What Happens If Your Car Gets Recalled


Every year, millions of cars are recalled in the United States. These recalls can be minor repairs or major safety hazards. Regardless of the severity of the recall, every recall is due to a design or manufacturing error and the company will attempt to recover all vehicles with the issue.

What To Do If Your Car Is Recalled

If your car gets recalled, don’t stress. Your vehicle manufacturer is going to make getting it fixed a priority. You do too though!

The best thing to do when your car gets recalled is track down the notice of recall for more information. On the notice you will find what the issue is and how it will be fixed. If you don’t have the notice you can also check out the other forms of communication, like contacting the manufacturer directly, finding information online, or looking for press releases.

What Information Will Be Present On A Recall Notice

A recall notice will give you vital information such as:

  • A detailed description of the issue with the vehicle
  • The dangers of these issues and the risks they pose
  • How the manufacturer is planning on resolving the issue
  • When you will be able to have the car repaired and the estimated time it will take to repair
  • Instructions concerning what steps you will need to take next. 

The 3 Possibilities For Your Car After A Recall

The NHTSA has deemed that by law a manufacturer must handle a recall 1 of 3 ways. They are:

  • Repair: the part that is malfunctioning will be replaced, or whatever is causing the recall will be fixed to the point that the issue is resolved. This will happen at no cost to the vehicle owner
  • Replacement: If the vehicle cannot be fixed appropriately, the manufacturer will replace the vehicle with an identical one or a similar model. This will happen at no cost to the vehicle owner.
  • Refund: Optionally, the car manufacturer will buy back the vehicle at its purchase price minus depreciation of the car.

These same options typically apply to both vehicles and vehicle parts and accessories, from electronics to seat belts.

If the vehicle owner has already repaired the part involved in the recall, they are eligible to have the cost of the repair refunded to them by law according to the NHTSA.

If you have questions regarding safety concerns about your vehicle, or other uncertainties regarding a recall, you should call the vehicle manufacturer right away. Recalls take place for a reason and should be handled with immediate action. Some recalls are minor, but others pose serious safety concerns.

What Is A Safety Recall

A recall is when a car manufacturer asks owners to return their vehicles due to a safety concern or for a manufacturing error causing a consistent issue among the make or model.

Unlike some car issues you may have experienced due to normal wear and tear, a recall is due to a manufacturing or design issue with the car, meaning it is an issue in all model vehicles of that year range.  When the vehicle is recalled, the manufacturer will fix the safety concern at no cost to the car’s owner. 

Recalls can happen months or years after the car hits the market, and isn’t something most car owners expect to be involved in. They can be voluntary from the car manufacturer or they can be mandated from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Typically even in “voluntary” recalls there has been some prompting and investigation from the NHTSA.

How Does The NHTSA Know To Investigate For A Recall?

Typically it is customer complaints and lawsuits that prompts an investigation from the NHTSA.

The NHTSA gets their information on what vehicles may need investigation based on complaints placed by consumers regarding their cars. Reporting a concern to the Office Of Defects Investigation (ODI) which is a branch of the NHTSA is the best way to have your issue looked into further. It’s likely you aren’t the only customer having your issue and may help to spark an investigation.

The NHTSA determines when a safety concern mandates a large scale investigation and from there, when necessary, a full blown recall of the vehicles.

Once a recall has been deemed necessary by the NHTSA, then it is the car manufacturer’s responsibility to contact all registered vehicle owners by paper mail at their registered mailing addresses.

Legally the manufacturer is required to disclose the vehicle issue, the safety hazards, and what the owner of the vehicle needs to do to get the issue taken care of at no cost to them by the manufacturer. Most car manufacturers provide more information than what they are legally required and want to resolve the issue for their loyal customers as quickly as possible as well as reassure them of how the car will be repaired.

You can visit the NHTSA’s website to get up to date information regarding recalls

How To Know If Your Car Is Recalled

Did you know that only 70% of vehicles are repaired for their recalls? This is surprising considering the lengths at which the car manufacturer goes to track down these vehicles.

A car manufacturer will start by sending out paper mail notices of the vehicle recall to the mailing addresses they have on file for all customers who purchased the vehicle. However, many customers will have changed addresses, and some may have sold their cars to other consumers, others may not be diligent about checking their mail. This is why mail notices are just the first line of defense.

Along with the mail notices that are sent out by the manufacturer, there are usually press releases involved with a car recall both from the manufacturer and from the NHTSA. Typically these media releases take effect up to a month before the mail notices go out.

While the NHTSA does require car manufacturers to legally put out mail notices and press releases, most companies go far beyond that to ensure they are getting the word out to owners of these vehicles. Some will send out secondary notices in the mail and others will even go to such lengths of setting up phone banks and calling car owners. 

After a recall, manufacturers are required to submit quarterly reports on how many of the recalled vehicles were repaired and what percentage of the recalled vehicle owners haven’t been reached. At which time they may push the manufacturer to take further efforts to make contact. 

Forms Of Contact When Your Car Is Recalled

There are many ways that a car manufacturer will attempt to reach you regarding a vehicle recall. Some are required by law and others are prompted by the manufacturer themselves. Here are most of the ways that a manufacturer will attempt to reach if your vehicle has been recalled.

Direct Contact From Dealership

The original owner of the car will be contacted directly by the manufacturer via the address and phone number they provided when they purchased the car. This information was given specifically for recall situations. That is why it is important to update the information the dealership if you move or change phone numbers.

If you bought your car used, you should call the vehicle manufacturer and relay the information that you are the current legal owner of the vehicle. You will simply need to give them the vehicle VIN and your contact information including mailing address and if there ever is a recall for your car in the future they will contact you. 

If the information that the manufacturer has on file is correct, they will attempt to reach you via mail and by phone.

Media Coverage Of Recalls

Another way to hear about recalls is through watching the news or other forms of media. Recalls of vehicles are typically well documented and news of the recall carries via word of mouth as well.

The manufacturer is almost always required to put out a press release concerning the recall by the NHTSA who almost always also put out a press release of their own. 

If You Want To Double Check

If you want to see if there are any active recalls out on your vehicle, you can use the internet to check. Type the make and model of your car into a search engine followed by the word recall and see what comes up. Remember that recalls are usually specific to a certain year or a few years when the car was manufactured. For instance 2005-2007 Nissan Altima recalls wouldn’t be relevant to someone who owned a 2009 Nissan Altima. 

If you have done your research online and still feel your answer was a bit ambiguous you can always call a car dealership of your manufacturer or the manufacturer directly for any questions regarding your car. 

What Types Of Issues Cause A Recall

Typically, only safety concerns over a vehicle will induce a recall. These safety concerns will be due to a design or manufacturing error and are at no fault of the driver. Issues caused by normal wear and tear will not cause a recall, nor will problems due to the vehicles aging.

Frequent defects that cause safety recalls include:

  • Issues with steering equipment
  • Exploding or malfunctioning fuel equipment
  • Improperly functioning airbags or other safety features
  • Electrical and wiring issues that may cause fires
  • Accelerators or cruise control functions that stick

How Long Do I Have To Have My Recall Fixed

The statute for limitations on a vehicle recall is 10 years. In the case that the automobile manufacturer goes out of business or stops manufacturing the part needed for the recall, then the manufacturer is no longer responsible for taking on the financial obligation of repairing that recall.

For these reasons it is a good idea to repair your car as soon as possible after receiving the recall notice. Recalls on tires are only valid for 60 days. 

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About Protect My Car

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