Mercedes-Benz, on the other hand, was a bit more conservative. The automaker installed airbag replacement labels on all vehicles sold in the U.S. through roughly 2002, says Diedra Wylie, a spokesperson for Mercedes-Benz. The labels called for new airbags at the 15-year mark. After 2002, Mercedes research concluded that the airbags it produced after January 1, 1992 would last the life of the vehicle, Wylie says.
"Advances in airbag module technology now ensure the lifelong, functional reliability of the airbags," says Wylie.
In pre-1992 Mercedes vehicles with airbags, the part needs to be replaced after 15 years. The vehicle's owner will have to foot the bill of roughly $2,000.
Does an Airbag Expire?
While some automakers have set time limits on when to replace an airbag, the actual components are extremely durable. The key difference is the type of seal used to house the airbag igniter, also known as the squib.
"Almost all squibs since Day One have used what is called 'glass-to-metal' sealing, which is the best for moisture protection," says Douglas Campbell, who is president of the Automotive Safety Council and has worked in the airbag industry for more than 25 years.
"Some earlier non-North American models may have used 'plastic-to-metal' seals, which would have passed the vehicle life tests, but are considered to be potentially not as robust in extreme testing," Campbell says.