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My son is buying his first car and is looking at mid-90s cars like the Toyota Celica which from 1996 were fitted with dual airbags.

Generally manufacturers specify airbag life at 15 years, so 1996 cars are close to that date.

I understand if the airbag light stays on or doesn't light at all it will result in a WOF rejection.

As airbag replacement is not economic, what is your recommendation?

Should he go for a pre-airbag car, or buy something from 2000 on so there is a reasonable time before this becomes an issue?


From the "Ask Jack" archives - 2 December, 2010


Any vehicle fitted with airbags is always going to be safer than one without and there is a reasonable chance the system will continue to operate correctly for some time beyond 15 years.

Just how long is a question that is impossible to answer.

Most new vehicle manufactures say the life span of a vehicle is approx 15 years or around 200,000kms and are very cautious about commenting on specific safety items operating as they were intended and designed beyond this point.

You are correct about the rules for a WoF. A rejection will be issued if the airbag warning light fails to operate or stays on at all times.

There are exceptions however. The Vehicle Inspection Requirements Manual (the inspectors bible) states the following;

Some modifications are permitted, but they must always be LVV certified.

The only modifications permitted are:

- fitting a switch to render an airbag temporarily inoperable, and
- the removal or permanent deactivation of an airbag in a vehicle that:
- is at least 14 years old, or
- has been adapted for a person with a disability, or
- has been extensively modified for motorsport use.

While the airbag system can be removed or permanently deactivated as per the conditions above, the cost of carrying out this modification would need to be measured against the cost of repairing any faults and having the airbag system work as intended.

At the end of the day we should all be driving the safest car our budgets allow.

Moving to a later model vehicle doesn’t always guarantee you won’t have any airbag related issues either.