What is a car recall?

On the Road 2 min read

When a car manufacturer determines that a certain car make and model has a safety-related defect, they issue a recall by notifying the owners about the exact safety issue. The manufacturer usually offers free repairs to maintain positive customer satisfaction ratings.

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

How do car recalls work?

While car manufacturers do their best to avoid safety recalls, they still happen. In 2021, NHTSA issued more than 1,000 safety recalls affecting 35 million vehicles. Having your car recalled can be inconvenient. However, getting your vehicle repaired is essential for your safety and the safety of your passengers. You can check if your car has been recalled through NHTSA’s database.

What happens when your car is recalled?

If a car is subject to a recall, the manufacturer will issue a safety recall, sending a letter to your home. 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 with the service department for a mechanic to repair your vehicle.

The car recall letter should include information on potential warning signs for you to look for in your vehicle, the same risks associated with driving the vehicle, descriptions of the exact safety defects, and guidance on what to do next. If you don’t receive a recall letter, you can go to NHTSA and search their database for auto recalls by manufacturer. To search their database, you’ll need your vehicle identification number, or VIN, which you can find in several places on your car.

Do car recalls expire?

No. Automotive safety recalls do not expire. According to Edmunds, “vehicle recalls do not have an expiration date.” However, it can be challenging to schedule a repair if the manufacturer goes out of business or discontinues the part. That’s why, along with safety reasons, it’s important to take care of recall repairs as soon as possible.

If my car is recalled do I get a rental?

Some manufacturers’ recall programs might provide a loaner while the dealership repairs your car following a recall. If yours does, they will include information in your recall letter. Sometimes dealerships will provide loaners, depending on their policies and the recall program, but it’s best to find out before you schedule your recall repair.

If you have rental car reimbursement coverage, it may not cover a rental if the manufacturer has recalled your vehicle. In that case, you might have to pay to rent a car out of your pocket. If you do, find out if rental car insurance is worth it.

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