What Does It Mean If There’s a Recall on My Car?

vehicle recallWhen an automotive manufacturer recalls a car, the owners of that specific vehicle may feel a bit uneasy at the news. While their uneasiness is certainly justified and though recalls are often issued due to a safety-related defect, or because something has not met federal safety standards, it does not mean that the vehicle is completely unsafe to drive. It simply means that the manufacturer has either voluntarily issued a recall or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has received multiple reports from vehicle owners indicating specific trouble on the vehicle. When this occurs, automakers will notify vehicle owners of the issue and invite them in for the repair. Recalls do not mean the entire vehicle will need to be replaced, only the affected area responsible for the error. Here’s everything you should know about vehicle recalls:

Recalls are most often issued when an automobile or vehicle equipment (including tires) does not comply with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard or a safety-related defect is discovered in or on the vehicle. Minimum performance standards are set for parts of the vehicle that affect safety during operation such as brakes, tires, headlights, etc. or safety features that protect drivers and passengers such as airbags, steering columns, seat belts, car seats, and even motorcycle helmets. All safety standards apply to vehicles and vehicle components manufactured or imported for sale in the U.S. and its territories.

Recalls are often classified as either Safety-Related or Non-Safety Related. Safety-related defects are defined as an issue that is part of a motor vehicle or its equipment that poses a risk to vehicle safety and may apply to a group of vehicles with a similar design, manufacturer, or equipment. Safety-related defects include errors such as:

  • Failure of steering components resulting in partial or complete loss of control of the vehicle.
  • Inoperable windshield wiper assemblies reducing or obstructing the driver’s view.
  • Gas pedal sticking or breaking.
  • Failing seats or seat backs while in use.
  • Breaking engine cooling fans posing danger to mechanics.
  • Wiring system troubles that cause fire or loss of lighting.
  • Unnecessary airbag
  • Defective wheels that break or crack causing loss of control.
  • Failure of vital vehicle components that break, separate, or breakdown that may cause loss of control or injuries to passengers or others.

Non-Safety Related recalls are defects that are related to components on the vehicle including:

  • Excessive oil intake.
  • Dysfunctional radios and air conditioning components.
  • Frequent wear of equipment such as shocks, batteries, exhaust systems, and brake mechanisms.
  • Body panel rust, poor paint quality, or other blemishes.

What you should know if your car, truck, or SUV is recalled:

  1. You’ll Be Notified – Car companies will issue a notification via mail. Your recall letter will include a description of the defect, any risks or hazards possible due to the problem–including any possible injuries, warning signs, how the vehicle manufacturer plans to resolve the trouble, when the repair will be available as well as an estimate on how long it will take to complete the repair, and your next steps.
  2. It Won’t Cost You Anything – If your car is on the recall list produced by the NHTSA, all recall repairs should be performed at no charge. However, you must take your vehicle to an authorized auto dealership since they are directly related to the vehicle manufacturer. If an attempt is made to charge you for the repair contact the manufacturer directly or contact the NHTSA at 888-327-4236.
  3. Expect a Resolution – The NHTSA oversees all safety recalls ensuring manufacturers comply with standards to provide safe, free, and successful remedies. If the error wasn’t addressed and the problem persists, contact the NHTSA.

If you learn that your vehicle is on the recall list, it’s best to seek attention sooner rather than risk an injury to yourself or others. You can check here to see if your vehicle is on the recall list by entering the year, make, and model. Although, the best way to search for a recall on your specific vehicle is by providing the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).

When purchasing a used vehicle, it’s important to check for recalls prior to your purchase. This can help you determine if the vehicle was recalled and if the error has been repaired. Once you purchase the vehicle, contact the vehicle manufacturer to register the car for possible future recall notices. It’s important to note that cars that are more than 10 years old, may not qualify for free repairs as part of a safety recall.