A recall can be rather concerning to any vehicle owner. Many drivers may even fear that driving could place them in harm’s way, which is understandable. However, recalls are often issued because a certain component may not meet federal safety standards or because of a safety-related defect.
Both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and automotive manufacturers may issue recalls. The NHTSA will issue a recall when they receive numerous reports from automotive owners with a common repair or issue. In some cases, a vehicle manufacturer may discover the issue on their own or through vehicle owners and then voluntarily issue a recall. In either case, automakers will contact vehicle owners, typically by mail, advising of the issue and requesting the owner to come in for repair. While a recall may seem complicated, it’s really pretty simple as the vehicle owner. We’ve got answers to the most frequently asked questions on recalls, including “how do I check for recalls on my car?” and more.
Q: What is an auto recall?
A: A vehicle recall is issued when an auto manufacturer or the NHTSA identifies a component on a vehicle either has a safety-related defect or has failed to meet federal safety standards (applies to all of the U.S. and its territories). Certain standards are set for parts on a vehicle that specifically relates to the safe operation of the vehicle including headlights, brakes, and tires, as well as the safety of passengers such as seat belts, car seats, steering columns, and airbags.
Q: Are there different kinds of recalls?
A: Yes, recalls are categorized by Safety-Related and Non-Safety Related. Safety-related defects are recognized as issues that are part of the motor vehicle or equipment that may pose a risk to safety that may affect vehicles of the same manufacturer, equipment, or similar design. Non-safety related recalls are failures of certain components on the vehicle.
Safety-Related recalls may include errors such as:
- Gas pedal sticking or breaking.
- Defective wheels that fail or break causing loss of control.
- Unwarranted air bag
- Faulty steering components contributing to limited or complete lack of control.
- Broken seats or seatbacks while driving.
- Loss of critical components that breakdown or separate that result in loss of control or cause serious injuries to passengers or others.
- Broken windshield wiper assemblies that obstruct a driver’s ability to see the road.
Non-Safety Related recalls may include:
- Premature and frequent wear of vehicle equipment such as brake components, batteries, exhaust system, or shocks.
- Failure of air conditioner or radio components.
- Excessive consumption of oil.
- Exterior blemishes such as rust, poor paint, etc.
Q: What do I do if my car is recalled?
A: Your vehicle manufacturer will contact you to inform you of the defect via mail. The letter will describe the defect, any possible safety risks including possible injuries, a notice of caution, how the issue will be resolved, a timeline of when the repair will be available, an estimate of repair time, and further instructions on how to proceed. It’s important to note if your vehicle is recalled this does not mean the entire vehicle will need to be replaced, only the component(s) responsible for the recall.
Q: How much will the repairs cost me?
A: If your car has been recalled, especially by the NHTSA, it should not cost you anything. Keep in mind, you’ll need to return to the dealership of your auto manufacturer for repair. If the dealership requests payment for the repair, contact the manufacturer directly or call the NHTSA at (888) 327-4236 to file a report.
Q: I don’t have time to bring my car in. Can it wait?
A: Not recommended. If you are informed that your vehicle has been recalled, take your vehicle in for repairs as soon as you can. Recalls are often issued due to some sort of safety issue. Don’t risk injury to yourself or others by waiting to have it addressed.
Q: What if I still have problems after the recalled part is replaced or repaired?
A: The purpose of the NHTSA is to ensure all manufacturers meet federal standards to deliver cost-free, safe, and successful resolutions. If the error persists and hasn’t been resolved to your satisfaction, contact the NHTSA.
Q: Where can I check my car for recalls?
A: Visit the NHTSA’s website and enter the year, make, and model of your vehicle. You may also utilize your VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) for a more accurate search.
Q: Do car recalls have expiration dates?
A: While recalls don’t have a specific expiration date, the owner has a responsibility to have the issue resolved within a reasonable amount of time. A recall can be terminated if the vehicle manufacturer goes out of business or the parts are no longer available.
Q: Is there anything else I should know?
A: If you plan to purchase a pre-owned vehicle, be sure to check for recalls prior to completing your sale. Vehicle History Reports, like those provided by Carfax, in addition to providing service information and accident history, may also include recall reports and whether the issue was addressed. If you proceed with the purchase of the vehicle, contact the vehicle manufacturer to sign up for any future recalls on your newly-acquired vehicle. Lastly, no-charge recalls are valid only within 8 years of the vehicle’s original purchase date. Any repairs related to the recall thereafter are the responsibility of the vehicle owner.
Whether a recall on your vehicle is Safety-related or Non-safety related, contact the manufacturer of your vehicle right away. The recall may be voluntary as a safety measure but may still require attention.