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Can I really trust an old airbag, or do they all eventually become dangerous?

‚ÄčTakata's recalled airbag inflators are time bombs because of how ammonium nitrate degrades in response to changes in atmospheric humidity and temperature. But other airbag propellants such as sodium azide, guanidine nitrate, and tetrazole are generally regarded as stable for the lifetime of the vehicle. In automaker contracts with suppliers, however, a "lifetime" is typically 15 years. Airbag supplier Autoliv, for example, runs leak tests to guarantee that its inflators lose no more than 10 percent of their original performance over that interval. Then what? Airbag inflators use hermetic glass-to-metal seals. While these could theoretically preserve the contents for decades, no one wants to go on record saying so. However, up until the early 2000s, automakers explicitly told owners to service or replace airbags after 10 to 15 years. Now they don't mention it. And even if, worst-case scenario, your 30- or 40-year-old airbag doesn't inflate with quite the intended force or speed, that's still better than a faceful of Takata shrapnel.

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