Disclaimer: The following is for information purposes only. Removing any safety device from your car can compromise the car's occupants' safety. No warranties, expressed or implied, are given regarding the validity or legality of this information and the effect using it may have on your car. Perform the task described AT YOUR OWN RISK.
Working with airbag modules is DANGEROUS. If you live in dry, staticy conditions, be especially careful, since the module can be deployed with a fairly small electrical pulse. You should always disconnect the battery (after first disabling any radio-based security systems, or recording the recovery codes) before attempting any of these modifications.
The other day I asked the list how to remove the passenger airbag. I got a couple of helpful responses but nobody seems to have done it themselves. Behold, therefore, the first do-it-yourself guide to passenger airbag removal from Miatas. My car is a US-spec '96; applicability to all other variations of the car may vary.
1. Remove the glove box. There are two Philips screws holding the glovebox to its support rail. Remove them, unlatch the glove box, and it will lift away in your hands.
2. Disconnect the safety connector. Behind where the glove box was, you will see a combination orange and blue interlocked connector. The orange half comes off first, followed by the blue. Make sure none of the four ends of the connectors (but especially the blue one running up to the airbag) come into contact with anything that might be holding an electrical charge, such as a capacitor for your radio or a backup battery for your alarm.
3. Using a 12mm socket and extension, remove the four bolts holding the module in place. These are oriented vertically and can be seen by putting your head and shoulders in the passenger footwell, and looking up. You shouldn't need a long extension, no more than three inches is fine.
4. With the bolts removed, the module will move freely in its cradle, to a point. There is a small plastic clip holding the detonation cable in place at the back of the airbag module's cradle in the dash. Move the module out two or three inches, then use a long flat-head screwdriver to reach in and depress the retaining tab with one hand. Using your other hand, reach up from the glove box cavity to manipulate the plastic clip out of its mounting hole.
5. Feed the detonation cable up into the module's cradle area.
6. Carefully lift the module out of its cradle. When handling airbag modules, always hold them so that the exterior trim plate faces away from you. That way, in the event of a detonation, you will be less likely to be injured.
7. Reconnect the orange half of the connector to reactivate your horn.
8. It is likely that your airbag computer will be having hysterics by now, wondering where its baby has gone. Information in the archives varies, but on my car a 3 ohm, 1/4 watt resistor connected across the two leads in the blue connector running back into the car will fool the computer into thinking the airbag module is still there.
Note: do *NOT* try to measure the necessary resistance by putting an ohm-meter across the airbag module itself!!! This will very likely detonate the module, possibly causing extensive personal and property damage.
If the 3 ohm, 1/4W resistor doesn't work, you can figure out what size is needed by using a potentiometer (pot). Set it to zero, hook it up to the two leads running back to the airbag computer, turn on the car's ignition so you can see the Air Bag light blink in the instrument panel, and start turning up the pot. Once you turn it enough that the light goes out, stop, and measure the resistance across the pot with an ohm-meter. Buy a resistor of the indicated resistance. 1/4 watt will be fine.
You will now have a big gaping hole in your dash, measuring approximately 7.5" deep by 13" wide by 4" high, all at their maximum positions. This is plenty big enough for a variety of things--use your imagination!
I am going to investigate what's involved in getting the trim panel off the airbag module. If that proves to be unworkable, there is a part available in Canada to cover the hole--some Canadian cars have the cradle but no airbag. Be advised that the part will likely cost you over US$200. From the archives:
> Anyway, the part number is NA8257K7YC-00, and the price is
> (~$200 US).
I am withholding the author's name since I don't know if (s)he wants to be mentioned in this kind of article, but I am grateful for the research nonetheless.
Anyway, once you've put whatever you want to put there, replace the glove box, fit the new or modified trim panel, and you're all done.
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10 December, 1998