How to disable airbags (and why you may need to)

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Not every model has the same airbag system or follows the same steps to disable the air bag. Similarly, not all vehicles have the option of deactivating the passenger airbag, particularly the older models.

That’s why you may want to take a good look at your manufacturer’s manual to find out which steps to take based on your car type. However, to get you started on the right foot, here is the general method used in most cars.

airbag on off button
The best way to disable airbag is to use the “off” button. Simply enter your key, press the button, and remove the key.

How to Disable Airbag System: General Method for Cars with On/Off Switches

Most vehicles have the deactivation switch in the glove box, while others have the switch at the end of the instrument panel by the passenger door (as shown in the image above on a 2001 dodge pickup). If your switch is on the glove box, simply find the disabling lock and insert your car key. Turn it until it is in the “off” position.

From your driver’s side, the deactivation should illuminate on your dashboard when you turn on the ignition. Just don’t forget to re-activate it once you’re done traveling with a child or anyone at risk of airbag injuries.

Step by Step Guide for Disabling the Airbag System for Vehicles Without On/Off Switches

Please note that you’re doing this at your own risk… Also, it may be illegal to disable your airbag. We do NOT recommend doing this unless you’re a professional.

1. Cut off the power (disconnect battery)

Your first step should aim at cutting off the power. Airbags run on an electric charge which means you need to cut off the battery cable for a negative from the terminal. Next, let the battery remain detached to drain all the charge.

disconnect battery wires
Disconnect Negative, then the Positive wires from the battery

2. Take the fuse off and keep it safe

If you are not sure which airbag fuse to take out, refer to your car manual. You might find several fuses underneath the cover. Refer to the manual to find the Airbag fuse, and pull it out.

fuse panel vehicle



Why you may need to…

Disabling an airbag, especially when traveling with a rear facing child seat, is an essential safety step. Most cars come with a useful reminder sticker just behind the front passenger visor.

To legally disable airbags, check if your car has an on/off switch and deactivate it using your key. If it’s not there, you may want to write a request to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

If approved, you can hire a professional dealer who understands your car manufacturer’s manual to install an on/off switch to meet the needs of special occupants.

If you offroad your rig, the last thing you want is the airbag hitting you in the face. Sometimes if we’re taking our trucks to some heavy offroad use we’ll pull that airbag fuse.

When is Disabling an Airbag Legal?

The airbag is one of the most important safety features in a car. That’s why the federal rules require that all vehicles sold in the US have airbags on both sides of the front seat. This legislation was made in September 1998 by the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act.

While airbags are mandatory for all cars, NHTSA issued a rule in 1997 to allow car manufacturers to permit airbag’s power to be reduced by about 20 to 35 percent.

Manufacturers are now aiming at equipping cars with an automatic airbag disabling system. Vehicle owners can also get their vehicles installed with on and off switches to allow easier deactivation if they or other people using the car are at risk of sustaining a serious injury from airbag deployment.

Let’s begin by looking at a few instances when disabling airbags is allowed.

1. Driver Seat

The only two instances you’re allowed to disable the airbag on the driver’s seat is when the doctor confirms that you have an unusual medical condition that puts you at risk of getting severely injured if it is activated.

Remember, airbags are designed to prevent you from hitting the dashboard, steering wheel, or windshield in the event of an accident.

There is such a thing as distance, where you’re too small, making you move too close to the steering wheel when driving, which increases your chances of getting injured. If you have to drive too close to the steering wheel, you may be allowed to disable the airbag.

The driver’s seat is strategically positioned to allow the required minimum distance between the driver and the steering wheel, which is 10 inches. That is roughly any driver taller than 4.6 inches.

2. Passenger Airbag on the Front Passenger Seat

The front passenger airbag can be disabled for many reasons depending on different circumstances. For instance, if you are traveling with a child below 12 years and there is no back seat option like two-seater sports cars or pick-ups, you may be allowed to deactivate the airbag.

The back passenger seat is the safest place for children to ride in an airbag-equipped car.

You can also disable the passenger seat airbags if you have to closely monitor a sick child in the front seat. There is also a need to disable the passenger airbag if the adult passenger carries a young child in the front passenger seat because there is no back seat.

Additionally, you may want to disable the passenger side airbag if you carry more children than the backseat can hold. There is also no harm when you deactivate the passenger seat airbag if the seat is empty.

The primary function of the airbag is to shield the passenger from sustaining deadlier injuries to the head. It deploys at a speed of 200km/h, which is quite dangerous when the front passenger is a child.

3. Rear Facing Child Seat

You should deactivate the front passenger airbag when carrying a baby or young child below 12 years in a rear facing child seat. It is risky to travel with a child in a rear-facing child seat’s in a passenger seat protected by airbags.

When deployed, it is likely to crush the child against the seat. If the child is in a restraint system, the child’s head is nearer the windshield and closer to the airbag, which means the explosion will occur right next to the head.

Never deactivate the front passenger side airbag if you are using the front facing child seat, as it can be a vital safety feature for protecting the child during a crash.



Can I disable my airbag?

Yes. You can disable it if you have to carry a child with you or a person with a medical condition that increases the risk of getting injured when airbags are deployed.

Why disable an airbag after an accident?

You need to replace an air bag if it was not deployed during the accident as it could be malfunctioning.

Will disconnecting my battery disable the airbag?

Yes. The airbag will only work if it is connected to the battery.

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