Everything You Need To Know About Vehicle Recalls

by | Dec 8, 2020

Every year, tens of millions of vehicles are recalled by automobile manufacturers involving concerns due to manufacturing error. Surprisingly only about 70% of those vehicles actually ever get fixed. These recalls can be for minor repairs or they can be major safety concerns.

For example, I remember a friend having a recall on his Jeep five years ago because that model year was exploding when the car was involved in a rear end collision. They fixed the issue by putting a simple hitch on the back of the car which then added extra protection to the gas tank that was blowing up upon impact. This recall was obviously a very serious problem and the solution was so simple that you couldn’t help but mistrust it. 

Millions of cars get recalled every year so you have a decent chance of having your car recalled if you are a vehicle owner.  If your car is one of the millions being recalled this year, the biggest questions that you’re likely asking is what to do next and how long is this recall good for? 

A recall is good through the statute of limitations for up to ten years, with the exception of tire recalls which are valid for 60 days. However a car manufacturer is inclined to fix the issue even after those ten years have passed and most will give you no issues repairing the car. The first thing you should do when you get a recall notice is read that notice carefully or contact the car manufacturer for information if you did not receive a notice. 

You were likely informed of the recall through a flyer in the mail that was sent to you from the vehicle manufacturer. The first thing to do is thoroughly read the recall notice as it will tell you exactly what is going on with the car, and what the potential risks are to drivers,  passengers and other vehicles. Regardless of the actual issue, you’ll definitely want to take the recall seriously. Even the most minor seeming repairs can have dangerous risks to you and other drivers on the road which is why the manufacturer is taking such lengths to get these cars back and fix their issues. 

What Will A Recall Notice Tell You

A recall notice will give you vital information such as:

  • A detailed list of what the issue with the vehicle is
  • 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. 

What Is A Recall And When Is It Necessary? 

A recall is when a model that a manufacturer has put on the market is now showing a safety concern which can occur months or years after the cars became available for sale. Unlike some car issues you may have experienced, 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 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.. The NHTSA gets their information on what vehicles may need investigation based on complaints placed by consumers regarding the 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.

The NHTSA determines when a safety concern mandates a large scale investigation and when necessary 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 address. 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.

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 come in.

While the NHTSA does require car manufacturers to legally make these efforts, most companies go far beyond that to ensure they are getting the word out to owners of vehicles who have been recalled. 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. 

Is there a time constraint on recalls?

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 unfortunately. 

What Happens If I’ve Already Repaired The Issue Myself?

In some cases, consumers have had the parts of the vehicle under recall repaired before the news of the recall reaches them or before the recall is issued at all. In these special circumstances, the car manufacturer will typically reimburse the consumer for the costs they assumed when they replaced those parts of the vehicle. This is assuming that the owner of the vehicle can provide proper documentation of the parts purchased or of the labor performed on the car. Always remember to keep your maintenance and repair receipts for your vehicle! 

Is there a mileage limit on recalls?

No, there is no mileage limit on recalls. The manufacturer will repair the part of the car that is causing the safety concern regardless of age, mileage or condition of the vehicle. 

How To Find Information On Your Car’s Recall 

There are quite a few ways to receive information on a vehicle recall. The vehicle manufacturer is required by law to make attempts to alert you to the vehicle recall, however with used vehicles they don’t always have owner information.

Direct Contact From Dealership

If you are the original owner, then the manufacturer will have your address and telephone number that you provided to them to make contact about a car recall. If you have moved or have gotten new contact information be sure to give that information to the dealership and/or car manufacturer with whom you purchased your vehicle. 

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. 

Media Coverage Of Recalls

You can also hear about recalls through the media. Typically recalls on vehicles, similarly to recalls on food items, is very well documented and spread by the news. 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 are a car owner who isn’t sure if your car has had a recall and wants to double check to be sure, 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. 

We hope this article has answered all of your car recall questions and that you feel more prepared to handle such an occurrence now and in the future. 

Protect My Car provides consumers with extended auto warranty plans that have real coverage for vehicles that are no longer covered by their manufacturer’s warranty. Whether your vehicle was purchased new or used, if your manufacturer’s warranty is about to expire, or has already expired, an extended auto warranty plan can save you thousands of dollars in repair bills. Since the majority of vehicle repairs happen 3-5 years after the original purchase date, which many times is outside of the manufacturer’s warranty coverage period, leaving you responsible for paying the full repair bill. However, when you purchase a policy from Protect My Car, you could pay as little as $100.00 for your major repairs. That’s a lot of savings!

Resources:

https://www.kbb.com/car-advice/what-do-i-need-to-know-about-recalls/
https://www.edmunds.com/car-safety/how-nhtsa-gets-cars-recalled.html
https://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/gm-recall/my-cars-been-recalled-now-what-n164526
https://www.oesa.org/sites/default/files/automotive-defect-recall-report-2019.pdf

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