Air Bag Deploys At WrongTime.

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Wife and son went shopping yesterday. Took his '95 Bonneville. Car looks and drives like new. They get in car after shopping. He starts car, and they get ready to head home.
About 30 seconds after starting, car still in park, nobody around, passenger air bag goes off. Wife was bending over picking up her bottled tea from the floor. She got a bruised chin and light burns on face and neck. Lucky. Son was just stunned by the explosion. Passenger side windshield busted, and dash-wide trim piece along the windshield needs replacing. Guy is coming out tomorrow to replace the windshield, about $200. The kid will get a new trim piece at the boneyard. He keeps tools in the trunk and pulled the steering wheel bag right there before they came home. Didn't trust it any more. He thinks on that car both airbags should always go off together. He says the airbag light was coming on intermittently for a month or so until about half a year ago, then stopped when the bulb burned out.. You need a Tech 2 to pull the code, but he read that the airbag trouble default is "don't deploy," so he didn't worry about it. Now he's going to have to talk to the GM dealerships mechs near his work and get a Tech 2 read, because he fiance won't have it any other way. He would just pull the airbags if he had it his way. BTW, the GM shop manual only covers wiring schematics, and says to consult an "airbag professional" for everything airbag. Guess they keep that in-shop. Anyway, an airbag going off like this is pure bullshit. If he comes up with an answer from the GM mechs I'll follow up.
--Vic
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On 05/21/2011 08:51 AM, Vic Smith wrote:

q. how many airbags are there in a race car? a. none.
if occupant safety was a /real/ priority, all vehicles would have full roll cages, 6-point safety harnesses and helmets would be mandatory.
--
nomina rutrum rutrum

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I could live with the 6-point.
--Vic
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No insurance? Perhaps not on a '97.

So he had months of warning that there was a problem, he ignored it, now it is bullshit?
Anything mechanical or electrical will eventually fail from wear, stress, corrosion, or defect. I guess the lesson here is not to ignore warnings.
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On Sat, 21 May 2011 13:34:49 -0400, "Ed Pawlowski"

'95. Just liability.

Airbags exploding in your face for no reason is unacceptable, no matter what. Excuse me for thinking so. Lots of people driving around with flashing airbag lights, and lots of reasons for the light flashing. Not one says the bag will explode any time as far as I know. And it can happen even when the system gives no warning. There have been a number of recalls from different mfgs. Not saying I'm anti-airbag, but it gives you something to think about. I read that MB has a 10 year expiration date for their airbags. And I hope everybody knows that it's recommended to have both hands low on the wheel so your arms don't get broken. But I hardly ever follow that rule.

I agree with that. If my airbag light went on I'd take it in for fixing or pull the bags. Probably just something weird happened. One in a million. But I don't want anybody out there relaxing. My chance to fear-monger.
--Vic
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So if your brake warning light comes on intermittently until it finally burns out you'll be up on your high horse again about it being bs if your brakes stop working after you had 6 months of warning. I feel zero sympathy for you.
On Sat, 21 May 2011 13:27:41 -0500, Vic Smith

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Airbags are explosives. The fail condition for anything that can explode should be not to explode when put into a consumer product. It doesn't matter that an intermittent warning light was ignored, failure should mean not exploding. There is a glaring error in the FMEA process with that car.
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First, we know the airbag went off, but we do no know what failed and why. The airbag is explosive and may not have failed at all, but the sensor or relay, or other triggering device may have failed, this telling the airbag to do what it is intended to do. Was anything tampered with? Modified? Bumper in a crash of any sort?
The only thing we know for certain is the car owner chose to ignore a warning. Given that it was MONTHS of warning, the fault lies with him. If you know a bomb is going to go off when the counter gets to zero, you are a fool to stand by when you have time to get out or do something.
If your smoke detector goes off in the middle of the night, would you ignore it? When the low oil light goes on do you ignore it? Brake failure light? There are consequences to the actions, or lack thereof, and no one else to blame.
As I said, every mechanical or electrical device will eventually fail. That includes the devices that are put in place to prevent failure.
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On Sat, 21 May 2011 23:01:17 -0400, "Ed Pawlowski"

Nope, none of that.

Nope, I said a month or so. But he's not sure. Just knows it was intermittent, and it stopped. Not clear on the bulb burning out. He's not sure it burned out. I'll know more later. Now, here's something to consider. I'm supposing this from doing google searches. There are thousands of people driving with airbag warning lights flashing or constantly on. Couldn't find one whose warning lights are flashing where the airbag deployed for no apparent reason. Why> Because the warning means the system is disabled and your airbags won't deploy. That's why they want you to bring the car in. And getting it fixed can be very expensive. That's why people often don't take them in to the dealer. But I found plenty of cases where there WAS NO WARNING LIGHT and the airbag deployed for no apparent reason. So all your speculation and finger pointing means exactly squat.

What's with all this blame crap? You on a religious kick? The kid doesn't take of deny blame. He's just pissed his airbag exploded in his mom's face, broke his windshield and half destroyed his dash while he was idling in a parking lot. I don't like it either. When it happens to you, you can talk. Bad analogies too. A better analogy is the low battery peeping of a smoke alarm. Says your smoke alarm might not work in a fire. Doesn't mean it will start a fire.

Right. That's why bombs are blowing up all over for no apparent reason, and airplanes are falling from the sky. BTW, you won't find one auto manufacturer admitting an airbag will deploy in an untouched parked car, airbag warning or not. Just can't happen according to them. But it just happened to my son. That's all I came to say.
--Vic
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FMEA should have covered the whys, whatifs, etc.

This is what FMEA is for.

Perhaps. however foreseeable items should be in the FEMA.

Ignoring the light should be part of the FEMA.

I don't think you understand what a FEMA is.

And that's why engineers do FEMAs, to make sure explosive failure is at least exceedingly rare.
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On Sat, 21 May 2011 21:37:38 +0000 (UTC), Brent

Probably a fluke on this 16 year old car. But it's happening with a lot of different cars. VW and Ford seem to be leaders. Not just older cars either. Detonation algorithms are "proprietary." My kid says he's going have GM pull the codes with a Tech 2 then see if he wants to spend the money to replace the bags. I suspect he won't because he's already talking about a no-bag steering wheel he has his eyes on. Dollars to donuts GM will tell him the bag can't deploy like it did, no matter what the codes. It's "impossible." There's a 4" flap of maybe 3/16" thick metal from the airbag cannister that blew straight up and destroyed the trim that runs along the windshield. Have to bend it back down level to replace the trim which he already got at the boneyard. We put channel locks on it and it's really tough to bend until the windshield is pulled. I was surprised the airbag explosion could mangle metal like that.
--Vic
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On Sat, 21 May 2011 10:51:45 -0500, Vic Smith

Your insurance doesn't cover broken windshields? I always purchase the add on. Only generally a few extra dollars.

Well, I hate to say the car told you so, but...
--
To reply via e-mail, remove The Obvious and .invalid from my e-mail address.

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On Sat, 21 May 2011 11:24:30 -0700, Evan Platt wrote:

Yeah. $3 a month, and I have already had 4 windshields replaced.

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It happens. It's bad, but it happens. It's the risk of active safety devices, that they can sometimes activate inappropriately.
There were several Toyota models that would fire the airbags if you used a 2M VHF walkie-talkie in or near the car.
Either way, it's worth trying to figure out what happened here. If indeed the car has one accelerometer for both airbags, then you know the problem is way downstream of the accelerometer. EMI issues and ground noise are popular offenders.
Been noticing any alternator noise in the radio recently? --scott
--
"C'est un Nagra. C'est suisse, et tres, tres precis."

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On 22 May 2011 09:59:35 -0400, snipped-for-privacy@panix.com (Scott Dorsey) wrote:

No, seems the electirics are all fine. But I'll ask. He might have mentioned something about an alt recently. I'm going to insist he take it right to GM for an airbag system read with the Tech 2 and offer to pay for it. Just for curiosity's sake really. It's in my garage now, and the windshield guy is coming tomorrow. I think he just wants to dump the bags. He's a full ASE tech and has pulled and replaced many airbags. I had the same thoughts about radio waves, thinking the detonation charge might blow with errant currents due to it's age. But I don't know. First thing I asked is if he or my wife were using their cells phones. No, He was rummaging in the driver door side pocket and my wife had just bent over in her seat to pick up her tea bottle on the floor. Not sure about the crowd outside the car. It was ain a shopping mall parking lot. Doubt I'll get much useful from GM, but hey. I think it's just one of those fluke deals where you never get an answer.
--Vic
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useful from GM, but hey.

I, perhaps erroneously, thought that safety issues like this didnt follow the same warranty rules as the more common failures.
I would think this might be a potential liability area for GM, although they traditionally duck liability like Obama ducks responsibility.
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On Sun, 22 May 2011 11:24:26 -0500, Vic Smith

Here's the end of this story. A Pontiac guy on a forum told him the control module is under the passenger carpet sitting on the floor pan, and if it gets wet there corrosion can cause havoc. The kid checked it out and found the carpet damp there. Didn't pull out the seat and carpet He knew some water was getting in at a wheel well but didn't get around to fixing it because it wasn't bad. He clarified the warning light issue. It flickered a couple times then went out. He figured it was an instrument cluster issue. The light is back now. He took the car in to GM this morning and they couldn't get a read on the airbag system. No response. Didn't charge him. Estimate to fix the system is close to $3k. His fiance caved on her insistence of working airbags when he told her that. Car is worth max $1800 - if the air bags system is good. So he's going to put in the boneyard vent piece and glue the airbag cover back on. He'll get the new bagless steering wheel he has his eyes on. There are 6 million stories in the naked city.........
--Vic
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On 5/24/2011 2:28 PM, Vic Smith wrote:

Sounds very reasonable.

Now he knows that it was bad, and what the result was!

A wise move would have been to check it out instead of 'guessing' it was a cluster issue.

Because the module is totally dead now.

New module, new air bag, new dash piece, and probably more. I'd guess that estimate was about right.

And this is one of them! And a cautionary tale to not ignore odd symptoms such as occasional flashing of the air-bag light.

FWIW, IMHO GM was not very bright putting a critical piece of equipment under the seat where it could so easily be damaged by leaks. In northern climates where snow and salt are common, it would be reasonable to assume the module would be ruined.
--
I'm never going to grow up.

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bright putting a critical piece of equipment

Well, in the South, as you well know, we often get high water. One would think that they would have engineered this to be waterproof or would have moved it somewhere else. It does not show much dedication to excellence, which is one of the things that got them in trouble.
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From what I've read airbag control modules are under the seat on most cars. My bottom line on this is if there's any indication of airbag system malfunction, take it in to be fixed or pull the airbags. Could be expensive. So you make a personal cost/benefit decision. I suspect - from googling only - that are many thousands of cars being driven with airbag warning lights flashing or fully on. They are getting away with it, and don't know they're rolling the dice. And maybe they're not. Airbags also go off unnecessarily with no system warnings. My son found out he was in a dice game, so he has a particular view. He really dislikes airbags now, but understands it was a fluke not likely to ever happen again. All that said, we both believe that particular system on his '95 Bonneville if far from the best system because it allowed the airbag to go off, whatever the warnings. It's not a common occurrence, thankfully.
--Vic
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