Understanding Where Side Airbags Deploy From Before Selecting a Seat Cover (Toyota Tacoma in This Case)

After much debate, I just leased a new Tacoma for the farm. The one I could afford has cloth seats, which will not jive well with the dirtiness of farm life.

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To avoid getting screwed on the lease terms, I want to protect the seats with a durable, washable cover. I know how to make patterns and sew, and I’ve got plenty of sewing machines, so I figured I’d DIY it. Then I remembered that the problem with seat covers and modern cars is this:

That tag indicates, obviously, that the seat contains a side airbag. If you cover the seat sides with a cover, the airbag cannot deploy in the event of a crash, and instead you have a controlled explosion that’s constrained within the seat cover.

Figuring this problem has surely been solved, I went onto a Tacoma forum to see what others with the same truck had done. Sadly I came across what I believe to be misinformation, like this Tacoma-user-submitted photo of a supposedly airbag-compatible seat cover:

No good!

That would work if the airbag only deployed from this central seam in the seat…

…but I don’t think it does. The “Airbag” tag is along this seam:

It’s possible the person who posted that photo of the seat cover has an older Tacoma that maybe has a different seat-deployed airbag design, but that slit definitely does not correspond with where the airbag deploys from in my truck (more on this below).

Poking around some more, I also found this horrific video of a woman using T-shirts as seat covers, and insisting that if you cut the sleeves off to expose the tag that says “Airbag” in the seat, that that provides enough room for the bag to deploy.

No good, part 2

In other words, this person believes the tag pinpoints the location that the airbag deploys from. It doesn’t. The tag delineates the seam that is torn when the airbag deploys. In fact side airbags originate from an area closer to the middle (as opposed to top or bottom) of a seatback’s side, as can be seen in a variety of cars:

(Would an airbag just tear right through a T-shirt and go exactly where it’s designed to go? It’s possible, but why take the risk?)

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I looked at my truck’s manual and found this diagram of the airbags:

Unsure of whether the illustration is meant to be figurative rather than accurate, I then looked up photos of crash-tested 2020 Tacomas on the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) website:

It’s tough to tell precisely where the airbag deploys from, until we zoom in:

There we can clearly see that the front-most seam of the seatback side is designed to tear away.

At the nearest Walmart, I spotted some seatcovers made by Dickies that use something called “Laser Deploy” that apparently makes them airbag-compatible.

My wife did some research and found that Dickies licenses the Laser Deploy technology from an Australian manufacturer named Kraco. Kraco uses a laser to perforate–or “ablate,” in their words–the thin sides of their seat covers, so that they will tear away in the area of the correct seam.

The location of the tear appears to correspond with what I saw in the IIHS photos.

The Dickies seat covers were only 30 bucks, so I went back and picked up a pair, in this variant:

I installed them in the truck–it wasn’t much more difficult than getting pillows into a pillowcase–and was surprised at how well they fit. In the photo they’re a little wrinkly from being in the packaging, but overall I was impressed at how these universal covers fit:

Most importantly, I believe the tear-away area corresponds with actual location of the airbags.

Long story short, I am satisfied with my purchase.

Source: core77

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