How Airbags work?

How Airbags work?

How Airbags work?


Explosions are not always terrible things, sometimes they help to save people’s life. One such explosion is of airbags. During car crash, airbags reduces the speed of the vehicle, and in turn help to minimize the effect of the collision. According to the definition, an airbag is a safety feature installed in the vehicle that protects passengers at the time of straight out collision. According to research, during head-on collision, the regularity of airbags increases the chances of survival by 30%.

Most cars generally have a driver’s side airbag, while some may have passenger’s side airbag as well. It was in the year 1973 in the Oldsmobile Toronado that airbags were first sold with a vehicle. During mid-1990s, the installation of at least two airbags became standard in most cars. To keep the things flexible and stick-proof, cornstarch or talcum powder is generally used within the storage system of airbags. So, let’s understand how airbags works, but first let us know what exactly they do.


Everything in the world is controlled by the laws of Physics, basically the laws of motion. According to the law, anything that moves has mass and velocity and anything that has mass and velocity has kinetic energy. The heavier the vehicle is and the faster it is moving, the more is the kinetic energy. So, when the car is moving, along with it passengers too are moving. That’s why, when the vehicle crashes into something, even if the vehicle stops, passengers tend to keep on going. From the laws of motion, to stop a moving object something is required. Within the first tenth of a second the car stops, but as we are also going with the same speed, so to stop ourselves, we need something, either a dashboard, or steering, in case there are no airbags or we are not wearing a seat belt, for that matter.


At that speed if our body hits with any of the moving objects, then it would definitely result in fatal injury or death. Seat belts work in combination with airbags. Seat belt keeps passengers in their place, and airbag slows the movement of passengers with minimum injury at the time of the accident. Thus, the core purpose of the airbag is to reduce the speed of passengers in the car. Although seat belts protect the passenger during the collision, but the biggest problem with them is they restrain only to the body. So, even though we are tightly buckled up, our head will keep on moving and smash into the steering or anything. It is at that time, airbags come handy.


Airbags are developed from a fine gauge of nylon and are folded tight into the steering wheel, dashboard, door panels. With airbag comes a sensor that informs the bag to inflate, which generally requires the force of around 10-15mph. Once the impact is detected, a combination of sodium azide (NaN3) and potassium nitrate (KNO3) is released to form Nitrogen gas (N2). Hot discharge of the gas inflates the bag at the speed of around 200mph. Soon after inflation, the gas dispersed through the vents in the airbag, and as a result the bag deflates. It takes around 1/25th of a second for the entire process to occur.


As it is important to have airbags in the vehicle, it is equally important to make sure that they are working perfectly. To check the condition of the airbag system, one should look at the dashboard. On starting a vehicle, a picture of a seated and inflated airbag appears on the dashboard. If the airbags are working fine, then the light would go off after few seconds once the engine starts. In case, the light remains, then it indicates a problem with the airbag system. If there are no electronic signals in your car, then take the vehicle for manual electrical testing. Just make sure that the airbag system is working right.


The ideal distance between the breastbone and an airbag is of 10 inches. If the distance is smaller, then it can cause fatal injury at the time, bag is inflated. In modern vehicles, airbags are much safer than those in the 80’s and 90’s. Today, many automobile manufacturing companies manufacture cars that come with six to eight airbags far beyond the dual airbags. Even if today’s vehicles are equipped with latest technologies and features, one should always wear a seatbelt while driving and should keep the speed within limits.




Airbags are a safety device installed in the vehicle that inflate rapidly at the time of the collision and protect passengers from the impact. Most cars generally have driver’s side airbag, while some may have passenger’s side airbag as well. Nowadays, some cars even come with six-eight airbags. The ideal distance between the breastbone and an airbag is of 10 inches. Impact sensor and airbag module are two components that help in the functionality of airbags. The sensor detects the impact and send current to airbag modules that deploy the airbag.


Share post