Under No Circumstances
should you attempt to repair these systems yourself.
The SRS Systems in modern vehicles are highly complex systems with a number of components that require Exact Replacement and Testing Procedures, which require expensive equipment to test, examine, analyse, and repair. In most cases, the repair involves replacement of components. Most of the crash sensors are 'One Time Use' Components, and are replaced, as they are not repairable.
All of the over the counter repairs manuals are very specific in recommending to you that the dealer is the only one to work on the (SRS) airbag system.
This is not entirely true, Most Independent Class A Collision Repair Facilities have the information, equipment and technicians TRAINED to make these repairs. They repair them everyday with no problems. Other Collision shops will sublet this portion of the vehicle repair to one of the companies in their area, that specializes in Airbag Repair.
The deployment of the Airbag(s) can have a number of consequences that are not revealed at first glance. This is where the 'Hidden' damage items in a collision repair are addressed.
Correct fitting and alignment of the doors and hatches are part of the overall integrity and safety for the passengers, that are designed into modern vehicles.
This involves measurement of the vehicle to determine deviation from factory manufacturing specifications. Modern vehicles are manufactured with a high degree of precision, and this allows Repair Facilities to restore vehicles to factory specifications.
These Designs are one of the reasons that 'Doors that Fly open' in a collision are a very rare event.
In the Southwest, where you have a hard time finding a vehicle that does not have Air Conditioning, a collision event that takes place with the windows up, can result in 'bowing' of doors, rear hatches and tailgates in vehicles that have them. This is caused by the temporary over-pressure in the passenger compartment when the airbag(s) inflate.
Let's take a moment to examine some of the items that are Required to test and repair these systems.
You will need the Specific Repair Manual for your car. You may get by for only 40-50 bucks on this one.
Another option is to call one of the suppliers of collision repair information and buy their Airbag Repair Procedures manual, but this will cost you a few hundred dollars.
Open the repair manual to the pages on Airbag Replacement and Repair Procedures and get a big note pad and pencil.
Read the Entire Section.
Make notes of Cautions and any Special Tools Needed.
Pay Attention to the section on the proper Handling of Airbag Modules and Static Electricity
Make a List of the parts that MUST BE REPLACED.
Leave room on the bottom of this list.
Make another List of the Parts that MUST BE INSPECTED.
Typically on the driver side, in addition to the airbag, you will probably need a steering wheel, turn signal switch assembly, horn assembly, lower dash cover and steering column. You will need these because the force of deployment usually causes the steering column to collapse as it was designed to in the case of a crash. (Remember the part about head, neck and chest injuries?)
If the passenger bag deployed, you will probably need a dash pad, instrument cradle, windshield, vents, and a number of parts not directly connected to the airbag system. This is because in airbag deployment to save your life, airbags beat up a car's dashboard pretty good.
Remember the MUST BE INSPECTED List?
For the sake of argument, we will assume that your car is one of the vehicles that does not require the dealer to reset the ECU to clear the error codes that are set in case of a crash. If your car is one of those that require the dealer to reset these codes, you have already lost. The dealer will want to backtrack the entire repair sequence to ensure that there is no danger to their technicians, and that all of the repair proceedures took place in the correct order.
If You are still not convinced that airbag repair is not a back yard activity, let's move to the tools section of the the repair process.
You will need to go to one of the Major Tool suppliers and buy a Scan Tool. Scan Tools perform a variety of the necessary testing proceedures. The one's you can get for $40-50 bucks at the local auto parts store, are not up to the task, nor do they have the specific diagnostic software for the Airbag System.
These tools will set you back between 3,000 and 10,000 dollars. Be sure when you buy it, you get the software for your car. Also, make sure that you get the training in using this equipment. (They usually throw this in.)
This training will show you how to use the tool, not how to repair your airbag system.
Set aside a couple of weeks for courses in theory and practice in Supplemental Restraint and Airbag Systems before beginning repairs. You will need to pay for these courses.
Since you have "some tools", you already have a DVOM, ( Digital Volt Ohm Meter) to check the ECU, SENSORS, airbag circuits, and wiring harnesses in the case of breaks and continuity checking. If not, you Will have to get one!
You cannot use a analog VOM because they send current thru the circuit for testing. This small amount of current will explode the airbag!!
Static electricity and airbags are an Explosive mix!!
Drag out the DVOM and make a Mark One Eyeball inspection of ALL the parts that MUST be inspected. One of the most critical areas are the wire harnesses in the Airbag system. Perform a continuity check on any suspect wires. Repairs to these wires are very dangerous and in most cases not recommended unless you are trained and have the correct materials. So it's a good idea to replace them.
Add the Parts that Fail to the MUST BE REPLACED List.
Once you have assembled all of the equipment and training necessary, you are almost ready to go.
Check Your Lists and Get More MONEY.
You will need to have between 1,000 and 5,000 dollars for the parts at factory list prices.
You will need the airbag(s). This is where the paper trail begins..........
You will need to provide the VIN number of your car to even begin to approach finding an airbag. Model and midyear changes by the manufactures mandate this information to provide the CORRECT parts. Just because they fit and bolt up does not mean they will work. This applies to the SENSORS, electronic control unit, wire harnesses, clockspring, brackets, clips, and backup power supply in the case you car used one. You will have a real hard time going to the dealer and walking to the counter and buying these items.
They WILL NOT sell them to the general public.
Okay, you say, I'll get them from a wrecking yard. Same deal.
Automobile Recyclers that deal in salvage airbags will not sell them to the public. First, they are dangerous. Second, whatever money they make on them will not begin to cover the liability insurance or the court costs involved in an accident by doing this.
You have enough on your plate at this point, so we will not discuss stolen bags.
By now of course, you have repaired the frame and body damage, and you have replaced or repaired the broken and or damaged sections, made sure the vehicle is square and true, which needs to be done for the parts to fit. You have also checked the remainder of the electrical system, the brakes, engine, cooling system, alignment, done the air conditioning work, and the seatbelts for repair or replacement. You have also complied with the Federal and State regulations regarding hazardous materials storage and disposal. The fines here alone are enormous.
Now, if you still do not understand that Airbag repair is not an activity for the backyard mechanic, call your insurance company and ask them if they will insure your car. Be prepared for them first, to laugh a lot , and second, to cancel your policy, or rewrite it to exclude any coverage for anything remotely connected to the airbag system.
Call your lawyer and ask him how much money he will need up front to defend you against the lawsuit that will arrive if you EVER sell or borrow this vehicle to anyone and they have a collision, and the Airbag system fails.