How Do You Disable an Airbag To Remove a Steering Wheel?
An airbag is primed with an explosive charge, and mishandling could potentially lead to very serious consequences.
Time Needed: 1 hour, Difficulty: Intermediate, Cost: $0
If you’re fixing up your ride after a gnarly accident or getting ready to compete in Formula D, your car’s steering wheel airbag is likely in the way of your progress. For racers, it’s a safety hazard when combined with five-point harnesses and helmets. And wrenchers attempting to save their hoopties will likely need to replace it. Both jobs require removing the steering wheel airbag.
Doing so, however, can be a dangerous endeavor if you don’t do it right. An airbag is primed with an explosive charge, and mishandling could potentially lead to very serious consequences. The process of removing one isn’t too difficult, though, so long as you follow the instructions. For all you mechanics and drift-fiends out there, follow Car Bibles’ advice on how to remove your airbag and you’ll be fine.
Why Would I Need To Disable My Airbag?
Here are a few common reasons why you’d need to disable your airbag.
Installing a new steering wheel
Whether you’re a racer or just want something new to put between your hands, installing a new steering wheel will require you to disable your airbag.
Fixing a broken steering wheel
If you’ve somehow broken your steering wheel or it’s become damaged and needing replacement, you’ll have to disable your airbag before you get to it.
Replacing a spent airbag
If your car has been involved in an accident, you’ll need to disable the spent one to replace it and follow the same steps as to not ignite the new airbag.
Fixing a faulty airbag
If, for say, you have a Takata airbag that’s been recalled, you’ll need to replace your airbag.
The Safety Brief
We want for you to exit the garage with all the fingers you went in with. There’s no need for safety to come third, make it first. To ensure your skin stays unblemished and your bones intact, you’ll want to first understand that removing your airbag can be very dangerous.
There’s an explosive charge attached to your airbag that activates it when you get into an accident. If you accidentally trigger it while attempting to remove it, you’ll get the bag and whatever tool you’re using to remove the wheel right in the kisser and likely end up in the ER.
To complete the job safely, disconnect the battery AS WELL AS the airbag fuse in your fuse box. This will reduce the chance of the airbag deploying during removal.
The Tools & Parts You Need
A trip to the auto parts store or waiting on your porch for Amazon can be a time-suck. Don’t spend the day twiddling your thumbs waiting for a package or driving to and from the store. Get everything ahead of time, including a torx-head screwdriver, a regular screwdriver, and a socket wrench and a set of sockets.
The Job: Here’s How To Remove an Airbag
Here’s what you’ll want to do.
- Disconnect the battery
Before anything begins, disconnect the car’s battery. You’ll need to pop the hood, find your battery terminals (they also might be in the trunk), and remove the cables from the battery terminals.
- Disconnect the airbag fuse
As an added precaution, you’ll also want to disconnect the airbag fuse located in your car’s fuse box. You can find your specific make and model’s airbag fuse location either through the car’s dusty manual,via Google, or via the fuse box labels. Once you do, pull the fuse. This is an added layer of protection to prevent the airbag from deploying.
- Remove the airbag
Once the battery and fuse are disconnected, let the car sit for about 10-15 minutes just to be sure everything is solid in terms of electrical connections being completely separated from the airbag.
You can then take a torx or normal screwdriver and remove the steering wheel’s airbag cover—the screws are located behind the steering wheel. Once removed, this allows the airbag to hang freely in front of you. Remove the horn wire. Remove the airbag connector. You can then remove the airbag from the vehicle, carefully pointing the front of it away from yourself and set it aside away from any potential power source that could trigger it.
From here, you can either replace the airbag with a new unit, replace the steering wheel with a new unit, or install a quick-release hub and new steering wheel. It’ll depend on what your job is.
As for the airbag you have sitting on your workbench, you’ll need to contact your local hazardous waste processing center to see if they’ll take it due to the explosive chemicals inside.
Car Bibles answers all your burning questions!
Q: How do you remove a deployed airbag?
A: It’s a similar procedure in that you’ll still want to disconnect the battery and airbag fuse. Then remove the same parts as above to access the deployed bag. From there, you should be able to remove it.
Q: Is it illegal to sell a car with a faulty airbag?
A: According to federal law, you betcha. Dealerships can get into big trouble for selling a car with an open and active recall on its airbag.
Q: Is it illegal to drive a car without an airbag?
A: It isn’t, though it’s not exactly safe.
Q: How do I know if I have a Takata airbag? Do I need to replace it?
A: You can check the NHTSA’s Takata Air Bag Recall site here.
Video Tutorial on How to Remove an Airbag
Car Bibles’ editors understand that not everyone is a text-based learner. For those kinesthetic people out there, we have your back with a video showing you exactly how to remove an airbag. We pulled it from one of our favorite, and most trusted, sources and it’s a great additional resource.
Here’s A Few Products You May Want
You can buy tools to remove your airbag at almost every auto parts and home improvement store. As well as online stores like Amazon. You have a sea of options to select from. But why not just listen to us? Such as crescent wrench, a Momo Steering Wheel, or this quick release steering wheel hub.
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