How do I know if I have side airbags?

Can you install a set on a seat with airbags? Can seat covers be designed to be compatible with airbags? How do we make them airbag safe? These are some of the questions we needed to answer.

It is very important that you determine and indicate whether you have side-impact airbags or not. You will not be able to complete your order without this information. NW Seat Covers have the most advanced systems for inflatable side airbags. The ProSeam system is built to protect you without your intervention and on demand. Research and engineering was part of its development and we want to share its story with you.

To begin, you can find two different airbag systems in the backrest of your seat.

Chest: side-impact airbags

The first style features a large plastic plate located on the left side of the backrest for the driver and right side for passenger.

Behind the plastic plate is a cavity, which contains the hidden airbag. The inflating airbag applies pressure, which is intended to dislodge the cap as it deploys.

It's designed to protect the occupant's chest area (The word «Airbag» is usually written somewhere on the cap for you to see).

NW Seat Covers accommodates this style by creating a hole in the same size, shape and location as the original plastic airbag plate. It allows the cap to open up without any interference.

Chest-pelvis: side-impact airbags

Note: The location of the airbag tag is not an indicator of where the airbag will deploy. It may be sewn anywhere along a seam at the side of the backrest.

The second style is identified by a visible airbag label located on the left side for driver and right side for passenger. The airbag is attached to the metal seat frame and positioned to deploy from directly behind the seams of the original factory seat cover.

The force that is created, as the airbag quickly inflates, applies pressure against the seams of the cover which have been engineered to snap and tear apart. All of this happens within 8 milliseconds – the blink of an eye.

The ProSeam system is a “seamless” integration that doesn’t compromise fit, look or durability. Indication that accommodations are present will be the airbag tag and can be easily cut.

How we created the ProSeam system for airbags

How do we create a seat cover that will allow the factory airbag to successfully deploy without negatively impacting the expected time of full deployment?

  1. Solution for Airbag Seams

    The best source with those answers was A&E (American & Efird), one of the world’s foremost manufacturers of technical thread and premiere suppliers to the global automotive industry.

    We collaborated with their technical staff to develop a stitching formula which would not interfere with the deployment of a factory airbag. The formula allowed us to create a seam which had a break point that is 65% lower than the factory original.

    Despite the lower break point threshold, our seat covers are able to handle the rigors of daily use.

  2. Solution for varying degrees of stretch among fabrics

    To ensure that the delay of deployment was kept to a minimum we had to examine our fabrics. Some fabrics stretch more than others, which can delay or slow down the rate of full deployment. The challenge was to devise a way to equalize the stretch among any fabrics we use or could use in the future.

    Our solution was to structurally reinforce critical parts of our seat cover with factory original airbag fabric. For airbag models of seat covers, this would eliminate any variations in stretch. We also realized that it would virtually eliminate any chance of deployment friction caused when the airbag comes into contact with a fabric other than its own.

  3. Validating our engineering concepts for an airbag compatible seat cover

    At MGA Research Corporation’s Structural and Life Cycle Test Lab, in Troy, Michigan, we put our seam formula and design to the test.

    Testing Methodology:

    To establish a benchmark, one of three 2008 Chrysler Sebring factory seats was used to measure the speed of deployment. The airbag deployed completely in 7.5 milliseconds. All other tests would be compared to this result. If any of the subsequent results were higher than the benchmark by 1 millisecond, MGA would issue a fail remark.

    The first test with seat covers made in our OE fabrics. The airbag fully deployed with results identical to the factory benchmark.

    The second test was conducted using a cover made in ballistic fabric.
    Again, the airbag fully deployed with results actually 0.5 milliseconds better than the factory standard benchmark.

Important Note:

Custom fit seat covers are arguably a safer product than universal ones.

This is because they feature geometrically distinct sides; a front, a back and two sides, which are designed to contour the shaped profile of the factory backrest. This greatly reduces twist instability and promotes proper seam alignment to match the factory seam.

The problem with universal set covers is that have no distinct sides to their shape. They kind of remind me of tube socks in a way. The danger here is that the product does not offer twist stability. Even though the seams may have lined-up with the factory seams at the time of the initial install, due to the stretchy fabric associated with universal kits they just don’t stay aligned. And, over time, this could result in the airbag not deploying safely. If the seam of a cover is facing the door instead of forward towards the dash, it will not protect you in a crash the way automotive engineers had intended.

The ProSeam release system is logically your safest choice.

If you still have any question about airbags or our airbag deployment systems, please feel free to use our contact form or give us a call at 1-888-821-1066. And you can also visit our Youtube Channel to watch all air bag deployment tests we’ve made at MGA Research Corporation’s Structural and Life Cycle Test lab.