How to replace the airbags!
I just thought I'd post this since I wasn't able to find a whole lot of information on replacing the airbags on a Cavalier. It would be good info for anybody who has to replace the airbags in their Cavalier. I did it today and it was one of the easiest jobs I've ever done on a car. I have a 2000 Cavalier that I bought from my little sister after she hit a deer and didn't want it anymore. I was surprised that it had blown the airbags since there wasn't a whole lot of damage to the front of the car.
Anyways, I made the mistake of buying my airbags on E-bay. They were perfectly fine, but I paid about $350 for the pair with a module. I was at the junkyard today and noticed that they sold airbags for any car for $50 for the pair with both modules! UGH!! There are warnings everywhere about having a dealer change the airbags and what not. I figure that these warnings are for total idiots since this task is so simple.
Before starting any of this, I disconnected the battery. You should too. On the Cavalier, there are two modules. One is on the front of the car just to the right (passenger side) of the hood latch. It's black and about as big around as a roll of nickels. It is held on by two 10mm bolts and a wiring harness. The other is located under the passenger seat. You have to take the seat out and pull the carpet up. This was super easy in my car. The seat was held on by 4ea 13mm nuts. I pulled up the carpet and the module is right under the middle of the seat. It is about the size of a wallet, silver and held on by 3ea 10mm bolts.
Once I had the modules removed, I went to work on the airbags. The drivers side was super easy. It is held on by 2ea 10mm bolts accessible from the back of the steering wheel. The bolts don't come out but the front of the steering wheel comes off. It has the airbag and everything in it. There is a red wire going into the steering column. This is your horn. Simply press down and twist it to the left and it will pop right out. It will go in the same way. For your airbag, there are two wires going into a yellow clip right in the middle of the airbag. Pop the top off of the yellow thing and use some needle nose pliers to pull the female wire connectors off their pins. It's easy, you'll see what I'm talking about when you take the top off of the yellow clip.
To remove the passenger side, you have to remove the top of the dash. You also have to remove the dash to replace the passenger airbag cover. This was a lot simpler than I had expected. Starting on the passenger side, pop the side off that is against the door when it is closed. There is one 7mm screw holding it on there. Now open the glovebox. Right below the vent is another screw. Moving left along the top of the glovebox are two more 7mm bolts. Remove them as well. Looking inside at the roof of the glovebox, you'll see an opening. Look in there and you'll see two gold 7mm bolts holding a metal bracket onto a big rod. Remove them as well. The best I can tell, this bracket holds the top of the dash down so the passenger airbag can deploy properly. Once you've removel all five screws from the glovebox area (3ea black, 2ea gold), go to the vent on top of the dash. There is a phillips screw on the aft side that needs to be removed. Pop the vent out and you'll see two more black 7mm screws. Remove them. Now go over to the drivers side and pop the plastic panel off where the fuses are. You're removing the whole panel, not just the fuse door. It should just pop right off. There is one 7mm screw holding this side on. Remove it and now all that is holding your dash on is a few metal clips. Give it a little encouragement and it should come right off! I was surprised how easy it was to git it out and back in. Your airbag will be exposed. There is a wire harness on the left side of the airbag (obvious). Disconnect it. There are 4ea gold 7mm screws holding the passenger airbag down. REmove them and pull the whole airbag assembly out. Piece of cake right?
Now you need to put everything back together. I'm not sure that you actually need to replace the module that goes on the front of the car. Everybody agrees that the one below the passenger seat needs to be replaced, but I couldn't get a straight answer anywhere about the one on the front of the car! I figured it was better safe than sorry. I found one at the junk yard today when I saw the $50 airbag sets. Ugh. They charged me $5 for the front module. I replaced it, replaced the one under the seat, reinstalled the seat, and reinstalled both airbags in the reverse order that they came out. Make sure your battery is disconnected when you are doing all of this! IF you short something out, I'd imagine that it would suck to blow up an airbag a foot from your face.
Before you reinstall the dash, you'll want to replace the passenger airbag cover! Sit down in the grass or other soft surface and flip the dash over. The cover is held on by 8ea 7mm black screws. 4ea in the front, 4ea in the back. It's pretty self explanatory when you see it. My old airbag cover was so mangled from the airbag going off that there was no way it could be reused. Also, the metal frame on the dash was bent a bit and the airbag cover wouldn't fit quite flush. I applied a little bit of kung-fu grip and bent it back and all was good again! I screwed the new cover down and reinstalled the dash. Make sure when placing the dash back on that you don't punch the long metal bracket through the passenger airbag cover! Make sure you reinstall the two gold bolts inside the glovebox area that hold that long bracket on! I'd imagine that this holds the dash down and lets the airbag deploy correctly. If you didn't, I would think you could just blow the dash up into the windshield or something in an accident. Reinstall everything and reconnect the battery. IF your airbags don't blow up when you reconnect the battery and your airbag light goes out, then you have installed everything correctly.
I can't think of too many incidents where your airbags will go off and you'll still have a driveable car, but if you hit a deer or something or for whatever reason you need to replace the airbags, it's simple. Disconnect the battery. REmove both modules and both airbags. Reinstall both modules, then the airbags and reconnect everything. Nothing fancy about it. Nothing a novice mechanic can't handle. CAr companies put the warnings on there to protect themselves from the idiots who would blow up an airbag in their face and sue the car company. Also, if you blow up an airbag in YOUR face, you didn't follow my instructions properly. :D