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Discussion Starter #1
Hello, folks!

I apologize if I'm posting this in the wrong forum - none of the forum topics seemed to "fit" my issue.

I am considering buying a 2014 New Beetle Convertible. I am disabled (use a manual wheelchair for mobility) and I'm also short statured (4'2" tall/65 lbs). I drive with pedal extensions.

Because my disability causes my bones to break easily, I cannot have the front airbags enabled when I am driving. So, I'll be having an on/off switch installed for the driver's side front airbag.

However, my issue is with the front passenger side airbag. My daughter has the same disability, is the same height, and weighs about 75-80 lbs.

When *I* sat in the front passenger seat of the 2014 New Beetle Convertible, the front passenger seat airbag did NOT disable! (It DID disable in the 2014 Honda CR-Z I looked at that same day).

I called VW customer service to find out how the parameters for the front passenger seat airbag sensor are set up. (I am really trying to avoid having to pay another 700.00+ to have a front airbag on/off switch installed for the passenger seat, too!).

The agent said something about the sensor using "electrical fields" (as opposed to weight) to determine whether the airbag should be activated/deactivated for the front passenger seat. When I asked her for some details on that, she couldn't give me any further information. I specifically asked her whether it would be possible for two people of the exact same weight/height to get two different responses (one activating the airbag, the other deactivating it) - which she ignored.

I want to know (and understand!) exactly how the sensor determines activation vs deactivation, and whether those paramaters can be adjusted by a technician, if necessary.

Can someone help me, please?
 

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That is a tough one. The first and cheapest route I would try first is to meet up with someone that has a VAG-COM cable and see if you can disable it your airbags permanently that way.

The second cheapest thing I can think of is to actually do the opposite of a common fix on these cars. That would be to cut the yellow wire from the seatbelt buckle and add a switch to that. It should only cost a little bit since you can access the connctor under both seats pretty easily. If you have basic electrical skills you could do this with some parts from radio shack for under $15 for both seats. The only problem with this method is that your airbag light will always be on until you flip the switch to enable it again.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thank you for responding, Blaylock1988.

Here's the issue with your suggestion. The NHTSA now regulates for whom and under what specific conditions a front-impact airbag may be either completely disabled, or temporarily disabled using an on/off switch.

The red tape is ridiculous, especially when applying to have the bag disabled. Even after one collects all the proper documentation (from one's doctor, etc) and submits it to the NHTSA, their "review process" takes weeks and their is no guarantee they will authorize complete disablilization.

The road to getting authorization to have an on/off switch installed is far shorter. All I have to do is submit one simple form, and the NHTSA will authorize the installation of the switch and will send me a special "authorization letter" to take with me to the authorized technician.

And there's the rub - whether one is having the front airbags completely disabled OR having on/off switches installed, the work must be authorized by the NHTSA and must be performed by an authorized technician (a special shop that does vehicle modifications for persons with disabilities.

Let's say I decide to forego all that rigamarole and just have a friend disabled both airbags and be done with it (which is what I did with the last car I bought, back in 1996). Since the airbag regualtions have become more stringent over the years, bypassing the "system" could result in my car not passing inspection in two years. Worst case scenario? IF I'm ever involved in an accident, and don't have the proper NHTSA authorization and the work wasn't done by an authorized technician, the insurance company could refuse to pay the claim (especially if there were any injuries to myself and/or whomever is seated in the passenger seat).

Believe me, I wanted to take the easy way out and have my BIL disconnect both airbags and be done with it. But now doing it that way could result in some serious consequences for me down the road, so that's a risk I don't think I should take.

TwirlyGirly (who has already ordered her vanity plate, and now just needs a CAR to put it on!)
 

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Makes sense it has to be approved and done by a proper technician. The on/off switch SHOULD be done on the yellow wire below the seats, in any normal scenario a simple job like that should not cost over $100, but I'm sure those "authorized" technicians charge whatever they want since their customers have no choice.

If you did in fact have that modified, it would always have that yellow airbag light, and your car would never show the 'seatbelt unbuckled' light, ever. The seatbelt sensor in the buckle is tied into the airbag system on the ECM and will prevent your airbags (in the respective seat) from deploying.
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
Something interesting happened when I got in my new car (front passenger seat) when the dealer was driving it (and me) back home after I purchased it.

I have a board that I sit on in my wheelchair. When I got in the car, I put the board on the paseenger seat and put my wheelchair cushion on top of it (just so I could have better visibility while being driven home).

When we started the car, the airbag sensor blinked a few times, then deactivated the passenger airbag. I was overjoyed - I figured because I had that board between me and the seat, the sensor couldn't read my body's "electrical fields" and thus had decided I am an inanimate object and turned off the airbag. Problem solved, right?

But about 10 minutes later, as we were driving, I noticed the airbag had reactivated.

So now I am totally confused as to exactly how these sensors work. I am 4'2" tall, weigh 65 lbs...AND I had a board between me and the seat - all these thing together should indicate to those sensors that no airbag should be activated. But it activated anyway.

Why?

Insofar as those on/off switches....honestly, the red tape gets WORSE.

I bought my Beetle and she was delivered on Saturday. The dealership FAXed my NHTSA authorization form for me - so now I'm awaiting the NHTSA to send me the authorization to have the driver and passenger front air bag on/off switches installed.

Then I have to make an appointment to take the car to the "authorized technician" - naturally, there are no "authorized technicians" in Rhode Island - I have to get her up to Seekonk, MA.

The cost for the installation of the the on/off switches is 500.00 - 700.00 per switch.

The only saving grace is that the State of Rhode Island will rebate the cost of the switches and the pedal extensions I need to enable me to drive the car from the Vehicle Sales Tax I paid (new car - sales tax was almost $2000.00), plus I can also get another rebate from Volkswagen (under their Mobility Program) up to $1000.00. So, the installation of the switches and the purchase and installation of the pedal extensions won't cost me anything in the end (it may seem like I'll end up making money off the deal, but I won't - because there are some expenses related to my disability and getting the car to/from the place that does the adaptations that aren't tecnically covered - so the "double rebate" will in fact pay those expenses).

Just a lot of red tape and headaches to get it all done.

Meanwhile, I have a pretty little brand new Beetle sitting in my driveway that I've been gazing at adoringly...but have not as yet been able to drive!
 
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