Piston Slap: Is Your Squib Still a Tower of Power?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap is your squib still a tower of power
Mark writes:Sajeev,I recently acquired a 1990 Porsche 944 cabriolet. It’s in really good shape and has been well taken care of, but I started thinking about the airbags. The 27-year-old airbags.How long are they good for? If they fail will they go off unexpectedly or not at all? Should I replace with new airbags, disconnect or remove completely?Sajeev answers:I had a similar conversation with my mother in my fully-restored Lincoln Mark VIII: her concern being its newfound looks might not save my life in a head-on collision. I understood Ford’s airbag module’s fail safe measures (i.e. that horrific buzzer when a circuit isn’t complete) but I don’t know if the inflators still work after 20-plus years.Too bad I didn’t reference the original 1973 Chevrolet Impala’s ACRS (Air Cushion Restraint System), as it was quite robust.Its squibs were far from the funkadelic ride of Tower of Power’s Squib Cakes, but…
…they did the job even after 20 years! In case you’re keeping track, the Americans definitely got this right in the 1970s. The Vega didn’t send Toyota packing, but the “Tower of Power” reference is appropriate!To your Porsche, the only concern is the type of seal around the squib. The good ones are a glass-to-metal squib which, if a 20-year-old Impala crash test is believable across another 20 years, should last as long as your body does on this earth. And that whole “glass being a liquid” thing is a farce, so perhaps these shall last thousands of years?All bets are off if the airbags were tampered or flood damaged. And if your Porsche uses a plastic-to-metal seal, I’d recommend getting the seat belts rebuilt, wear a helmet, etc or simply purchase a mid 70s masterpiece with that stunning ACRS emblem.[Images: Shutterstock user Attapon Thana, IIHS.org]Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.
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  • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Oct 07, 2017

    Considering the age of cars on the road, and the Takata mess, the airbag issue could use another article. There are issues of age and inability to find replacements, whether they (Takata) should be disconnected, the crash protection built into the vehicle, and 3-point seatbelt maintenance. For a 20 year old car without the latest crash protection, is just the seat belt enough? Can modern airbags be retrofitted?, Can you get away with disconnecting Takata bags and relying only on seat belts if it's a late model car? I'm kind of surprised at how few comments this topic generated. Are we afraid to talk about it?

    • Rpn453 Rpn453 on Oct 08, 2017

      I'd be far more comfortable with the idea of crashing in a modern vehicle with disabled airbags than in an older vehicle with functional airbags but a weaker passenger compartment. I'd also be more comfortable in a modern vehicle with side airbags and no front airbags than the same one with front airbags and no side airbags. I would not be comfortable in a vehicle that had a modified airbag system. I didn't care about the lack of an airbag in my high speed head-on collision. I just don't want to have any body parts crushed again.

  • Rpn453 Rpn453 on Oct 08, 2017

    The airbags will probably be functional for a while yet. Regardless, I wouldn't put much value in them. At that time, the airbags existed primarily to save people who didn't want to wear a seatbelt. The big risk in driving this car is that if you get smoked hard enough by something big, that flimsy old passenger compartment is going to fold. At least you'll have a bit of crush space with that nice, long hood in a head-on. A side impact from a taller vehicle will go right through or over the upper part of the door. Wear your seatbelt, and you should be fine in any situation where you aren't crushed by passenger compartment intrusion.

  • 56m65711446 ALL AEB systems should be tested using a SES executive from DoT as the test dummy.
  • TheMrFreeze Wife and I bought just bought new (to us) daily drivers...both have manual transmissions and neither has any kind of "new" safety nanny technology in it. By choice. That's how we roll.
  • IanGTCS Where I live safety inspections are only required when transferring ownership except between spouses. The ministry or police can in theory pull unsafe vehicles off the road but I haven't heard of that happening. Commercial vehicles over a certain weight required annual inspections and I've seen unsafe ones removed from the road a few times. I'm honestly fine with no regular inspections. A ball joint or bearing can go from fine to goodbye wheel in less time than a year anyways. Can't say I see too many total wrecks driving around so it would be kind of pointless.
  • IH_Fever No. I'd rather that money be spent to enforce vehicle laws on an as needed basis. The 10 year old car with a check engine light on for some sensor is a danger to no one. The crapbox with 5 different color body panels, paper tags and saran wrapped windows is more of a concern.
  • Xidex I will have to say, I do not like Camaro's especially the latest ones, but that is one sweet looking car !