What Is a Recall on a Car & How to Check for One
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New vehicles take time to develop. Automakers often need several years to complete design and testing.
Not only do manufacturers have to choose a car's style and specifications, but they must also iron out all mechanical issues that might arise during real-world scenarios.
Sometimes, even after all of that work, cars exhibit complications that could be hazardous to drivers.
In that scenario, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will issue a recall to address any problems and hopefully return the vehicle to safe driving condition.
How do recalls work? How can you perform a vehicle recall check?
Let's look at recalls and how to check for one.
What is a recall on a car?
The NHTSA issues a recall notice when either they or an automaker determine a vehicle presents a safety risk or doesn't satisfy motor vehicle safety standards.
According to the NHSTA, a safety recall can apply to specific vehicles or particular components like tires, seats, and airbags.
In the event of a car recall, the regulators require automakers to issue a report that includes:
- The events preceding the recall
- The details of the problem
- The vehicle or equipment subject to recall
- The recall’s timeline
- The way they’ll resolve it
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How do recalls work?
Recall campaigns only apply in the event of an exceptional safety hazard, not for the typical wear and tear all cars undergo.
Some components that may be the subject of a recall include:
- Malfunctioning jacks
- Defective airbags or seatbelts
- Faulty steering
- Faulty fuel systems
- Flammable wiring
- Accelerator issues
- Malfunctioning ignition switch
How to perform a vehicle recall check
If you're in the market for a used vehicle, researching its recall history can provide important information. Finding out past or open recalls — and any work carried out — is critical for making a wise buying decision.
Several online tools are available to learn about past vehicle recalls or associated repairs.
You can find relevant information by inputting a vehicle identification number into the NHTSA's search engine. Other websites like vinsmart.com will let you enter your car's make and model to locate pertinent information.
If your current vehicle’s subject to a recall, the manufacturer will notify you by mail within 60 days. The NHTSA mandates that these letters specify when the needed recall repairs will be possible, how to obtain them, how long they’ll take, and whom to contact with any related questions. The letter must also highlight that recall-related repairs are free.
The NHTSA oversees the recall process and is a valuable resource if you have trouble obtaining the necessary fixes.
What to do with a recalled car
When your vehicle’s subject to a recall, attending to it quickly ensures safe driving.
During a recall, the vehicle manufacturer has three options to remedy the situation:
- Replace: With a similar or identical car.
- Refund: The purchase price minus depreciation.
- Repair: At no cost.
Additionally, accessories like car seats are subject to the same set of fixes. If you've already paid to repair the subject of the recall, the NHTSA may provide reimbursement.
No matter which scenario you find yourself in, reach out to the manufacturer or your local service center to learn about your available options. Some recalls might be preventative in nature, but they may still need swift attention. No matter the issue, addressing whatever the case may be ensures your safety.
Though other recalls tend to receive more media attention, tire recalls are fairly frequent.
Recently, recalled tires have had leaking air pressure, cracked sidewalls, and bulging and separating treads.
Tires are the part of your car that meets the road, so their function is crucial. Even if your vehicle has AWD, 4WD, ABS, and other safeguards, a faulty set of tires can lead to a loss of traction and decreased safety.
What is a recall on a car in summary?
The NHTSA recalls vehicles that they or the manufacturer deem unsafe or don't meet motor vehicle safety standards.
When that happens, the automaker sends a letter via first-class mail to the registered owner, notifying them of the issue and how they can obtain repairs at no charge. In some cases, the owner’s vehicle may be refunded or replaced.
As well as cars, components and accessories like tires may be recalled. The same remedies apply to accessories as with vehicles.
Some recalls may seem preventative in nature, attending to them promptly assures you of optimal driving safety. When you learn of a recall, contact the manufacturer or your local service center. They’ll provide you with the information you need to obtain repairs, and you can get on with driving safely again.
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April 15, 2022
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