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Do Airbags Need to be Replaced at a Certain Age?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro October 2015

If you're interested in car safety, you're probably interested in airbags, which have had a huge impact on improving automotive safety for the last 20 years. Since many parts in your car eventually wear out, should you worry about your airbag wearing out, too? If so, does it require a costly replacement? We've rounded up everything you need to know.

Don't Worry

Generally speaking, your airbag won't wear out or require replacement, no matter how long you own the vehicle. While many automakers once placed labels in vehicles insisting airbags had to be replaced after 15 (or even 10) years, that's no longer the case. Today's models are designed for the airbag to last the life of the vehicle, much like other important parts, such as large powertrain components, door latches and other items not expected to have expiration dates.

How Is It Possible?

Given what an airbag does (namely, lay dormant for years or decades before potentially used), how is it possible that one could last so long without replacement?

Automotive airbags now incorporate design features, specifically in their igniters, using the most robust technology possible to last as long as possible. While it's likely a few of these igniters will fail every once in a while -- and it's even more likely they'll fail as the car grows older -- the majority should keep you safe for years to come.

Exceptions

Admittedly, there are a few exceptions, but they primarily relate to older cars with airbags dating to the mid-1990s and earlier.

Older vehicles used different materials in the airbag igniter, which may wear faster over time than the material used in modern cars. This results in some older cars requiring airbag replacements after a decade or 15 years to ensure the airbag is working properly. Unfortunately, this replacement can be pricey, so most owners don't bother with it. We'd be suspicious of the airbags in some older cars if safety was a top priority.

Otherwise, our suggestion is to not worry. If your car is manufactured in the mid- to late-1990s or later, we suspect your airbags will continue to keep you safe and last longer than most other components of your vehicle.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Do Airbags Need to be Replaced at a Certain Age? - Autotrader