A car safety recall notifies you that your car has a potentially serious mechanical problem, which can be extremely dangerous to you and other drivers. If your car’s registration is up-to-date and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) discovers a safety problem for your vehicle, the manufacturer will send you a letter notifying you of the recall and what you need to do. In the event of a recall, the manufacturer will fix the problem free of charge. Safety recall letters can be long and complex, and it’s also possible they could get lost in transit from the automaker to you.
The NHTSA monitors car recalls, and you can sign up on their website to receive email alerts for your car’s make and model. You can also visit the NHTSA website to look your vehicle up by its vehicle identification number (VIN). The NHTSA vehicle recall by VIN tool will let you know of any recalls on your car over the past 15 years.
Recall notices are not to be taken lightly, so make sure you pay attention if you receive one for your vehicle.
Would You Knowingly Drive on Bald Tires? Overlooking a Vehicle Recall Could Be Equally Risky
Safety doesn’t just affect you and your car, it could affect others. Even though recalls may seem minor, all of them are issued for important safety purposes. Just as bald tires can be dangerous, leading to tire blowouts or hydroplaning, not taking your car in for necessary safety recall repairs could lead to much bigger trouble that can injure you or someone else.
You already take care of your car and its maintenance needs, like making sure your tires are in good condition, getting oil changes, and ensuring your brakes work. Think of auto recalls for safety repairs as another aspect of responsible car maintenance.
What Can Possibly Go Wrong?
According to the NHTSA, vehicle recalls are only issued in case of a serious safety problem. The most common safety risks leading to recalls come from these auto systems:
- Steering, which could cause a loss of vehicle control
- Fuel systems, which could lead to fuel leakage or fires
- Accelerator controls, which could cause stuck accelerator pedals or out-of-control acceleration
- Wheel defects, which can lead to breaks or cracks
- Seats or seat backs, which might break or collapse during normal use
- Airbags, which can suddenly deploy while you’re driving
- Wiring system problems, which could cause a fire even if you’re not on the road
Other safety recalls may be issued for windshield wipers, engine cooling fan blades, tires, child safety seats, and other critical parts of the car that might be vulnerable to breaking, falling apart, or flying off the car at a certain speed.
The Impact of Recalls
In an ongoing recall effort, more than 9 million Toyota and Lexus models made between 2009 and 2010 had a variety of problems with their gas pedals. Some Toyota and Lexus models had sticky gas pedals, while others had problems with the accelerator and floor mat, leading to at least 30 reported accidents, including one fatality.
Even with these dangers, the NHTSA estimates at least 30 percent of auto recalls go unrepaired. A J.D. Power survey discovered that out of all the safety recalls between 2013 and 2015, over 45 million cars that need safety repairs haven’t received them. Some of these cars aren’t being fixed because automakers haven’t been able to get hold of the owners. Although owners can see if their car has been recalled by checking their car’s VIN on the NHTSA website, there are a few other reasons that could explain overlooked recall notices and repairs:
- Needing to make an appointment
- Lack of time to take the car in
- Not having a car while recall repairs are underway
- Concern that dealers might try to “upsell” more services
- Not knowing how long repairs from the recall will take
A vehicle recall notice will notify you of a potentially serious safety hazard on your car. Responding to a car recall notice may cost you time, but it shouldn’t cost money. On behalf of automakers, dealers must perform needed repairs for car recalls at no charge to you. Dealers may also have loaner cars available and should be able to let you know up front how long the repair will take.