Ordering a New Airbag Module

April 9, 2012

Learn how to determine when it's time to replace your airbag module, where to find new and used airbag modules, and where to get a module replaced.

Undeployed Airbag

There are times when an airbag module needs to be replaced. The airbag control module may need to be completely replaced or simply taken to a specialist for airbag module repair. Once an airbag has been deployed it can be reused as long as the module is reset properly. Many drivers choose to upgrade their airbag module, as the newer ones are much more compact.

Determine What Is Wrong

First determine what the problem is with the airbag module. This way the search for parts can begin on the right foot. Many times only the control unit needs to be replaced, as the electrical circuit no longer works. Without a working circuit the airbag will not deploy. Alternatively, the unit may be completely damaged from an accident and is no longer usable. Airbag deployment is controlled by the airbag sensor, which is triggered electrically. If any one part of the entire system is not working, then it needs to be repaired or replaced.

Find Suppliers

Many companies supply airbag modules. The vehicle manufacturer will be able to provide a new module or information on distributors that can provide compatible modules. There are aftermarket modules available that can be used as replacements, as well as reset used modules for those on a budget. There is no danger or safety issues with replacing your module with a used version.

Search Online

Searching for an airbag module online is an excellent idea. Most companies have their own website or at least provide information online. Searching online makes the entire ordering process very easy. You can find which companies provide modules that fit the make and model of your vehicle. By looking online you can determine which companies have modules in stock.

Compare Prices

Aftermarket or used parts tend to be much less expensive than ordering the module from a dealer or manufacturer. Try to get a few different quotes to obtain the best price on your replacement. Comparison shopping will ensure that you find the best price.

Check the Warranty

If the vehicle is still under warranty, the manufacturer may be required to replace the airbag module free of charge. Even if the module is not covered under the warranty it is located in the steering wheel and may need to be replaced by a specific company, or other parts of the warranty will be void. Besides checking the current module warranty, also investigate the new module warranty. Problems or faults may only be covered if a specific company installs the new module. Before ordering, make sure you know what is covered and what is not.

Order

Now that you know the part or module you need and have found a supplier that offers a great price, go ahead and order the module. Check how long the shipping is, as it is illegal to drive around without a working airbag. Many companies offer great deals, as the shipping is included.

Airbag Systems with Aftermarket Bumpers

When you set up an airbag system in your car, you have to be careful to ensure that the airbag deployment will engage properly in the event of an accident. Vehicles with aftermarket bumpers, or bumper setups that have been used previously on another car, and which are foreign to the standard make of your vehicle, will need recalibration in order to respond properly.

Why Recalibration Is Needed

The way that an airbag system works is that it senses any changes in pressure to the bumper system and other key components of the vehicle. When the car gets into a collision, the bumper and other parts of the car are likely to crumple or become damaged. The computer in the airbag system takes note of this and updates the airbags themselves as to what is going on. If the pressure differential is significant, the airbags deploy.

How to Recalibrate

The best way to have your airbag system recalibrated to an aftermarket bumper is to take your vehicle to a professional airbag service person. These workers can tweak the complicated computer system of the airbags without running the risk of deploying the airbags by accident, which could end up costing you several hundred dollars in repair costs, or more.

Where to Buy New Airbag Components

Before you buy airbag components from any store or online marketer, it's important to know which type of airbag will best suit your vehicle. Not only will this ensure that you buy only the airbag components you really need, but it will also help you to find the best deals on new components. The following resources can be helpful in your search for new airbag modules and parts.

  • Local auto body shops. One of the best places to go in search of airbag components is a local auto body shop. These shops often have both used and new parts for a variety of different parts and vehicles. They also provide you the opportunity to speak with an expert mechanic in person, who can then help you to determine exactly which parts you'll need.
  • Online stores. Many online retail shops have some of the best prices available on different components for airbag systems. This may take some searching on your part, and be sure that you check to be sure that any company you consider purchasing from is fully reputable and licensed.
  • Dealerships. Dealers and dealership mechanics can oftentimes provide you with hard to find parts for your airbag system in your vehicle. This can be a great way to also gain valuable information about the process of reinstalling airbag components and replacing system modules as well.

For more information, speak with a licensed professional and a mechanic in your area.

Where to Get Airbag Installation

Airbag installation is a specialized job. If your airbag has deployed, or if you want a new airbag in your car, there aren't many places that can offer the service.

  • Dealers. The best place to go is the dealer for your make of car. Expect to pay $300 or more for airbag installation as it's so specialized. It takes skill that's beyond most garages. Much depends if the steering column needs to be replaced. If it's a collapsible steering column, replacement will be necessary. The clockspring might also need to be replaced.
  • Garages. Most garages won't deal with airbag installation. It can be too tricky, and it's all too easy to trip the new airbag. Even though it's lucrative work, what's involved doesn't make it worthwhile for many garages. You might have to check around several garages before finding one that will do airbag installation.
  • DIY. Do not attempt to repair or replace an airbag yourself. This is specialized and dangerous work. An airbag deploys with explosive force, and an accidental detonation can injure or even kill you. Leave this job to the professionals.

Are Used Airbags Reliable?

If you are looking for airbags for sale to replace yours after it has deployed, you have to determine whether to purchase used ones or new ones. By purchasing used, refurbished airbags, you can save substantially—up to 75 percent. "Used" is not quite a true term, as the airbags being sold have never actually been deployed, but rather removed from other "dead" vehicles. You can find retailers who offer both repair and replacement models. These are typically salvaged from vehicles that have been scrapped and thus are perfectly functioning.

Check with your insurance company to see whether purchasing replacement airbags is covered. The industry is currently considering permitting the use of undeployed airbags. The benefits include reduced cost for accident repairs, and access for body shops to a secondary source. On the other side is the questions of whether you are getting the product you (or your insurance agency) pay for. According to Jim Watson, vice president of ABC Auto Parts, "For years we have been deploying airbags out in the field before shredding and crushing cars. Airbags are parts that can be safely reused to repair collision-damaged vehicles."

Such companies and agencies are actively tracking use, sales and results for recycling airbags, so the industry is increasing in safety and quality assurance. Mr. Watson says that non-deployed airbags are already part of the mainstream repair industry. In fact, there are already safety protocols in place, such as the Airbag Protocol from the Automobile Recyclers' Association. These airbags were merely pulled from dead vehicles but never deployed and have met all federal and manufacturing standards.

The new protocol sets standards to which all recyclers must adhere to ensure that every product that receives its rating has passed certain requirements, such as safe, consistent extraction from a dead vehicle. Another important thing to remember is that, as this industry is getting more advanced, so is the government's response to it. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is actively tracking VIN numbers of all vehicles to keep a current database of those from which the airbags can safely be removed, and those which have airbags that are considered damaged.

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