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I am getting exhausted by the ongoing news that airbag inflators can malfunction and explode, injuring the driver and front passenger. Most worrying is that nothing in the news says that the replacement parts are perfectly safe (or even close).

It is not that long ago that airbags were a feature reserved for luxury cars. With time airbags became standard on what seems like all cars.

I would be quite content to remove this safety feature from my car. There is a recall on my car, but I'm so far ignoring it. Is disabling, or even removing, the two inflators a task that an amateur can tackle?

Alternatively, do you have experience making such a request at a dealership? Is there anything in the books that would make them decline such a request?

Update:

I found some information regarding the last part of the question. Disabling the airbag is legal, at least in some jurisdictions. This article, from Transport Canada, indicates that they allow drivers to install a switch that turns off airbag inflators. They recommend against such a switch. Installing a switch is a better solution than simply cutting off the power supply and/or control circuity of the airbag inflators, and I suspect it raises the caliber of the technician needed for this task from an amateur to a pro.

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Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Move More Comments Link To Top Feb 24 at 2:06
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Note: it is illegal to disable or remove an airbag in Canada without permission from Transport Canada. So not only is doing this yourself ill-advised, it may also be illegal, depending on where you live. – Nathan Osman Feb 27 at 19:38
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Every vehicle I've worked on has had an airbag fuse you can remove from the fuse panel to fully disable the airbag; the repair manuals recommend pulling this fuse when doing any work in the dash area since there's some risk of triggering the airbags to go off while you're working, which could result in serious injury or at least a significant cost to replace them.

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There is a recall on my car, but I'm so far ignoring it.

There is a recall on your car. Do not ignore it. This is not a task an amateur can tackle, but an amateur can bring their vehicle to their dealer to have the defective parts professionally replaced and the problem solved without compromising vehicle safety or legality.

Is disabling, or even removing, the two inflators a task that an amateur can tackle?

Note that given the relatively low incidence of defective parts (see also the airbag-related injury note in the article you linked to, noting also the seriousness of the "Who should consider..." section), combined with other chances, you are replacing an extremely low, albeit highly sensationalized, safety risk (potentially defective airbag) with an extremely high safety risk (no airbag), a high risk of performing the procedure incorrectly, and an extremely high financial risk of voiding your insurance in certain jurisdictions (which also places other vehicles involved in the collision in high financial risk, as well as presents possible difficulties for injured persons seeking medical care). This is not a sensible trade.

That is not to say that the defects should be ignored or are not important. However, the solution is to honor the recall to correct the problem while maintaining safety, not to disable safety.

However, the choice is yours as are the potential consequences. If you insist on proceeding with what appears to be an objectively misguided plan, I would first consult the service manual for your specific make and model of vehicle, which will give you the technical details you need, as it will differ per vehicle. You may at least want to inform your passengers that you have disabled their airbags to allow them to make their own informed choice about whether or not to get in the car with you.

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Hey, you've made it over here, nice! ... all the cool kids are doing it... – Lynn Crumbling Feb 22 at 20:53
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@LynnCrumbling Only because my car's a PITA. When my activity stops here, you'll know I've finally given up and left her abandoned on the side of a highway somewhere in central PA. – Jason C Feb 22 at 21:29
    
You should join us at the PitStop! – Lynn Crumbling Feb 22 at 21:33
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Since the potential payment of deployment on the Takata airbags is death, I don't see how it can be over stated the importance of getting them replaced. You are right the incidences are low. I'm not sure that I would trivialize the outcome of a deployed airbag, though, considering what a deployment can get you. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Feb 23 at 13:55

Your problem is not the airbag, it's you. You aren't taking a rational approach to risk. This not to insult you, because humans generally are very bad at taking a rational approach to risk - if NASA can screw up risk management (most notably on Challenger) then anyone can. :)

You won't find anything in the news to say it's "perfectly safe" or even "close", because that's not news. "Safety feature saves thousands of lives a year" is not a news story. "Safety feature goes wrong once and causes minor injuries" is a news story. But you're following the perfectly normal human characteristic of assuming visibility equals importance, and that's a bad assumption. In this case, it could quite literally be a fatal assumption for you and your passengers.

I'm afraid you're describing a classic case of "a little information is a dangerous thing". You've absorbed that there's a minuscule risk in one direction, so that a few people a year suffer minor injuries, and you've absorbed the concept of an airbag being "a small bomb". But you're missing the concept of what happens to the human body when you crash at speed, and that hundreds of people at day crash at speed, and walk away because of airbags.

You're also assuming you are capable of "driving more carefully". The statistics are pretty good on how nearly everyone thinks they're better than average at driving - and clearly 50% of people saying that are wrong! Even if you are, being careful doesn't protect you against external problems - what happens when you hit a patch of oil on the corner? Or what happens if someone else crosses into your lane and wipes you out? Being more careful doesn't provide any protection against that.

If you only drive at 20mph then crack on with taking out your airbags. You're not going fast enough to need them. If you ever drive at more than 20mph though, you'd better believe they'll save your life. I'm prepared to bet you do drive at more than 20mph.

The one exception to this is if your passenger is a child. Airbags are designed to blow out where an adult's head and body would be, but that's not going to work out well for a kid. It works out even less well if your kid is in a rear-facing seat, when the seat takes the full force in entirely the wrong place. Most cars do allow you to disable the passenger side airbag, and those that don't, there's some kind of transponder which disables it if there's a child seat fitted.

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I can feel your passion. I ride a motorcycle and of course...no airbags. Essentially turning your car into a giant motorcycle without airbags doesn't seem like a good idea for the little ones. I carried my little boy around for 9 months but I'm not so tied to him that I would put him on a motorcycle....or a car without safety features. Thanks for saying it. – Ppoggio Feb 24 at 8:18
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"nearly everyone thinks they're better than average at driving - and clearly 50% of people saying that are wrong!" Your argument is a statistical fallacy. Suppose you have ten drivers, nine of whom are rated 5/10 and one of whom is rated 1/10. The average is 4.6/10 and 90% of drivers are better than average. In the same vein, almost everybody has a greater than average number of legs: most people have two legs but the average is slightly less than two because some people have one leg or none. – David Richerby Feb 24 at 8:56
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@DavidRicherby Your argument is a statistical fallacy, because you've chosen a distribution for your example which is artificial and irrelevant. If I chose 9 drivers from the F1 roster and Joe Schmoe off the street, I could be reasonably certain that all 9 F1 drivers would be better than Joe. If I chose 9 drivers who were on their second lesson, I could be reasonably certain that all 9 would be worse than Joe. In reality we have a normal distribution of abilities, where 50% will be on one side and 50% will be on the other. – Graham Feb 24 at 12:10
    
@Graham Actually, I'm pretty sure the distribution isn't normal because it doesn't look like it should be symmetric. There's much more scope for being a really dangerous driver (e.g., old people who can barely see and who drive the wrong way down the motorway) than there is for being a really safe driver. And skewed distributions like this are precisely the ones where more than half of people are above the mean. – David Richerby Feb 24 at 15:58

It all varies on a car by car basis, some cars have wires you can disconnect under the seats/pedals and some you have to take the housing that encloses the wires inside the steering wheel column off.

Would also be worth mentioning that disabling your airbags is classed as a modification and if you had a crash and your insurers looked into why your airbags didn't go off and discovered you disabled them then your insurance would be null and void

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I am not suggesting you do this, just giving my experience from replacing airbags.

I am not familiar with this vehicle specifically, but I have changed the airbag on a couple older cars (early 90's). In the cars I worked on, the airbags were plugged into the car's wiring harness, I could simply unplug them. This will throw the airbag diagnostic light.

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I have this totally unreasonable fear of firing off an airbag by fiddling with it. It's not based in any sort of fact. It's purely emotional. I imagine my head next to the airbag above glove box and I'm jerking with it and it fires thereby breaking my neck. Maybe that's too much info. lol – DucatiKiller Feb 22 at 18:55
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@DucatiKiller It is not unreasonable. Look at several different procedures for safe removal and installation of the steering wheel alone. – Tobin S Feb 22 at 19:18
    
@DucatiKiller The cars I worked on had only a drivers side airbag. Got in an accident, airbag deployed, replaced it with one from the junkyard. Unhook the battery, wait 5 min to ensure any capacitors have drained. Check the connector with a volt meter. Plug in the airbag and bolt it in. Connect the battery. First time turning the car on, I did it from the passenger's seat. – rpmerf Feb 22 at 21:10
    
@rpmerf This is all I'm saying. LOL. It's that feeling that made you sit in the passenger side. Mine 'feeling' is just 10x more paranoia than the average bear. – DucatiKiller Feb 22 at 21:13
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@JasonC Your picking up what I'm putting down. LOL – DucatiKiller Feb 23 at 19:18

It is possible to remove an airbag. This is not recommended by any vehicle safety standard. In the event that an airbag is to be removed for an "SRS" light diagnoses, there are "SRS" dummy resisters available. There are different resistance values available. You would have to consult your manufacturer for details.

NOTICE: There are very specific procedures for removing and disposing of pyrotechnics. Consult your local vehicle manufacturer for details.

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Hey user15266. Welcome to the site. Thanks for the response. Hope to see you and your knowledge floating around in here in the future. Here's an overview of how the QA site works. mechanics.stackexchange.com/tour Cheers! – DucatiKiller Feb 23 at 0:36

Many other answers give tips like pulling the fuse or cutting wires. Please note that if your question is about the defective Takata airbags, this won't help! The problem is, that this airbags propellants are not properly sealed. "Moisture and humidity could be seeping inside inflators, destabilizing the volatile propellant inside." This means, in the worst case the airbag could explode without an electric ignition, because of the chemical reaction of the water and the propellant.

Keep that in mind!

Also, you should never ignore a recall on your car. Let a professional repair it. This could save your live, so it should be worth it for you!

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