How to Stay on Top of Vehicle Recalls

Posted by
A vehicle recall notice is a big deal
A vehicle recall notice is a big deal/Image Credit: Kameleon007

Vehicle recalls for parts and other issues seem to happen weekly. With each recall, there is always a voice of worry in your mind wondering, “have I missed a critical recall?” It is essential that we keep track of automobile recalls from the NHTSA. Luckily for us, there are easy ways to check for recalls that affect our vehicles.

How to Stay on Top of NHTSA Safety and Vehicle Recalls

The simplest way to check for an automobile recall is to check with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. They regulate the recalls issued for motorized vehicles such as trucks, cars, motorcycles, and more inside the United States. The administration website makes checking for recalls on all your family’s vehicles easy.

You can search the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website by make, model, and year. Alternatively, you can use the 17-character vehicle identification number (VIN) found on the vehicle. The VIN on most cars is located on the base of the windshield on the driver’s side. Once you have searched your car on the website, it will guide you to a list of recalls issued for the vehicle and advise how to repair them.

What Can Be Recalled?

In 1966 the federal government issued the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, which allows them to set standards for motorized vehicles and ensure that manufacturers recall equipment that falls below those standards. Most recalls are issued due to concerns for the well-being of the driver and passengers. They will not often be issued for non-consequential parts, such as your radio.

Parts often subject to automotive recalls are brakes, lights, ignition switches, door latches, and airbags, among many others. One example was the Toyota faulty window switch recalled in 2015, which had the potential to set the vehicle on fire. You’ll notice that most recalls are issued based on the possibility of something going wrong, rather than the likelihood. The NHTSA prefers to err on the side of caution and so should you. They even keep an eye on related safety equipment such as car seats and booster seats.

What Happens After a Recall?

Once a recall has been issued, manufacturers are required by law to notify vehicle owners via first-class mail. This notification will contain information on the problem and its health risks. The vehicle manufacturer then has three available options. First, manufacturers can offer to repair the issue. Second, manufacturers can offer to replace the item. Third, the vehicle manufacturer can provide a refund for the consumer.

Federal law requires that most recalls be provided free of charge on vehicles up to fifteen years old. This time frame started when the car was sold to the first owner rather than the model year or manufacturing date. However, vehicles older than fifteen may also qualify for free recall repairs. In addition, many manufacturers and dealers will voluntarily provide recall repairs when it keeps their consumers safe.

Can I Drive My Car Before the Recall Repair?

The level of urgency on a recall is never the same. The notice received from the USPS will inform you whether your vehicle is safe to drive or not before the repair. Occasionally, manufacturers issue “do not drive” warnings within a recall. If this is the case, do not drive the vehicle before you get it to the dealer. One example of a “do not drive” recall was for the faulty Takata airbags, which exploded when deployed.

You may continue driving your car as needed if you do not receive a “do not drive” warning within the recall notice. However, use common sense, and don’t put lives in danger when there is a severe issue. Instead, get your vehicle into the dealership immediately to get it fixed.

What if I’m Concerned About My Vehicle?

If you are struggling with an issue on your vehicle and believe it is a manufacturer’s flaw that requires a recall due to health concerns, send your complaints directly to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. For example, if the driver’s door of your 2020 Hyundai Tucson flies open every time you hit a pothole, you need to report it. (Editor’s Note: That’s a purely hypothetical example. The 2020 Tucson is a pretty reliable vehicle as far as we’re aware.) The NHTSA website requires an email address, the VIN, the make, model, and year of your car, as well as documentation.

The documentation in your report will help your case and should consist of photos, repair invoices, the dates of incidents, and even police reports. The more thorough you are in detailing your case, the more information the administration has to investigate and create a recall if needed. Additionally, you can reach the administration over the phone if you don’t have an email address.

A recall investigation is not a short process and will take time. However, owners will be informed if an automotive recall is issued. Just make sure you keep your vehicle registration up to date, so they have your address. Additionally, the NHTSA has released a smartphone app called SaferCar that will keep you updated on vehicle recalls, help you find a car seat, and provide other online tools to keep you safe.

Looking for more Safety and Recall News? Check out our other safety-related blogs here!