Will thumping away on the steering wheel with my drumsticks cause the airbag to deploy?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Aug 01, 1997

Dear Tom and Ray:

Being a musical kind of guy, I often pass the time at long lights by drumming
on the steering wheel of my Mercedes C-230 with a pair of drumsticks I keep in
the driver's door pocket. Incredibly, my 10-year-old daughter is NOT mortified
by this behavior. However, she is convinced that my drumming will cause the
airbag to deploy, injuring me. She's also afraid that once I get hit in the
face with the air bag, I'll instinctively slam on the gas, and send us
careening into an intersection, which will put her in danger.Is her concern
justified? -- Michael

P.S. I mostly drum on the center part of the wheel where that star and circle
thing is embossed.

P.P.S. Do you know where I could get a bracket to mount a cymbal on the
steering column?

TOM: The answer to both of your questions is no, Michael. You daughter's
concern is not justified, and no, we don't know who makes a cymbal stand for a
C230 (but the J.C. Whitney catalog is a good bet).

RAY: The airbag sensors, along with the contacts, are located in the front
bumper, so there's no way you can trigger them by banging on the steering wheel
(even with an enthusiastic rendition of "Wipe Out").

TOM: In fact, many air-bag-equipped cars have now put the horn button back in
the center of the steering wheel (where it belongs, I might add), which would
be impossible to do if pressure on the steering wheel could set off the air
bag. So feel free to keep on drumming, Michael.

RAY: But I have a question for you. How can a musician like you afford a

TOM: I know the answer to that. He's actually a stockbroker who plays in a
polka band on the weekends.

* * *

TOM: Hey, do you think you're taking good care of your car? Are you sure?

RAY: If you're like many of our customers, you may be ruining your car without
even knowing it. Yes, even you! Find out how. Send $3 and a stamped (55 cents),
self-addressed, No.10 envelope to Ruin No.1, PO Box 6420, Riverton, NJ
08077-6420 we'll send you our informative pamphlet, Ten Ways You May Be Ruining
Your Car Without Even Knowing It!

Get the Car Talk Newsletter

Got a question about your car?

Ask Someone Who Owns One