Here’s what happens when an airbag inflates

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With the news around faulty Takata airbag inflators, you might have wondered how a lifesaving device could cause so much harm. Well, the YouTube channel Giaco Whatever tore apart an airbag, liberated its inflator and put it in front of a slow-motion camera to show the inflation process.

In order to work, airbags have to inflate in fractions of a second. If you’ve ever been unfortunate enough to see the business end of an airbag, you probably didn’t pay too much attention to how quickly the bag filled with air before it hit you in the face — but the fact that it happens almost instantly with some shock absorption built into the bag is an impressive feat of engineering.

The question then: How does it happen? Basically, a violent explosion. In the case of Takata inflators (not pictured here), shrapnel happens to come with it, and given the energy involved it’s not hard to understand how that gets lethal quickly.

Check out the video above. Then make sure your airbag isn’t on the Takata recall list.


Wesley Wren


Wesley Wren

– Wesley is an Associate Editor at Autoweek. He loves cutting up old cars, listening to weird music, and going fast.

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