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Is there any way to disconnect/deactivate the rear side curtain airbag?

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Is there any way to disconnect/deactivate the rear side curtain airbag?

Old 07-16-2018, 06:52 PM
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Is there any way to disconnect/deactivate the rear side curtain airbag?

Pardon if some of this backstory is redundant, if you read my "salvage title" query below.

So we have this uncommon need to cart 3-5 people around, and a whole bunch of stuff too. After 30 years of doing what we do (touring theatre programs in schools) I'm still mystified that nobody else out there has this hybrid vehicular requirement. Oh well.

Traditionally, we've run high top Sprinters, purchased as empty can cargos then upfitted with a second row seat, second row windows, bulkhead, and then ply/E track, winch and ramp in the rear. Big PITA. So, this time, when I scored this auction unit, I'm working it the other way, starting with full passenger trim and deleting 10 of the 15 seats and all the nicey-nice trim from behind the rear seat aft. It will be a blessing not to have to properly/legally mount a second row seat and windows.

But an hour ago I had my first look at our new acquisition, and I have a new dilemma I hadn't anticipated—the side curtain airbags.

In the forthcoming cargo area, I'm going to need to strip out all the plastic trim, and screw plywood and E-track down to the pillars of the sides and roof so our heavy set carts don't break the windows.

The whole reason this van is in my possession is that the previous owner (it was a hotel shuttle van) committed a serious boo-boo and apparently tried to drive into a low parking structure. Pretty much the whole roof is smooshed down an inch or so. Amazingly, it was enough for their insurance company to total it, even though to my eye it's not the most complicated bodywork job to correct it, and the airbags didn't even go off.

Now, speaking of these airbags. They are in plain view, as either the big crunch, or the insurance adjuster pulled down all the headliners. I see two long propellant cannisters and what appears to be one long seafoam green airbag on each side, running the full length of the cab. While I fully intend to restore the front and second row seats' headliners and would want all my staff to have the protection of these side airbags, they become a problem once we get to the cargo area. They're in a damned awkward place, right on the corner of the horizontal roof beam above the windows, and they protrude from the sheet metal by a good 3" each. I don't think I dare build the walls out on each side and lose 6" of cargo width.

So, what to do?

1) One option might be, once we have a bulkhead installed (cutting around the airbag) to carefully route the bag up and around the inside corner and move the whole thing to the upper corner of the cargo area; then put something protective but meant to break away over it (think long skinny speaker grille) to allow inflation if the airbag is every deployed. I imagine I'd need to do some pretty delicate surgery so as not to detach any wires and such, but it would mean I wouldn't be pissing off the computer-controlled system and possibly jeopardizing the front systems.

2) A friend mentioned that perhaps I could take a tip from race car builders, who take a stock vehicle and modify it for racing, but still want specific functionality in the airbag system. He said that because there are two cannisters up there, it probably means there are two separate airbags; he said if we were able to find the junction connecting the two and disconnect the back one, he's heard of some kind of module that completes the circuit and allows the rest of the system to operate...essentially fooling the computer into thinking that back airbag is still connected. That would be way better if that exists.

Anybody here ever done a Transit passenger van conversion (say to a motor home?) and encountered this situation? Does this circuit-restoring "cap" module exist?

I fear if I do anything that disrupts the airbag system, I'm endangering my crew, and possibly running the truck illegally too.

I'm open to any thoughts! Thanks for enduring my wordiness.

Driver side.

Passenger side. For both of these photos, I'd want to keep the bags over the second row windows, but somehow disconnect anything past the C pillar.
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