What you need to know about car recalls

On the Road 3 min read

While car manufacturers do their best to avoid safety recalls, they still happen. In 2014, General Motors vehicles alone had more than 26 million vehicle recalls.

Having your car recalled can be an inconvenience for any car owner, but following the steps necessary to get your car repaired is important for your safety and the safety of your passengers. If you’ve recently found out your car has been recalled, keep reading to learn what you can do.

What is a car recall?

When a car manufacturer determines a certain model has a safety-related defect, they issue a recall by notifying the owners about the exact safety issue. Usually, a free repair will be offered. Manufacturers do this to try and maintain positive customer satisfaction ratings.

Consumers can report safety issues to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The organization adds complaints to a public database, and if enough people report similar issues, they open an investigation that could result in a recall. So, if you do notice a potential problem with your vehicle, don’t hesitate to submit a formal complaint—it could save lives.

What do I do if I receive a recall letter?

A recall letter will include several pieces of information:

  • A description of the exact safety defect or defects (if more than one)
  • Potential warning signs for you to look for in your vehicle
  • The exact risks associated with driving the vehicle and the kinds of injuries that could occur
  • The manufacturer’s plan to fix the problem, including any repairs that are required
  • Guidance on what you should do next

Usually, the letter will instruct you to call the auto dealer that sold you your car. After doing so, you’ll want to set up an appointment for your vehicle to be repaired.

This is sometimes easier said than done. Millions of car recalls occurred in 2018—the Ford F-150 had the most, with a total of 1.6 million recalls. With that kind of volume, you can imagine a dealership may be very busy with fixing these issues after a recall occurs.

One thing to note here is that vehicle recalls do not have an expiration date. However, if the manufacturer goes out of business or the parts to make the repair stop being made, it can be difficult to schedule a repair. That’s why, along with safety reasons, it’s important to take care of recall repairs as soon as possible.

Should I stop driving my car immediately?

No one wants to risk their life if their car has been recalled. The letter you received from the manufacturer should specify if the safety issue is severe enough that you should stop driving your car. If you aren’t sure, contact the manufacturer, reference your recall and ask if you should avoid driving until you’ve had the car serviced.

What if I don’t receive a recall letter?

If you don’t receive a recall letter, you can go to the NHTSA’s site and search their database for your recall. To search their database, you’ll need your vehicle identification number, or VIN, which you can find in several places on your car.

Many car repair shops and dealerships will also automatically perform a search for open recalls when you schedule other services with them.

Even if you don’t receive an official recall notice, your car’s manufacturer is still required to repair the issue for free.

Stay informed of car recalls

Although car recalls will continue to occur, the NHTSA is making major efforts to improve the process for identifying safety defects.

People take a risk every day when they get in their cars. Making time to ensure your vehicle is operating correctly will help ensure your safety from avoidable manufacturing defects, as well as others’.

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