For good reason, many auto upholstery shops have become wary of repairing car seats, door panels and other interior components that have airbags built inside: If the seams don’t open properly, the airbags may not deploy in time, leaving passengers vulnerable to injury and shops liable for damages.
However, equipment is available to ensure stitches open. Among the best is the Durkopp Adler 550-867, a specially engineered sewing station for documented airbag tearing seams.
The following video shows how the Durkopp Adler 550-867 works, and explains its many sophisticated features. Unlike traditional sewing machines, the 550-867 monitors thread tension and stitch length to ensure they meet industry standards, and documents this in a database to shield operators from potential liability.
The station’s goal, Durkopp Adler explains, is to execute a stitch that’s “strong enough to resist the stress under normal conditions and at the same time it must guarantee the unrestricted, accurate exit of the airbag.”
The Durkopp Adler 550-867 is impressive, but doesn’t come cheap. We reached out to Patrick Weissgerber, President & CEO of DAP America, to inquire about pricing. Here’s what he told us:
“The full retail value of a standard machine (this being the machine with the most common equipment on it) is around 46,000 USD. This price typically includes training and installation on site.
You can of course customize with several additional scanners, different types of printers and edge guides. That can tack on another 10,000 USD, but is very rarely required by our customers.”
With nearly all new cars and trucks equipped with seat airbags and automakers increasingly using “Do Not Resew” tags, auto upholstery shops may one day be forced to purchase expensive sewing stations like the Durlopp Adler 550-867.
Fortunately, there are alternatives. Alea Leather, for instance, sews all of its quality leather seat covers using similar machinery that certifies seams will open properly upon airbag deployment.
To learn more about the 550-867, see Durkopp Adler’s website: Duerkopp-Adler.com.
From reading this article and looking at the operator manual for this machine, it just documents the stitches. What I can’t seem to find that it can read the bar codes of a seat cover to match the standard. Meaning you are still on your own to find the standards for each make of a seat cover. I don’t know if it has a database. You might still be on your own to get the right tensions, stitch lengths, and thread type to make an airbag safe seam.
Naseem Muaddi says
You’re right, even if you had the machine you would still have to know what each manufacturer’s tension, stitch length and thread is. As of now I don’t know of any way of gathering that information.
Adams Auto Upholstery says
Thanks for bringing attention to this growing problem, Naseem. This is a problem that is screaming for a solution.
The way I understand it is that the options you mentioned ($18K worth) ARE necessary in order to provide proof that the seams meet the required standards and as such release or limit our liability. That puts the machine at 60K plus. I also heard from Alea that their machines machine are more like 100K – and they have to pay for somebody to come from Europe and certify the systems annually.
Truth is, there is still a lot of mystery surrounding the airbag issue. Solutions range anywhere from simply buying and using air bag safe thread in your machine to having to invest in these 60K+ systems.
I’ve been doing a lot of intense research on this issue because it is becoming a big issue for our trade. If we can’t sew backrests, the factory replacements are discontinued, and none of the leather outfits have a replacement pattern, then our customers are in a real bind and we can’t help. That’s not a good thing.
I hope to have a handle on all of our options before long. When I do, I will gladly share the information here on The Hog Ring.
Naseem Muaddi says
I agree Jim this is probably the most serious issue facing our industry and unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be an easy answer.
MICHAEL TODD says
We are a large high volume trim shop in north Florida and have come to the conclusion that the liability of resewing airbag seams is just not worth it. We are turning away a lot of business but don’t feel we really have an option. We recommend that the customer buy an original replacement cover and we will do a professional job installing it. The sad thing is that in a lot of cases a particular cover will not be available. Then what?
From what I can tell there aren’t any easy solutions.
In the meantime this is a segment of the autotrim service spectrum we will not be able to help.
jim bentley says
A few years ago, I saw a video on you tube. A guy took a drivers seat and replaced the airbag inserts, using sixty nine thread and the airbag deployed perfectly. I would think that many of us have seen this. Since then the video has mysteriously disappeared. Anyone seen it lately? For that matter, why don’t we all make some videos of repaired air bag seats being deployed to see for ourselves if it can be successfully done? Sounds simple enough to me.
Steven Ingram says
Even though the airbag deployed fully, without cameras and measuring devices testing the deployment nobody knows if it deployed fast enough.. I don’t know if those milliseconds really make a difference but I wouldn’t bet the farm against it.
Ride City Custom Automotive Interiors, LLC says
My rep from Roadwire Leather stopped by the other day and we had a discussion about the airbag seams. He made a phone call to their sewing department and they told me T-60 Thread is what they use for airbag seams. They didn’t tell me the tension they were using though. I failed to ask that question. But at least now I know what thread they are using. Also, on the Amann site, if you look at the Automotive thread section, It tells you what threads are use for airbags in different applications, ie. door panels, dashboards and airbag seams on seats. But my question now is… How do you monitor your tension on a normal sewing machine without buying this high dollar Derkopp-Adler machine? I know my machine doesn’t have a digital read out of the precise tension. Only an adjustable knob. And if the tension has to be that precise it would be almost impossible to do.
Steven Ehrke says
I dont understand how this is such an issue. I get why you do not want the liability, with the rite lawyer it can ruin your business and life.
How is it all these aftermarket seatcover companies can sell a seat cover for over an airbag seat that is air bag compliant, yet a reputable shop cannot re sew a seem without liability??