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I-CAR Addresses Airbag Advancements

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Airbag technology is rapidly advancing and so are the methods for inspection and replacement. Restraint systems in many of today’s vehicles are more complex and more intricate than ever before. Airbags in particular are becoming more complex, and their methods of installation more involved.

“It’s imperative that both the appraisers and technicians remain on top of the information that’s available, to write the estimates accurately and perform repairs safely and properly,” says Douglas Gan, COO of Airbag Solutions in Rochester, N.Y.

That’s why he recently spent nine months working with I-CAR to develop a new course, Restraint Systems Damage Analysis (DAM11), available beginning this month.

Designed for estimators and damage appraisers, the course is meant to identify various types of restraint systems and their parts, the deployment of different passive restraint systems and the understanding of required replacement or inspections for passive restraint system parts. In short, the course covers how to identify airbags by type, understand how they work and how they’re inspected or replaced.

“The course introduces a few of the new items available in the 2011 and 2012 vehicles, but more importantly, it attempts to bring attention to the fact that these developments are occurring regularly,” Gan says.

Gan says this includes the new rear seatbelt airbags that debuted on the 2011 Ford Explorer. And Toyota, he says, is introducing rear curtain airbags to protect some of the newest small cars on the market, such as the iQ, which has a rear curtain airbag.

Further complicating the airbag scene, these safety systems can vary not only among vehicle models, but also among model years. Honda, for instance, produces different requirements and components for each of its vehicles.

“In the Civic, seatbelts and buckles actually deploy—they have an explosive device that pulls the passenger, or driver, back into position prior to the airbag deploying,” Gan says. “You’re being pulled from both the left and right side by the seatbelts in the Civic. With the Accord, they’re only using the belt side, so the buckle is not an explosive device.”

These multiple components and configurations require specific replacements and inspections after deployment, or collision, if the airbag light is illuminated, Gan says.

Airbag system installation has its nuances, as well. Some systems require different procedures depending on a model make and year. Others have the same equipment and procedure for a variety of vehicles, but require a specific software configuration.

General Motors, for example, makes an airbag control unit that fits a variety of vehicles, but Gan says that once it’s installed, it needs to be told what vehicle it’s in.

“It used to be you would order a control unit for the specific car you’re working on, plug it in, and the airbag system would be fine,” he says. “Now, you would get a control unit that would fit a variety of vehicles, plug it in and the light will still remain illuminated because the unit doesn’t know what car it’s in. So it requires a specific download from GM to identify [that] and activate all of the components.”

I-CAR coverage of airbags systems has been around awhile, but covered nowhere near as comprehensively as it is in the new course, created in response to industry feedback.

Given the changes in technology and manufacturer specifications, I-CAR also added some new content to the airbag-specific course. That’s where Gan’s help was so useful, Bartanen says.

“Mr. Gan is one of a handful of the CDC members for the Restraint Systems Damage Analysis course,” Bartanen says. “We recognized that Mr. Gan would be a great addition to the course development committee and wanted to make sure he was actively involved in the review of the course.”

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