What Is a Safety Inspection and Why Is It Important?

What Is a Safety Inspection and Why Is It Important?
Adrian Mora

What Is a Safety Inspection?

Here is your scenario: you own a 2017 Nissan Rogue, the twelfth most common vehicle in the States, and you were involved in a head-on collision. There was an impact to the front bumper area with penetration through the front bumper cover, the radiator is punctured and leaking, you cannot drive away safely from the accident but the impact was not severe enough for airbags to deploy. Nissan states that the following must be performed after the described collision*:

  • The driver airbag module located inside of the steering wheel, which controls deployment of the steering wheel airbag, must be removed, inspected for damage, and reinstalled.
  • The clock spring which is located behind that same driver airbag module must be inspected as well for deformation.
  • The passenger airbag module located behind the passenger-side portion of the dash must be inspected in the same fashion.
  • The impact sensor(s) located in the front engine compartment must also be disconnected, inspected and reconnected to ensure that the sensors are not bent or cracked and to ensure they are locked-in and making firm contact with the connector(s).
  • The airbag diagnostic unit, commonly referred to as "the black box", is located underneath the center console and must be removed, inspected, and reinstalled. Lastly, all seat belts, child anchors, pre-tensioners, buckles, and retractors must be removed, inspected, and reinstalled.

The most common questions asked regarding the above procedure is, "Does every shop perform that procedure?" Answer: no. "How much does that procedure cost?" Well, the cost ultimately depends on local repair facilities' labor rates but it commonly ranges from $500 to $1100. So, you're wondering: "Why is all that necessary?" Well, the short answer is because the manufacturer says so. The long answer is not so cut and dry.

Let's assume that each inspection item is damaged; I will provide a worse-possible-outcome situation for each of those items*:

  1. Case: the driver airbag is not inspected and is determined to be damaged. Result: it's possible the driver airbag may not deploy if involved in a subsequent collision.
  2. Case: the clock spring is not inspected and is determined to be damaged. Result: if you are involved in a collision while in the middle of a turn, your airbag may not deploy. The clock spring is a device that ensures constant electrical contact is made with the airbag module while turning. If a manufacturer just ran a wire through the steering wheel and called it a day then the wire would get kinked and binded throughout the course of turning your steering wheel back and forth - thus the invention of a special device to resolve that issue.
  3. Case: the passenger airbag is not inspected and is determined to be damaged. Result: it's possible the passenger airbag may not deploy if involved in a subsequent collision.
  4. Case: the impact sensor is not inspected and is determined to be damaged. Result: a few possibilities. Let's assume that the impact sensor is still mated to the connector but the connection has become loose from impact. Under this circumstance, it's possible that over time the sensor may become disconnected and, in effect, become inoperable resulting in non-deployment if an airbag is needed in a subsequent collision.
  5. Case: the airbag diagnostic unit is not inspected and is determined to be damaged. Result: anything - and that's the problem. The airbag diagnostic unit controls everything SRS-related. If your vehicle is hit in the front, or anywhere for that matter, the impact sensors and all other control modules send vital information to the airbag diagnostic unit and from there it's up to that unit to decide whether it's appropriate and safe to deploy an/the airbag(s). There are many criteria that must be met in order to deploy airbags. The vehicle must be traveling at a certain speed upon impact, there must be a certain amount of opposing force, the impact must occur in a certain area of the vehicle, and of course there are factors like what position the driver's seat is in and whether or not the passenger (if applicable) meets the weight requirement. In conclusion, if there is unaddressed damage to the airbag diagnostic unit, it can take your vehicle's five-star crash rating and turn it into a zero. Furthermore, the [unit] is also nicknamed "the black box" as it stores vital information for investigators to determine things like who is at fault for the accident and if the vehicle reacted like it was designed to.
  6. Case: the seat belts are not inspected and are determined to be damaged. Result: similar to the previous situation, anything can happen. One example is, if the child anchors and rear seat belts are damaged in conjunction and you are struck from the front while in motion, it's possible that your child's seat may continue traveling forward from the inertia causing serious damage.

In short, neither you, I, nor the collision technicians are licensed, professional/mechanical engineers. Only the well-versed and extremely qualified vehicle manufacturing engineers know how the vehicle is built, how it's designed, and how it's supposed to perform in a subsequent collision. Most vehicles nowadays have a five-star crash rating and engineers design very precise repair procedures to ensure that the vehicle maintains that same rating and reacts the way it is suppose to in a subsequent collision. On average, a motorist will keep their vehicle for up to eleven years; demand that your chosen repair facility perform a safety inspection if the vehicle manufacturer requires one and demand that the at-fault insurance company reimburse you for the safety inspections needed to ensure that you and your children and guaranteed maximum safety while traveling in your investment for those succeeding eleven years.

Citations and disclosures:

Repairer Driven News, John Huetter. "Shops Report State Farm Refusals of Subaru, Honda Auto Safety System Inspections." 30 Oct 2020. | Nissan North America. "Repairs and Inspections Required After a Collision." ALLDATA, 57306. 28 Mar 2021. | Nissan North America. "Position Statement: Seat Belt Replacement Considerations." NPSB-16-601. 20 Jun 2016. | Nissan North America. "2017 Nissan Rogue Owner's Manual and Maintenance Information." OM17EA 0T32U3. 11 Jul 2017. | Car and Driver, Joey Capparella. "25 Best-Selling Cars, Trucks, and SUVs of 2020." 6 Jan. 2021.

*The repair procedures mentioned herein are not to be misconstrued as technical repair advice for repair technicians or insurance personnel. The procedures mentioned herein are subject to change as vehicle manufacturer engineers alter and better their repair procedures regularly based on after-sales tests and data.

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