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GMC Side-Curtain Airbags Defective?

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Chicago, ILWhen the side-curtain airbags in Lisa Jarrett's GMC Envoy Excel deployed without cause—there hadn't been a car accident—she thought "it was a gunshot because you see this flash of light," then there was another bang as the steering wheel airbag exploded.

In a Catch-22 scenario, Jarrett, who had driven the sports utility vehicle for the past six years, had it towed to the closest GMC dealership where she was told by the service manager that it couldn't be fixed. Apparently the SUV hadn't been in an accident when the side-curtain bags deployed and, according to Jarrett, GMC instructed the dealership not to touch the vehicle. So Jarrett contacted GMC and was informed that the company would investigate, which could take up to a few months.

However, the dealership's service manager had encountered the side airbag problem before, but "he wasn't allowed to talk about it." Of course, this comment begs the question: is GMC covering up a defective airbag problem? Is the Envoy Excel a lemon SUV?

Meanwhile, Jarrett sustained a side-curtain airbag injury (swollen arm), and she had to pay for a rental car, not to mention the inconvenience, and possibly the scare of her life and her passengers (her son was in the back seat and her aunt was also in the vehicle). GMC said it would reimburse her for the $200 per week rental car after the investigation and only if they are at fault.

Needless to say, Jarrett doesn't want to get behind the wheel of this SUV again. She thinks that GMC is "stalling and trying to hide what could be a real problem for its customers." FOX Chicago News tried to contact GMC, but to date they haven't received a reply.

Side Airbags vs Side Curtain Airbags

Luckily, Jarrett's son was in the backseat. According to airbag research, so-called "improved versions" of airbags, such as side-curtain airbags, are still not designed for children, who are best protected in the rear seat.

Side air bags, which are sometimes called "curtain air bags," can come out of the seat, the side of the seat or from the roof above the windows. They are designed to protect the side of the body, including the head, chest and pelvis, in a side impact crash. Side air bags are smaller and deploy with less force than frontal airbags, but a child could sustain an injury if his or her head is too close to the air bag.

Generally, side airbags are fitted into the outer cushion of the front seats, to line up with the passenger's torso (some vehicles have side airbags mounted in the front doors). Side Curtain airbags drop down from the roof along both sides of the cabin. The curtain airbags give better protection because they cover most of the glass area and also help protect rear occupants. According to, you're safer with side airbags than without, but curtain airbags give better protection for front and rear occupants alike.

According to IIHS spokesperson Russ Rader, "Even if a head curtain airbag covers the rear seats where children are most likely sitting, it won't necessarily offer them any protection. Most children are too short to receive any protection from a curtain-type side airbag."

Curtain airbags may offer better protection in a collision—but not when you're driving down the road at 25mph like Lisa Jarrett.


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2014 gmc seirra side curtain deployment on dec 4 while in reverse march 11 still dont have truck back


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