The Evolution of Front Airbags

The Evolution of Front Airbags

What Type of Front Airbags Does My Car Have?

The only way to know for sure what type of front airbags you have is to check your owner's manual, which will have a description of the system and how it works. The model year of your vehicle, however, will give you an idea of what system you have. Remember though, that even with the most technologically advanced front airbag systems on the market today, children under age 13 are still safest when properly restrained in the backseat.

  • 1987 to 1997 models: Vehicles from these model years were the first to be equipped with airbags and these bags deployed with the most force. Some automakers reduced the force of their airbags in later models during this time period. In general, though, there is no way to determine the deployment force of airbags installed during these model years.
  • 1998-2003 models: Federal testing for airbags changed to allow airbags to deploy with less force in 1998. Automakers begin building vehicles with "depowered" airbags. These might be referred to as "second generation" or "next generation" airbags in your owner's manual. Since no federal regulation required the use of depowered airbags, some 1998-and-later vehicles may still have first-generation airbags. In later models in this time period, some automakers began to use "advanced," "dual-stage" or "multi-stage" airbags in their vehicles, which used sensors to give different levels of inflation or, in some cases, not deploy the airbag at all.
  • 2004-2006 models: Automakers begin phasing in "advanced" airbags, which have two or more inflation levels, due to a new federal regulation. These airbag systems detect (1) the size of the occupant, (2) seat position, (3) seatbelt use and (4) crash severity, and may either deploy the airbag with less force or not deploy it at all in a collision. About 20 percent of 2004 model year and about 65 percent of 2005 model year vehicles have advanced airbags. Almost all light-duty vehicles will have advanced airbags for the 2006 model year. A vehicle has advanced airbags if the airbag warning label on the sun visor has the phrase "even with advanced airbags."

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