Did you get a recall notice from your automaker? Or maybe you’re curious about all the auto recalls you’ve been hearing about lately. Either way, it seems like every day there’s a new auto recall for drivers to worry about.
You can take all the drivers ed courses in the world and drive perfectly every time you get behind the wheel, but a mechanical failure could be what gets you in a car accident. It’s time for a crash course on car recalls and how to handle them so you can keep driving safely down the road.
What Is A Vehicle Recall?
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines a recall as an event “when a product is removed from the market or a correction is made to the product because it is either defective or potentially harmful.”
The recall standard applies to all types of products from cars to baby diapers. When it comes to car safety recalls, the recall could be for the vehicle itself or a piece of motor vehicle equipment.
A vehicle defect can happen for a number of reasons. All it takes is one error on the assembly line or failure to fully test a new component. One of the largest recalls in history happened just a few years ago. General Motors had to recall 2.6 million vehicles due to a faulty ignition switch. More recently, Toyota had to recall 2.9 million vehicles around the globe because of faulty airbag inflators.
Vehicle recalls are initiated one of two ways:
By the automaker: If an automaker realizes there’s a safety defect in one of their vehicles they should conduct an independent recall on their own. They’ll notify the NHTSA and all those who have an affected vehicle.
By the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA): The NHTSA can also mandate that a vehicle recall be made. This is often the case after consumers file complaints with the NHTSA.
How To Check To See If Your Vehicle Has a Recall
Want to know if your vehicle has been recalled? Regardless of how a recall is initiated, automakers must file a public report. The report must describe the safety-related defect or what isn’t in compliance with federal motor vehicle safety standards. Once that’s done the report and it’s information will be made public.
You can find out about a car recall in a number of ways:
Recall Notice From Your Automaker
The easiest, but most jarring, way to find out your vehicle has a defect is by receiving a recall notice in the mail. The notice should provide information about why the recall was issued, the related safety issues and what steps to take next.
*Time is of the essence for some auto recalls. The Safety Act outlines regulations for recalls, and some repairs must be done within a certain amount of time. For example, a tire recall needs to be completed within 60 days of receiving a recall notice.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provides up-to-date information on vehicle safety recalls in the U.S. dating all the way back to 1966.
You can use your vehicle identification number (VIN) to find out if your car had a recall fix in the past or if it currently needs one. The car vin is located on the driver side door. Write it down then plug it in the recall finder at SaferCar.gov. NHTSA rules also mandate that automakers have an updated VIN lookup tool on their website.
What To Do If Your Vehicle Has Been Recalled
You just found out your car is part of a safety recall. Bummer, but at least you can get the problem fixed instead of unknowingly driving around with faulty motor vehicle equipment.
Here’s what you can do to get your auto recall handled:
If your vehicle is part of an open recall a dealer for the automaker should handle the repairs free of charge. Automakers are actually required by federal law to make recall repairs on all vehicles that are 10 years old or less. The dealer will check your car VIN to verify it’s subject to an open recall and then start the repair process.
If your car is over 10 years old the dealer should still choose to do the right thing and fix it for free. If they give you push back the NHTSA recommends taking the following steps:
- Contact the dealer service manager.
- If that doesn’t work contact the manufacturer about the issue. Their telephone number should be on the recall notice.
- Still not resolved? Call the NHTSA (1-888-327-4236) if you’re having issues getting the recall repaired.
Failing to get the recall repaired is seriously dangerous, and it could lower the value of your vehicle. Play it safe and make a trip to the dealer so you can put that recall in your rearview mirror.