You grab the mail and start flipping through it. Bill, bill, junk mail, letter from the manufacturer of your car. You stop, open it and read it. The letter tells you to bring your vehicle in to service a problem. Funny you think, you haven’t had any issues with your vehicle and you didn’t call anyone about an issue. What is this all about?
The letter you received is what is known as a car safety recall. Car safety recalls are serious and not to be ignored. Read on to learn about car safety recalls, why they are issued and what you should do when you receive one.
Defining a car safety recall
A safety recall is issued when the manufacturer or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) determines that there is a problem with a vehicle that’s a risk to the safety of the driver and passengers.
Many recalls are initiated voluntarily by the manufacturer, while some are a result of NHTSA investigations or a court order requested by NHTSA. Once a safety issue is detected, the manufacturer must issue a recall notifying owners of the problem and outlining how the problem will be resolved.
Some recalls that you might be familiar with include the ongoing Takata air bag recall that has affected more than 42 million vehicles in the United States alone. You might also remember Toyota’s sudden acceleration problem that was first blamed on floor mats but ended up being an issue with a stuck gas pedal on several 2004-2010 models.
When are recalls issued?
A recall is issued when a defect related to driver or passenger safety is discovered. A recall is initiated:
- When the vehicle or part of its equipment is determined to not comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.
- If a safety-related defect is found.
A recall can be initiated for many reasons including:
- Problems with tires.
- Seatbelts that fail.
- Faulty steering components that result in loss of control.
- Crucial parts that break away from the vehicle.
- Issues with wiring that could cause a fire or other problems.
- Child safety seats that pose a danger to the child’s safety.
Remember, recalls are typically issued for problems related to safety. Normal wear, rust, problems with paint or issues with air conditioning or the stereo aren’t covered.
How will I be notified of a recall?
The manufacturer will inform you of a recall with a letter in the mail. If you have heard about a recall but didn’t receive a letter, contact the manufacturer to see if your vehicle is included. If you have moved or bought the vehicle used, the manufacturer may not have updated contact information.
Another way to determine if your vehicle is part of a recall is to visit the Safety Issues & Recalls page on NHTSA’s website. Simply enter your VIN number to learn if there are any active recalls on your vehicle.
The letter will inform you of the specific problem and will tell you how the issue will be fixed – typically by replacement, repair or refund. You’ll be given instructions on how to arrange to have the issue taken care of.
I got a recall notice – what should I do?
If your vehicle is part of a recall, it is imperative that you promptly follow the directions in the letter. Failing to take care of the problem can put your safety and the safety of your passengers in jeopardy.
Will I have to pay for recall repairs?
No. Any needed repairs due to a recall are at the expense of the manufacturer. Don’t worry if your vehicle is out of warranty – your warranty status has no bearing on your eligibility for recall repairs.
What can I do if I think my car has a safety problem?
If you suspect that your car has a defect that affects your safety, file a report with NHTSA. You can call them at 1-888-327-4236 or file a report on NHTSA’s safety website safecar.gov.
NHTSA logs the information in its database and tracks it for trends that could warrant a recall. These reports are often times the first clue that there could be a problem with a vehicle.
The content contained in this article is for entertainment and informational purposes only and should not be used in lieu of seeking professional advice from a certified technician or mechanic. We encourage you to consult with a certified technician or mechanic if you have specific questions or concerns relating to any of the topics covered herein. Under no circumstances will we be liable for any loss or damage caused by your reliance on any content.