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The Complete Guide to Car Recalls Consider The Consumer

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The Complete Guide to Car Recalls

What to Do Next When Your Car Has Been Recalled

According to Consumer Reports, “every safety defect puts people at risk and recalls should be taken seriously.” Car recalls reach tens of millions every year with faults and defects ranging from software problems that may cause cars to stall without warning to leaks that potentially cause fires. Recalls may include millions or just a handful of cars, but either way, recalls are important as it involves both rights and safety of consumers. So, what happens next when your car is recalled? Well, you should read the complete guide to car recalls!

The Why…

When a car is recalled, it is because of a safety problem that has been identified and puts you and your car at risk, thereby requiring a fix.

Car safety recalls are done when a defect “poses a risk to motor vehicle safety,” and that “may exist in a group of vehicles of the same design or manufacture, or items of equipment of the same type and manufacture.” Other times recalls happen when a vehicle does not meet a motor vehicle safety standard, such as faulty headlights or slow and poorly functioning backup cameras.

When to Stop Driving A Recalled Car

Consumer Reports stated that when a car has been recalled, “the recall notice itself will tell you if it is safe to drive or not, or if it needs to be put outside.”

There some cases, however, when an automaker issues a “do not drive” warning which should be followed as there probably is an especially serious issue with the vehicle that warrants a recall and that could put your life in danger.

Nonetheless, you should get your car fixed as soon as possible even without the warning, and only drive if necessary as “your car should be safe enough for you to drive to the dealership for repairs or use it for other essential purposes.”

Usually, car issues that warrant a recall have telltale signs which can help drivers make an informed decision. Other automakers also recommend when and where the recalled vehicles can be driven or not.

How Car Recalls Start

Most of the time automakers receive warranty claims, hear complaints from dealers and drivers, or receives a report from a factory worker or supplier who uncovers a problem in the manufacturing process that helps them decide when a recall needs to made.

The process to manufacture a car is thoroughly documented by the factory which makes it easier to zero in on the specific period that a faulty part was installed or the exact vehicles that weren’t built up to standards.

There are also times when the NHTSA investigates a reported issue after complaints were received from the public.

Consumer reports claim that “if a manufacturer knows one of its vehicles has a safety defect and it doesn’t report the issue to the government in a timely manner, or portrays something as a minor issue when the company knows it’s really a safety defect, then the manufacturer is breaking the law.”

Automakers found to have hidden a safety defect can be fined by NHTSA more than $22,000 for each violation and up to $111 million total for a series of related violations.

Finding Out About A Car Recall

Official recall notices through first-class mail with “Safety Recall Notice” and federal logos printed on the label will be sent by companies and “must explain any potential safety hazard and detail when and how people can get the problem corrected.”

However, mailed notices often go out days or even weeks after a recall’s first online announcement. Sometimes these don’t reach second or third owners, and automakers eventually are unable to contact vehicle owners who have since changed addresses and have not notified their local registry of motor vehicles.

Major recalls are often part of national news coverage. There are also times when a recall will be of specific vehicles, rather than every vehicle within a given model year, which leads to a recall but does not warrant a notification. It is therefore best to be proactive and have ready your vehicle’s unique vehicle identification number (VIN), a 17-digit combination of numbers and letters usually found at the bottom outside of the windshield on the driver’s side. A VIN is important to check for recalls as well as for scheduling for a repair with your dealer.

To check for recalls, go to, and enter your car’s VIN.

To Pay or Not to Pay

All safety recall repairs are required by federal law to be provided free of charge on cars up to 15 years old, counted from the time it was first sold and not based on model year or the manufacturing date. Consumer Reports further stressed that “for cars more than 15 years old, automakers and dealers will often voluntarily provide a safety recall repair free, so we encourage you to ask.”

if a dealer refuses to do a recall repair on your car (15 years or younger) or charges you for the repair, contact the manufacturer directly to let them know.

How Long A Recall Repair Takes

Usually, it takes about two weeks for dealerships to be informed and equipped to do repairs. Most recall repairs are fast once the dealership has everything they need. It is even possible to do recall repairs at home through an over-the-air software update.

At times when the automaker initiates a recall before a fix has been developed, owners usually get two notices, the recall announcement, and fix availability.

There may be times when a recall repair does not work and requires the vehicle to be brought back in to be fixed, and a few times when repairs are so involved that the vehicle needs to be sent back to the factory which could mostly take several weeks. Rare cases also occur wherein the automaker buys back or replaces your entire vehicle, which usually happens if the defect cannot be repaired.

Always ask your dealer how long a certain recall repair could potentially take.

On Recall Repairs and Loaner Cars

While federal law does not require the provision of a loaner car, manufacturers at times will provide one, and dealers often offering one at their own expense.

It is important to note that “car manufacturers don’t owe owners of recalled cars anything more than a timely and safe repair—not even a cup of stale showroom coffee.”

For the most part, having a loaner car is not practical as most recall repairs are done in an hour or two.

Open Recalls on Used Car

New cars that are being sold with open recalls is prohibited by federal law, but not on used cars.

Ask a used-car dealership if open recalls have been addressed when you are buying from one. Let a mechanic inspect the car before purchasing because if the previous owner neglected to get recall work done, they may have skipped maintenance and repair issues, as well.

Necessity vs Worry

A recall that’s timely and comprehensive in fixing a problem is proof that automakers and regulators are taking safety seriously.

Consumer Reports said that “recalls can be inconvenient, but they’re actually a good thing. While they can vary in terms of severity, a recall means that a manufacturer will fix or take corrective action to address a safety issue, which is why they should be taken seriously.”

Editor’s note on the Complete Guide to Car Recalls:

This article is created to inform you about the Complete Guide to Car Recalls. If you have questions regarding the guide, please send us a message!

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