Car Recalls and You: How They Work and What to Do if Your Car is Recalled

February 4th, 2011

Car recalls should never be ignored but finding accurate information is not always easy. Photo by soleilani/Flickr

Car recalls have received a lot of attention last year and at the end of 2009 because of the widespread media focus on Toyota. When the government penalized Toyota for the automaker’s delay in properly notifying the public and government agencies of potential safety issues, the spotlight on vehicle safety shone even brighter. These events and recalls have left a strong impression on many automakers as now minor vehicle defects that may have been previously ignored now result in official recalls.

Vehicle owners may now be in a better position than in years prior as automakers are so quick to issue a vehicle recall, but car recalls is still a hot topic among certain media outlets and, unfortunately, the seriousness of the recalls may be exaggerated by some.

At MI Auto Times, we want all of our readers to know where to go to learn accurate information about car recalls and what steps should be taken if your vehicle is included in a recall. 

How Car Recalls Work

Knowing more about how automotive manufacturers issue recalls may help you understand why you might learn about a recall on the news and then not receive an official recall letter until weeks later.

Here’s a general rundown of how the process works:

  • Drivers report a problem or safety issue to the automaker of their vehicle, their dealership or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
  • The NHTSA notifies automakers of all complaints it receives.
  • The NHTSA will determine whether the issue is a potential safety defect.
  • If necessary, the NHTSA conducts an investigation and notifies the automaker of its findings.
  • During the preliminary evaluation, the automaker presents its analysis of the alleged defect.
  • If no further investigation is needed, the preliminary evaluation is closed.
  • If more investigation is required, the NHTSA moves forward with an engineering analysis.
  • Some engineering analyses may take longer than one year due to their complexity.
  • If a safety-related defect is determined, the NHTSA sends a Recall Request Letter to the automaker.
  • From this point on, there’s opportunity for automakers issue the recall or to decline conducting a recall and the NHTSA can respond to their refusal if the agency still feels the recall is warranted.
  • Once a recall is decided upon, many different pieces must come together to fix the problem.
  • How the problem should be fixed needs to be determined.
  • The proper parts or equipment required to fix the safety defect must be ordered and made available to dealerships.
  • Automakers use state DMV records to mail first-class letters to owners whose vehicles are included in the recall.

Once You Receive the Recall Letter

The official safety recall notice will provide affected drivers with exact instructions about what they should do next, where they can find more information and what phone numbers to call. Once drivers receive the letter, they may take their vehicle to the dealerships listed in the letter that are performing any needed repair work.

Automakers are required to let drivers know the risk of the safety defect, let them know when the solution or remedy will be available and to let them know how long it will take. Manufacturers pay the dealerships for the costs associated with the recall repair, so drivers should not have to pay for any services associated with the repairs. Some, though not all, dealerships may also provide a courtesy vehicle while the driver’s recalled vehicle is being repaired.

If a driver has had the same repair made that’s listed in the recall notice before the recall was officially announced, automakers are required to reimburse drivers if they had the repair made up to one year prior to the official recall.

Though dealerships are required to make repairs on any recalled vehicles in its inventory, private sellers may not have had the repairs made, so always check out the vehicle after a purchase from a private seller.

Where to Find More Information

NHTSA www.safercar.gov

An excellent resource for learning about car recalls is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) website: www.safercar.gov. Not only is recall information posted here but so is the safety rating information of vehicles including applicable 5 Star Safety ratings on crash tests and rollover tests, as well as information about vehicle safety features.

Recall information is searchable by vehicle and people may review recalls that were issued the day before, for the entire month and for previous months. It’s also possible to sign up for email alerts to receive notifications from NHTSA.

Automaker

Automakers often post recall information on their press or media websites that will include the official information about the recall, affected vehicles and how the automaker is going to repair the safety defect. Automakers also have 800 numbers that will direct drivers to appropriate recall information or persons who can help answer their questions about recalls.

Dealerships

The dealership that drivers purchased their affected vehicles from or another dealership of the same vehicle make will also have information about the official recalls. Drivers should have their VIN ready when they call so dealerships can look up the recall information. Dealerships are also another place drivers could contact to report any suspected safety issues with their vehicles.

Google

A quick search on Google may also provide drivers with more information about a recall or potential safety issues but be wary; not all websites are unbiased and some may overinflate recalls for scare factor in order to bring more traffic to their websites.

MI Auto Times seeks to bring all drivers continued updates about car recalls. We’d love to hear your stories or comments regarding car recalls, and we’ll post any of your tips to help other drivers navigate the process.

[Source(s): SaferCar.gov, Bankrate.com, Automedia.com]

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41 Responses to “Car Recalls and You: How They Work and What to Do if Your Car is Recalled”

  1. Gertrude says:

    Glad to find such a comprehensive source for car recalls.

  2. Tonya Taylor says:

    Ihave a 2001 Town/Country ,Was it A Recall let me know,1999 300m , 2000 Mercury Grand Marquise,LS.,,,9411 manistique det,mi 48224 let me know please god bless.

    I want to find out the car recalls on my 2004 Mercury Grand Marquis

    I want to find out the car recalls on my 2004 Mercury Grand Marquis? I would like to recieve a reply!

  3. gary halm says:

    bought 2004 silivero in sep 2010 from dealership. my speedometer when out in jan 2013. found out there was a recall on this, so I called . they said recall ran out the end of 2010. shouldnt they have fixed this recall before selling truck to me, in sep 2010. some one let me know? thanks

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