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Fupdiggity (Forum Supporter)
Fupdiggity (Forum Supporter) Reader
3/20/24 9:31 a.m.

I know this subject has been heavily debated here (for good cause), but there's a scenario that I haven't seen discussed and I'd like some feedback, specifically from passengers (i.e. instructors).

I've got an E46 330i coming out of long hibernation (engine out service) that I use for HDPE & rallycross. Originally it was dual duty (sound familiar?) so I could drive to events. Going forward, it's likely to be trailered most if not all the time and probably not used much on the street other than shakedown miles. In other words, track safety is a priority and streetability a bonus. I may still opt to drive to events but it would be rare.

In process: fixed back race seats (sparco sprint) on factory sliders (installed), 4-point roll bar (to be ordered), 6-point harnesses (to be ordered) and racing steering wheel/quick disco (to be ordered). My primary goal w/ these changes was driver control & enjoyment on track, with added safety as a bonus. Interior is getting partially removed (sunroof, headliner, & rear seats at a minimum) to accommodate the roll bar.


My question: Should I keep or remove the side curtain airbags & passenger airbag? My default answer would be to leave them in, I generally think they would be neutral to addititive in most situations, with the only perceived downside being they're 20 yrs old and we've seen how airbags can age.

Why is this even a question? Normally it wouldn't be, but my first HDPE day instructor made  comments on how he would have preferred my airbags be removed/disabled (car was completely stock at the time) due to aforementioned potential for a takata scenario. I didn't put much stock in those comments as I'm generally going to trust an OE safety package by default, but now I'm 1) modifying the safety package (seats, steering wheel, belts, & roll bar) and 2) removing my driver air bag to install an aftermarket steering wheel.

If you're an instructor getting into my car, would you like to see dash & curtain airbags kept or removed in this scenario? Is there anything about this proposed setup that would give you pause or raise concern?

Current state of the car because we all like pictures.

and rallycross from before all this work:

 

johndej
johndej SuperDork
3/20/24 10:09 a.m.

I'm not sure about that specific instructor, but the times when I was running one earlier, it was mentioned that you should have equal protection for your instrutor as you do for yourself if not more.

Apexcarver
Apexcarver MegaDork
3/20/24 10:21 a.m.

The question that is pivotal - HAVE YOU HAD ALL THE RECALL(s) COMPLETED TO REPLACE THE TAKATA AIRBAGS?

 

If they have been, I wouldnt sweat it too much.  if they havent been, the specific problem with the takata airbags (humidity interaction with the propellant as they age) is very valid and the hazard increases over time, hence how much traction those recalls have. 

 

Another thought though, is if the side curtain airbags would interact with the roll cage potentially causing an abnormal deployment that could result in injury.  In this case, you may be better off disabling/ removing the system, especially if the vast majority of usage of the vehicle will have helmeted occupants.

Fupdiggity
Fupdiggity Reader
3/20/24 10:23 a.m.
johndej said:

I'm not sure about that specific instructor, but the times when I was running one earlier, it was mentioned that you should have equal protection for your instrutor as you do for yourself if not more.

heard. and for clarity, both passenger & driver would have the same fixed-back race seat & 6-point belts. The driver will loose the airbag (aftermarket steering wheel). If it was just me in the car, I'd leave it as is (passenger front airbag and both driver/passenger curtain airbags intact). Since I'm still in HDPE 1 and will have an instructor the majority of the time, I'm trying to figure out what is "best" for them ahead of my next track day.

codrus (Forum Supporter)
codrus (Forum Supporter) PowerDork
3/20/24 10:32 a.m.

I agree, the keyword in your post is "takata'.  If the recalls have all been done then no big deal.  If they haven't, then either get them done or pull those airbags.

Note that if you opt to pull the airbags and not get it done, the BMW recall team is very persistent, they will continue to send you letters, text, email, and even call you on the phone.  It's been over 5 years since I told them my M3 is a fully gutted and caged race car with no airbags left in it, and they're still trying.  If I still had a plate on the car I'd be inclined to make an appointment just to see the reaction when I show up. :)

That said, personally I would not delete the factory airbag if was still going to drive it on the street.

 

dyintorace
dyintorace UltimaDork
3/20/24 10:32 a.m.

I don't have any knowledge on the airbag question. But - man - that rallycross picture is fantastic! Kudos to the photographer. Also - e46 sedans make awesome looking race cars!

Olemiss540
Olemiss540 Dork
3/20/24 10:34 a.m.

Leave the airbags in place if that would be your preference. I have never had an instructor discuss airbag functionality causing more harm than good compared to a car without them. Hans devices and 6 point harnesses are great for frontal impacts, but do little to nothing on angled/side impacts from a neck protection standpoint. 

Personally, I am probably stripping the airbags out for weigh reduction (with Halo seat), along with all of the other non-essential electronics, but if you would rather have airbags there is no reason an instructor will have an issue. If they do, they can swap students with another instructor. 

Also, I would eliminate the sliders if you are not planning to co-drive the car. Just another potential failure point that is unneccessary unless others are manning the drivers seat. 

Fupdiggity
Fupdiggity Reader
3/20/24 10:46 a.m.

Awesome feedback all.

Airbag Recall - I'm not sure whether it's been done or needs to be done, i've owned the car for 3 years but haven't seen a notice. It's been in the dealer once (back in '21) and they didn't mention it. I'll run that to ground.

Sliders - I'm using brey krause seat brackets that adapt from the factory motorized sliders to race seats. I definitely want to keep the driver's seat adjustable so I can drag friends along to rallycross and opted to use the same equipment for the passenger side.

General weight reduction/gutting - it will probably move that way, but getting on track safely & reliably is the priority right now. I'm also keeping everything generally reversible while I get more seat time and determine how far I want to take the car. The next step will probably be additional interior removal (carpet & sound deadening) and the addition of a fire system. Saving weight is pretty low on the list.

 

It's been properly good fun at rallycross and I can't wait to get it back out. Right now I'm able to go from rallycross to a track day with only changing the tires, it's a great dual-duty setup if you're not optimizing for either (although it's been downright quick when I can put a clean run together on dirt).

 

Apexcarver
Apexcarver MegaDork
3/20/24 11:19 a.m.

In reply to Fupdiggity :

Plug the VIN in HERE to find out regarding the recall. 

Fupdiggity
Fupdiggity Reader
3/20/24 11:24 a.m.
Apexcarver said:

In reply to Fupdiggity :

Plug the VIN in HERE to find out regarding the recall. 

Thanks! It shows "0 unrepaired recalls"

I'm still not sure if that means they we're fixed previously or just never needed a recall, but the answer is the same; airbags stay.

kevinatfms
kevinatfms HalfDork
3/20/24 11:59 a.m.
codrus (Forum Supporter) said:

Note that if you opt to pull the airbags and not get it done, the BMW recall team is very persistent, they will continue to send you letters, text, email, and even call you on the phone.  It's been over 5 years since I told them my M3 is a fully gutted and caged race car with no airbags left in it, and they're still trying.  If I still had a plate on the car I'd be inclined to make an appointment just to see the reaction when I show up. :)

 

Id pay money to see this done. Youtube?

cyow5
cyow5 Reader
3/20/24 12:41 p.m.

You don't mention HANS, so I will. The absolute right answer is to get one, even though I delayed that for a long time after getting harnesses. I'd wager that the benefit of airbags when running a 4pt cage, 6pt harness, and HANS is so low that the risk of the airbag being a detriment (going pop either by total accident or, more likely, going over a severe curb or dipping a wheel harshly off track) is worse. Basically, you have a case where there is *some* risk and *nearly no* reward, so the risk/reward ratio gets all jacked up. It is really just a mathematical oddity but still real. Depending on the car, maybe just disabling the airbags will be your best bet and then let the instructor know they can be turned back on if he/she prefers?

No Time
No Time UltraDork
3/20/24 1:17 p.m.

One point to consider is that typically safety systems are meant to work as a system. 

Removing the drivers side airbag and using 6 point harnesses remove parts of that system and may impact the safety and effectiveness of other parts.

One potential effect is allowing the passenger side dash airbag to expand further toward the driver since the driver side airbag is no longer there. It may also change the rate at which the airbag would collapse (if the harness/seats allow contact with airbag). 

Another consideration is the use of harnesses. The factory 3 point belts are designed to allow some forward movement while rotating the person as they decelerate, which also enables the airbag to assist with the deceleration. once you add the harnesses and HANS, the driver and passenger will not have that forward movement/rotation and the airbag may not work as intended. 

These are just my thoughts and observations, so YMMV. 

WonkoTheSane
WonkoTheSane UltraDork
3/20/24 5:08 p.m.

I'm not a safety enginerd, but I am an instructor in often (very) high capacity cars and frequent track rat.   My thinking is that safety is a complete system.  You can't/don't want to mix and match.  

If you have a roll bar, seats, harness, you've removed the environment that those solid rocket fuel powered balloons were meant to work in.   You don't possibly have a chance of engineering that system to work again (nothing personal).  I'd remove them and rely on the replacement aftermarket safety gear you're putting in.

It's also why I'm generally against people putting in a seat and harness without a bar/cage..  give my that 3 point and airbag, please!

ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter)
ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter) Dork
3/20/24 5:32 p.m.

Most race orgs require that race cars with roll cages have all airbags removed. I don't know the specific logic behind it but it seems to me that in the best case they would be redundant, and in the worst case harmful. If you're running a cage with buckets, harness and HANS I would take the airbags out. 

jfryjfry
jfryjfry UltraDork
3/20/24 5:47 p.m.

I often intentionally crash cars and we disable the bags. We run containment seats, 5/6-points and hnr's.  As well as knee, shin and elbow pads. Haha

I've never seen an injury (although they do happen) but our crashes are usually under 70mph and most are 45-55. 
 

 

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) MegaDork
3/20/24 6:39 p.m.

I don't see how a side curtain airbag would even work with a roll cage installed.  It would just get stuck between the body and the cage at best, or would outright need to be removed to be able to install the cage.

 

I am not sure how much harnesses stretch compared to a factory seat belt.  The seat belts stretch a LOT in a collision.  That is what I noticed the most when I was a front seat witness to a partial head on collision.  Harnesses probably stretch less so.

Spearfishin
Spearfishin Reader
3/20/24 8:53 p.m.

Having had the curtain bags pop on a "dual duty" car in a spin WITHOUT any impact, I'd vote remove them all. 

On a related note, I put 12v via jumper cables to a passenger dash air bag from an E46 last weekend. The "boom" was louder than I'd have bet, and the distance it launched itself was impressive considering it's weight. 

Spearfishin
Spearfishin Reader
3/20/24 8:57 p.m.
jfryjfry said:

I often intentionally crash cars and we disable the bags. We run containment seats, 5/6-points and hnr's.  As well as knee, shin and elbow pads. Haha

I've never seen an injury (although they do happen) but our crashes are usually under 70mph and most are 45-55. 
 

 

Say more about why? 

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) MegaDork
3/20/24 9:20 p.m.

In reply to Spearfishin :

laugh

jfryjfry
jfryjfry UltraDork
3/20/24 10:04 p.m.

In reply to Spearfishin :

I'd say it originated with the "old timers" who were super suspicious of new technology. They wanted nothing to do with these bags.  They would insist that the bags were physically removed (not just unplugged) and relocated hundreds of yards away from the vehicle. The impression I had was that they were still suspicious that somehow the car could still activate them even if they were unplugged or out of the car. 
 

"The way we've always done things" isn't good enough for me but having seen some really big wrecks and guys having no issues using the prescription previously outlined, I'm ok not using them.  I still think about them and if they could be useful, and am open to changing my mind.  But at this point, with all of the safety gear we use doing a really good job of keeping us in place, I don't see a need for an exploding bag-in-face.   

Just as an aside, I listen to the old-timers' advice but always make my own decisions.  I once had a 20-minute conversation about roll bar padding where the other guy (an OTer) was getting heated about how my fia padding was harder than the bar itself and that the pipe foam insulation he wanted to put in was better. 

WonkoTheSane
WonkoTheSane UltraDork
3/20/24 10:33 p.m.
jfryjfry said:

In reply to Spearfishin :

I'd say it originated with the "old timers" who were super suspicious of new technology. They wanted nothing to do with these bags.  They would insist that the bags were physically removed (not just unplugged) and relocated hundreds of yards away from the vehicle. The impression I had was that they were still suspicious that somehow the car could still activate them even if they were unplugged or out of the car. 
 

"The way we've always done things" isn't good enough for me but having seen some really big wrecks and guys having no issues using the prescription previously outlined, I'm ok not using them.  I still think about them and if they could be useful, and am open to changing my mind.  But at this point, with all of the safety gear we use doing a really good job of keeping us in place, I don't see a need for an exploding bag-in-face.   

Just as an aside, I listen to the old-timers' advice but always make my own decisions.  I once had a 20-minute conversation about roll bar padding where the other guy (an OTer) was getting heated about how my fia padding was harder than the bar itself and that the pipe foam insulation he wanted to put in was better. 

I think he just doesn't know that you're a stunt driver...  I think he was caught off more by your "I often intentionally crash cars and we disable the bags." statement... I could be off, though :)

Spearfishin - In case you don't know, this is Jfryjfry: https://grassrootsmotorsports.com/articles/inside-life-stunt-driver/

If you did already know that and I misinterpreted your question, apologies.

theruleslawyer
theruleslawyer Reader
3/20/24 11:43 p.m.

 If you have harnesses and hans, I'd think interacting with a front passenger airbag would be minor at best. You're just not moving around like a 3pt. Without a hans, I can see your helmet maybe hitting it. I've heard concerns about the chin bar of full face helmets getting impacted by bag and torquing your head. The side bags I'd think would just get caught by the cage. Only reason I haven't taken my passenger bag out yet is that I like like the cosmetic cover on it. Plus I don't really want to take the dash apart right now.

Spearfishin
Spearfishin Reader
3/21/24 6:39 a.m.
WonkoTheSane said:
jfryjfry said:

In reply to Spearfishin :

I'd say it originated with the "old timers" who were super suspicious of new technology. They wanted nothing to do with these bags.  They would insist that the bags were physically removed (not just unplugged) and relocated hundreds of yards away from the vehicle. The impression I had was that they were still suspicious that somehow the car could still activate them even if they were unplugged or out of the car. 
 

"The way we've always done things" isn't good enough for me but having seen some really big wrecks and guys having no issues using the prescription previously outlined, I'm ok not using them.  I still think about them and if they could be useful, and am open to changing my mind.  But at this point, with all of the safety gear we use doing a really good job of keeping us in place, I don't see a need for an exploding bag-in-face.   

Just as an aside, I listen to the old-timers' advice but always make my own decisions.  I once had a 20-minute conversation about roll bar padding where the other guy (an OTer) was getting heated about how my fia padding was harder than the bar itself and that the pipe foam insulation he wanted to put in was better. 

I think he just doesn't know that you're a stunt driver...  I think he was caught off more by your "I often intentionally crash cars and we disable the bags." statement... I could be off, though :)

Spearfishin - In case you don't know, this is Jfryjfry: https://grassrootsmotorsports.com/articles/inside-life-stunt-driver/

If you did already know that and I misinterpreted your question, apologies.

Hahaha, nope, that was definitely what I was asking, but the answer given is good info for the conversation as well!

Have read that article in the past, but had not connected (or at least don't recall the connection) to that username. But now I know!

Olemiss540
Olemiss540 Dork
3/21/24 7:02 a.m.
Pete. (l33t FS) said:

I don't see how a side curtain airbag would even work with a roll cage installed. 

4 point rollbar is well behind the ball pillar on an e46.

 

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