Recalls are often associated with feelings of dread in consumer car owners. Receiving a recall notice for your vehicle can be scary, but it can also be confusing a process. That’s why I’ve put together this crash course in vehicle safety recalls to ensure that you have all the essential information if you do happen to receive a notice.
What is an auto recall?
Cars are recalled when the manufacturer or the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) determine that there is a safety–related defect on a particular make or model of a vehicle. The recall process often begins with consumer reports of problems with their vehicle. When a certain number of reports have been filed regarding the same problem with the same vehicle, the NHTSA will start an investigation to determine the root of the problem and decide whether a recall is necessary. If you are experiencing problems with your vehicle beyond routine maintenance, it may be a good idea to submit a report to the NHTSA, as other drivers may be experiencing the same problem and it may be a signifier of a vehicle defect.
What happens when a part on my vehicle is recalled?
If a recall is required, the manufacturer claims responsibility for the defect and any repairs are free of charge. The NHTSA monitors safety recalls to ensure that the repairs are free and align with Safety Act and Federal regulations. After the NHTSA or the manufacture determines a vehicle recall is necessary, an Official Safety Recall Notice will be sent to the affected vehicle owners either through standard mail or electronically through email. The recall information is also made public through the NHTSA website. The recall notice includes a description of the defect, the risk associated with the problem, a description of the plans to fix the problem including how long the repair should take and dealers who will repair the vehicle, and instructions as to next steps for the vehicle owner.
Can I still drive my vehicle if I receive a recall notice?
It is best to repair recalled vehicles as soon as possible to ensure the safe operation of your car, but some recalls are more urgent than others. Look through your recall notice to determine the area of the car that is affected. If the recall involves an essential operating component, such as the acceleration, brakes, steering, or fuel systems, it is best to stop driving your vehicle and take it in for repairs immediately. If the recall affects secondary systems in your vehicle, such as the seatbelts or passenger airbags, it is safe to continue driving your vehicle, but the repairs should be made at your earliest convenience to ensure the safety of you and your passengers. If you are unsure if there is immediate danger associated with your recall, contact the dealership to determine the urgency of repairs.
Recalls will always be frustrating. But understanding the process and paying attention to warning signs on your vehicle will speed the repair process in the event of a safety recall.