incredible amount of gas in a very short period. This gas is what fills your airbags. The airbags fill so quick that they burst out of their covering. Vehicle occupants will then push against the bags, and the bags stop occupants forward momentum. This keeps them safe and restrained during a high-speed accident. This is a complicated process with a lot of steps, so it’s pretty incredible to think that all of this can happen in under one second.
When vehicle occupants push against the bags, the gases used to fill the bags are slowly released, which allows occupants enough room to exit the vehicle after it has come to a stop.
So now we know how airbags work. But what can we expect if they are deployed while we are in the car? Airbags deploy with an incredible force to protect your head and brain from injury. Because they deploy so quickly and deployment is often unexpected, many report that they never feel anything at all. Drivers simply blink, and their airbag is deployed.
But, that’s not to say that they can’t hurt the driver or passenger. Airbags can cause bruising and burns. They can also cause small cuts on the face of drivers wearing glasses.
Alas, these bruises and cuts are a much better alternative to what could happen if you didn’t have an airbag. Airbags prevent serious head trauma and save lives every day.