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Play It Safe: Air Bags And Anti-Lock Brakes

Are you getting as much added benefit as you could from your vehicle's air bag or anti-lock brake system? Understanding just a few key points about these popular safety features may reduce the injuries that you and your passengers receive during a collision. A study by the Highway Loss Data Institute found that many drivers don't know how to use the anti-lock braking systems to reduce the frequency or the costs of vehicle collisions resulting in insurance claims. Before the development of ABS, drivers were taught to pump their brakes, especially on wet, icy, or other slippery roads. ABS does the pumping for you. ABS uses electronic controls to maintain wheel rotation under hard braking that would otherwise lock a vehicle's wheels. Keeping the wheels rotating increases the vehicle's steering and braking, especially when tire / roadway friction is reduced, such as when the pavement is wet. Do not pump the brakes. Pumping the brakes discards all the benefits of ABS, says Dr. Leonard Evans, principal research scientist at General Motors. The way to avoid traffic crashes is to drive carefully and allow generous safety margins, so that you avoid situations requiring hard or emergency braking. However, if you are in a situation calling for emergency braking, and your vehicle has ABS, apply firm, steady pressure to the brake pedal, and continue to apply it until the emergency is resolved. The ABS system will pump the brakes for you. This reduces the risk of your vehicle skidding out of control, and it increases your ability to steer the vehicle.

The lifesaving ability of air bags in a collision has been well documented. What many drivers might not think about is the importance of having the air-bag system serviced by properly trained professionals after it has deployed. An air bag cannot be "repacked" after it has deployed. In fact, the air bag and many of the system's parts are not "repairable" and must be replaced. The parts are designed for each specific vehicle. For the system to function correctly if the vehicle is involved in another collision, the proper parts must be purchased and installed by a qualified technician.

If you are buying a used vehicle that has an air bag, ask if it has ever been deployed and, if so, where the system was replaced. If the air bag in your own vehicle has deployed, make sure it is replaced by qualified technicians. According to Tom Mack, executive vice president of I-CAR, a not-for-profit international collision repair training organization, "It is necessary to do your homework and locate a collision repair business that has invested in proper training. I-CAR provides certificates of completion to all students who have attended I-CAR courses. We suggest they display the certificates to help consumers choose between repair businesses."


Courtesy of The Car Car Council. I-CAR offers more than a dozen training courses covering every aspect of the repair process, including air bags, anti-lock brake systems, paint matching, and proper welding techniques. There are nearly 3,000 businesses internationally that have earned the I-CAR Gold Class Professionals designation. It signifies that a high percentage of the business' technicians and management are I-CAR trained. I-CAR established the Gold Class designation to help consumers identify businesses that have invested in proper training. By re-qualifying for the Gold Class designation every year, collision repair businesses, insurance claims offices, and other Collision Industry-related businesses demonstrate their commitment to the I-CAR philosophy of restoring vehicles to their pre-accident condition.

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