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REMOVAL OR DISABLEMENT OF AIRBAGS

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					                  Vehicle Standards - Road Freight Operation and Regulation Section
                  Kateena Street, Regency Park 5010 PO Box 2526 Regency Park 5942
                  Phone 1300 882 248 Fax (08) 8348 9533

                                                                                     No 68 January 2003

            REMOVAL OR DISABLEMENT OF AIRBAGS

INTRODUCTION
Airbags (also called supplementary restraint systems or SRS) are fitted to motor vehicles to prevent or
reduce injury to a vehicle’s occupants in an accident. In the event of an accident, sensors trigger the
airbag/s which inflate instantaneously to protect occupants from impact with the interior of the vehicle.

Airbags are a major advance in protecting people from death or injury in road crashes — possibly the most
important advance in secondary safety since the introduction of seat belts. Because of this Transport SA
strongly advises against the removal of airbags.

Reasons for Disablement or Removal of Airbags
• Some car owners may want to fit an aftermarket “sports” steering wheel. This involves removal of the
   steering wheel which houses the airbag.
• Other people want to disable airbags so that they will not activate (deploy) in a crash. There have been
   reports from the United States, of people being killed or injured by airbags.
• Other people want to avoid paying the high replacement cost of the airbag/s.
• Child restraints fitted in a front seating position which require the air-bag to be non operational.

Research has not found evidence of anyone being killed by an airbag in Australia. On the other hand, at
least one driver has been killed in a car with a disabled airbag. This driver might not have died if an airbag
had deployed.

The fatalities in the United States have generally involved young children or short adults, seated too close
to the airbag when it deployed. The potential for airbags to injure occupants is greater for American
airbags than for Australian airbags because the American airbags are bigger and faster deploying. They are
designed to protect both belted and unbelted occupants whereas most people in Australia wear seat belts.
Airbags in Australia are designed to work in conjunction with seat belts, so they are less aggressive in
operation. They are quite safe provided that :
• all occupants wear their seat belts; and
• small children travel in the back seat. (Never put a baby capsule or a child seat in the front seat of a car
    with a passenger airbag.)




January 2003                REMOVAL OR DISABLEMENT OF AIRBAGS                                   Page 1 of 5
                                             TRANSPORT SA



Airbags in Australia are very effective at saving lives and preventing injury. A study of large Australian
cars involved in serious frontal collisions shows:
• In the cars without airbags 35 per cent of drivers suffered head and facial injuries from contact with the
    steering wheel.
• In the cars with airbags, no driver suffered head or facial injury from contact with the steering wheel.

Replacement cost of an airbag is generally between $500 and $1500. Airbag cost should be considered an
integral part of the cost of repairing a vehicle and restoring it to roadworthy condition following an accident
- although generally a collision severe enough to trigger the airbags will severely damage the vehicle.
Almost all vehicles in crashes this bad are insurance write-offs.

ADR COMPLIANCE
In South Australia vehicles are legally required to comply with the Australian Design Rules (ADRs)
throughout their life. Altering an airbag or steering wheel might affect a vehicle’s compliance with the
ADRs applicable to occupant impact protection.

ADR 10/.. Steering Column applies to cars made since 1 January 1971 and to vans, utilities and four wheel
drives since 1 July 1990. This ADR was introduced to minimise injury to the driver caused by the steering
column during a frontal impact to the vehicle.

ADR 69/.. Full Frontal Impact Occupant Protection applies to new model passenger cars made on or after
1 July 1995 and to all passenger cars made on or after 1 January 1996. It also applies to all new model
forward control passenger vehicles (people movers), four wheel drives and light goods vehicles (utilities
and vans) made on or after 1 January 1998 and to all forward control passenger vehicles (people movers),
four wheel drives and light goods vehicles (utilities and vans) made on or after 1 July 2000. This ADR
specifies the crashworthiness of a vehicle in a full frontal impact.

ADR 73/.. Offset Frontal Impact Occupant Protection applies to new model passenger cars made on or
after 1 January 2000 and to all passenger cars made on or after 1 January 2004. This ADR specifies the
crashworthiness of a vehicle in an offset frontal impact.

If the steering wheel is altered or the airbags disabled the vehicle must continue to comply with the relevant
ADRs.

Vehicles exempted from the requirement to comply with Clause 2.1 of ADR 10/01 because an airbag was
originally fitted must meet the requirements of this clause if the airbag is removed or disabled.




January 2003                 REMOVAL OR DISABLEMENT OF AIRBAGS                                   Page 2 of 5
                                            TRANSPORT SA



REQUIREMENTS
Airbag as Standard Equipment
If an airbag system is standard equipment on a particular vehicle model or variant it must be present,
complete and operational. (The airbag is considered essential for maintaining the vehicle’s compliance
with the ADRs.)

Optional Airbag in Vehicle Required to Meet ADR 69/..
If a vehicle was required to meet ADR 69/.. and it was originally fitted with an airbag that was optional
equipment on that particular model or variant, the airbag need not be present, complete or operational
provided the vehicle is fitted with all equipment (eg steering wheel, steering column, seat belts) that would
have been fitted had the vehicle been originally manufactured without the airbag; i.e. the vehicle must be
shown to still comply with the requirements of ADR 69/..

Optional Drivers Airbag in Vehicle Not Required to Meet ADR 69/..
For a vehicle not required to meet ADR 69/.. and originally fitted with a driver’s airbag that was optional
equipment, it need not be present, complete or operational provided the impact energy absorption
characteristics of the steering wheel and steering column are equivalent to those of the non-airbag variant;
i.e. the vehicle must comply with the requirements of ADR 10/..

Optional Passenger Airbag in Vehicle Not Required to meet ADR 69/..
For a vehicle not required to meet ADR 69/.. and originally fitted with a passenger airbag that was optional
equipment, it need not be present, complete or operational.

APPROVAL FOR REMOVAL OR DISABLEMENT OF AIRBAG/S
Approval must be obtained for non-replacement, removal or disablement of an airbag system.

Application can be made to the Vehicle Standards Team, Transport SA, Kateena Street, Regency Park to
obtain approval to have an airbag removed or disabled. Exemption for non-replacement, removal or
disablement of an airbag system will only be considered in exceptional circumstances.

Approval may be obtained by completing the form Application to Modify a Motor Vehicle (DOT 65) which
is available from Transport SA Customer Service Centres. The form should be returned to Vehicle
Standards together with a report from a Chartered Professional Engineer certifying that the vehicle
continues to comply with the relevant ADRs and providing details of the parts used.

Vehicle Standards may be contacted on 1300 882 248 or by fax on 08 8348 9533.

Note: Fitting of an aftermarket bull bar may affect the operation of an airbag system and therefore the
vehicle’s compliance with ADR 69. Bull bars fitted to ADR 69 compliant vehicles should be approved and
certified by the vehicle manufacturer.




January 2003                REMOVAL OR DISABLEMENT OF AIRBAGS                                  Page 3 of 5
                                            TRANSPORT SA



SOME QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
What are ADR 69/.. and ADR 73/..?
ADR 69/.. requires cars, people movers, four wheel drives, vans and utilities to provide a specific level
of occupant protection in a crash where the whole front of the vehicle is impacted. The level of
occupant protection is determined by crash-testing a vehicle and measuring the ‘injuries’ to the dummies
in the front seats. ADR 73/.. is similar, but covers crashes where only part of the front of the vehicle is
impacted.

What is ADR 10/..?
ADR 10/.. Steering Column (ADRs 10A, 10B, 10/00 and 10/01) is an older design rule governing the
energy absorbing characteristics of the steering wheel and steering column. In certain circumstances a
vehicle which meets the requirements of ADR 69/.. is also considered to meet ADR 10/01.

Are airbags required to meet ADR 69/..?
A number of manufacturers choose to use airbags to meet this rule. However, airbags are not required
by the ADR and manufacturers do make non-airbag ADR 69/.. complying cars.

If the vehicle is certified to ADR 69/.. and:
        • there is no non-airbag option - then the airbag is required for the vehicle to continue to
            comply;
        • there is a non-airbag variant - then the airbag is not required to meet the ADR.

However, it is likely that the non-airbag variant will use different components from the airbag variant.
Parts which are likely to differ include the seat belts, steering wheel and steering column. A different
form of supplementary restraint system, such as a seat belt pre-tensioner may also be required.

How can airbags be tested to ensure they are functional?
An airbag is a single use unit, therefore no-one can test one and use it again. The manufacturer or the
manufacturer’s representative must verify that the airbag system is complete, fully connected, contains
no damaged components and displays all signs that the system is fully functional.

How do I know what components are different from an airbag steering system to a non airbag system
and what parts have been installed?
If the parts differ, the airbag and non airbag variants will have different part numbers for steering
column, steering wheel, seat belts, seat belt pre-tensioners and so on. The owner and Engineer must
ensure that parts with the right numbers have been installed. The Engineer must provide a copy of the
parts list and receipts in his report to verify that all the correct parts from the non airbag car have been
fitted.




January 2003                REMOVAL OR DISABLEMENT OF AIRBAGS                                 Page 4 of 5
                                          TRANSPORT SA



CHARTERED PROFESSIONAL ENGINEERS
A list of Chartered Professional Engineers experienced in automotive work is included in Information
Bulletin No 30 Chartered Professional Engineers. Alternatively, the Institution of Engineers, Australia
may be contacted on 08 8267 1783 (08 8239 0932) for assistance in choosing a suitable engineer.




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