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Should airbags in older vehicles be inspected?

Airbags have saved thousands of lives every year in Massachusetts. Without airbags, passengers are more likely to suffer injuries, including severe or fatal head trauma. Airbags have been a very important safety feature but not many drivers know that their car manual most likely says to have their airbags inspected and possibly replaced after 10 years.

Do airbags really need to be inspected or replaced after 10 years? Many of these warnings are in older-model vehicles and were recommended to keep airbags working safely in the event of a car accident. With the average age of vehicles in the U.S. being just over 11 years, the question over inspecting airbags should be an important one for many drivers.

Manufacturers put the warnings in the owner's manual because they did not know how long airbags would last. Studies have shown that the components in airbags can degrade after a while and moisture can affect the powder used to cause the airbags to fill with gas. Airbags are supposed to deploy within 30 to 40 milliseconds and any delay could result in injuries to passengers. 

While some manuals say airbags should be inspected after 10 years, mechanics say it can be difficult to determine if an airbag is defective or how it will perform in the event of a crash. However, mechanics said they can fix electrical problems that may cause the airbag not to deploy so it still is beneficial to have inspections for this type of airbag defect.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said that owners of older vehicles do not need to replace their airbags. They did say that after an airbag deploys, the airbag needs to be replaced with parts from the manufacturer to ensure that the airbag will work correctly in the future.

Source: AOL Autos, "Should Car Owners Replace Airbags in Older Cars?" Pete Bigelow, July 30, 2013

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