Owner of 19-year-old Mercedes whose airbag exploded while waiting in Northampton car park urges other drivers to check in at garage

Greg Mills says his airbag exploded seconds after turning his key despite being stationary.
Greg Mills says his airbag exploded seconds after turning his key despite being stationary.

A Northampton man who suffered burns and partial deafness after his airbag went off while waiting in a car park is urging other motorists to check their vehicles for the same potential fault.

Gregory Mills was stunned by the sudden explosion in his car seconds after turning on the ignition of his Mercedes SLK 2000 model, which he bought six months ago.

Greg says the wiring inside the steering wheel's squib had been eroded over years of use, and believes this caused the explosion.

Greg says the wiring inside the steering wheel's squib had been eroded over years of use, and believes this caused the explosion.

The mechanic had just bought a coffee at the service stop on junction 15a of the M1 on Sunday night (October 27) when he climbed in and turned the key.

"For some reason, the horn just went off," said Greg. "I wasn't leaning on it but it kept sounding.

"I thought it was a bit odd so I switched the engine off and turned the ignition again.

"Everything seemed fine. Then five seconds later, the airbag just exploded in my face."

Stunned, Greg pulled himself out of the SLK 2000. His arm was burnt by the explosion and his ears were ringing, and he says he is still partially deaf nearly five days later.

He said: "It made me think that it could have gone off at any time. What if I had been driving on the motorway when it went off? It could have caused a crash."

Greg could not claim warranty on the second-hand 19-year-old Mercedes. But while waiting at the roadside, he put his mechanic skills to use to investigate the problem for himself.

He says that the wiring inside the steering wheel's squib had been worn down over years by a brillo pad-like sponge, which is fitted to deaden the sound of the wheel turning as part of the SLK's design.

He said: "It looked to me like it had worn through the wires and that caused the airbag to blow.

"It's pretty scary. I look at the steering wheels in my other three Mercedes wondering if they could go off at any time too."

Now, Greg wants to warn other SLK 2000 owners about the incident before it affects others drivers.

He said: "It made me think other cars like mine will all be getting to about 20 years old soon.

"It if happened to mine it could happen to hundreds of others on the road today."

A spokeswoman for Mercedes Benz said: "We’re sorry to hear about the incident, which the customer has reported to our Customer Support team. We’re in contact with the customer and are arranging to inspect the car."