Are seat covers a "no-no" when it comes to airbags?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Aug 01, 2009

Dear Tom and Ray:

My daughter has an '07 Honda CR-V with side air bags. I gave her a set of cloth seat covers to protect her seats, and she was told by a mechanic that she should take them off, as the air bags wouldn't work right. Is this true? Mahalo!

-- Sherry

TOM: It is, Sherry. This car is equipped with side-impact air bags, which are there to help protect your daughter in the event of a what? Side impact!

RAY: So, if another vehicle runs a red light and hits the side of her car, or if she were to lose control of the car and slide sideways into a telephone pole, for instance, these side air bags would inflate and provide some additional protection for her.

TOM: And, like on many cars these days, the side air bags are built right into the sides of the seats. So if you drape the seats with seat covers, you're blocking the side air bags and preventing them from working properly.

RAY: Might the air bags have enough power to tear through the seat cover and work anyway? They might, but I wouldn't count on it.

TOM: So the seat covers need to come off. But here's what I'd do. Persuade your daughter to wear them over her clothes. That'll protect the seats, Sherry.

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