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matthewlawe

1990-1991 airbags -

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I've not detonated one out of car for either disposal or testing purposes  (have one I considered doing this to but decided to keep it intact). Some time ago (sorry, I have no link for it presently) I saw a story where Volvo took one of their earliest airbag equipped cars (around 30 years old) and crashed it to test the integrity of the airbag system. According to the writeup, the bags deployed just as designed thereby verifying the system  (sensors, modules and inflators) was still intact and operational. Take that for what it's worth.

 

I am of the opinion that the late 80's and early 90's GM SIR systems were designed and built to a high standard that no longer exists. Take the ongoing Takata airbag scandal as evidence of this. 30 years ago we never heard of SIR systems failing or malfunctioning in cars that were so equipped. In short, I'd trust the Reatta SIR to work when needed (hopefully never).

 

While failure of modern systems isn't common, it seems less integrity can be expected due to penny pinchers and corporate morons, as well as greater complexity of modern systems  (more sensors, more airbags, more heavily dependent on the software aspect of these systems).

 

From my understanding, unless the inflator is compromised by some means, the chemical agents that generate the inflation action should remain stable indefinitely. Honestly, I'd probably by more concerned about the possibility of the impact sensors or DERM (electronic module that monitors and controls the system) failing before the inflator itself as they are reliant on mechanical and electronics parts that could potentially fail with age.

 

If concerned about it not working right, then your only real option is to disconnect the system to prevent it from ever deploying. There is no way to non-destructively test the system to verify the bag will deploy as intended, so you either trust it to be good, or assume it is bad.

 

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I fixed my loose horn buttons last fall and inspected the airbag on my 1991 coupe.  Everything looked great, clean and as it should.  I asked my trusted mechanic about it and he said that as long as things looked good and remained un-rusted under the wheel center cover, the air bag should be reliable for a very long time.

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I was at a local car show 2 years ago.  One of the 91 Reattas there had switched their steering wheel to a 1989 style with no air bag.

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The "88-'89 steering wheels are much nicer looking than the '90-'91; I've thought of switching my blue '90 wheel for a blue '88 (have in basement from a PnP), but what do you tell your insurance agent when you get in a wreck and get injured and they ask why the air bag wasn't deployed.

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It is fun exploding them.

Having owned so many Reattas and Rivieras on a couple of occasions I have attached two loooong  wires to the air bag and then touched the wires to a battery.

After seeing one explode I don't think I would want one to go off in my face in the car in an accident. Besides the force of the bag in your face the pungent smell from the powder is not nice.

Disclaimer This is not an endorsement for anyone to try it and like they say on mythbusters do not try this at home.

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