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Are air bags more likely to malfunction in older vehicles?

Air bags have been a standard safety feature in U.S. vehicles for many decades and prevent serious and fatal injuries from happening during car accidents. Air bags save thousands of lives every year, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that over 25,000 lives have been saved by frontal air bags during the last 20 years.

Air bags are very important during car collisions and proper air bag deployment can create a life or death situation in some car accident cases. Safety standards and air bag requirements are always changing for new vehicles but what about the millions of older vehicles still driving on U.S. roads?

The average age of a vehicle driving in the U.S. today is just over 11 years, which is the oldest average age the U.S. has seen. With more people driving older vehicles, should these drivers be concerned over the effectiveness of their air bags?

All air bags are at risk to malfunction during an accident but air bags in older vehicles may be more likely to malfunction. Auto manufacturers say that the components in air bags can deteriorate after a while and cause the air bag to malfunction. Moisture can affect how the air bag is sealed and affect the powder that is used help the air bag fill with gas. If the air bag does malfunction, it may take longer to deploy or fail to deploy during a collision, and can result in serious and fatal injuries to passengers in the front seat.

Electrical wires can also become corroded over time and lead to the air bag not deploying. The air bag light is supposed to go off if there is a problem with the air bag system or wire connection problem. If this light goes off, car owners should take their vehicle in to get the error fixed and to make sure there aren't any other problems with the vehicle.

Many auto manufacturers were not sure how long air bags would last and many manufacturers recommend having air bags inspected or even replaced if the vehicle has been around for 15 years or more. However, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said that owners of older models do not need to replace their air bags. Instead, drivers should provide necessary maintenance on their vehicles to make sure air bags and other safety equipment is working properly.

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

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