When we hear about recalls on the news, they are often accompanied with dire consequences. In 2001, Ford recalled Explorers after they were deemed responsible for 200 deaths, and just this year, the U.S. Department of Transportation ordered a recall of over 33.8 million airbags after manufacturer Takata admitted they were defective. Whenever we hear about recalls, they seem to be linked to death and destruction.
However, the reality is that most recalls are proactive. They are often issued in the event there “may” be a problem – not that there “is” one. So while getting a recall notice from your dealership may be alarming, it is usually not a cause for grave concern. While you should always take them seriously, it is not necessarily indicative of any immediate danger. If you receive a recall notice, here are some basic steps you should follow.
Read the Letter
In general, when your vehicle is part of a recall, the manufacturer will send you correspondence informing you about the extent of the problem. Usually, it will direct you to a local dealership or certified dealer mechanic who will fix the problem or replace the defective part free of charge.
When an automaker suspects a defect, it is required to report it to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration. Once it is documented, the company has 60 days to inform all vehicle owners affected by the recall. If you hear about the recall on the news before your letter arrives, you can still make an appointment with the dealership for repair.
While these issues are generally dealt with efficiently, some recalls are very large (as was the case with the Takata airbag incident), so there may be a waiting period for service. In this case, you should consider whether or not your vehicle is safe to drive in the interim. Here are some factors that may guide your decision:
- The recall addresses the brake or acceleration systems
- Suspension or steering is affected (may contribute to rollover risk)
- The fuel system is faulty
If you see any of these listed on your recall notice, view them as red flags. In these sorts of cases, it is best to park your car and wait until parts are available. If you are unsure, call ahead to your dealership and ask. If the wait is exceedingly long, they may be able to tow your car to the lot and provide you with a loaner until it can be fixed.
Do not wait for a recall to be issued if you suspect your vehicle has a manufacturer flaw. If you think your car has a defect, alert the manufacturer right away. You can also report a safety issue with the NHSTA.
If you have an older used vehicle, you may also worry that you missed an important recall or that your car’s previous owner did not get a defect fixed. The NHSTA has a function on its website where you can search for recalls based on VIN number. Simply enter your car’s VIN (you can usually see it printed on the corner of the dash, through the windshield, or on the inside of your driver’s side door) into the search box. The function will bring up a list of recalls so you can see what safety issues (if any) need to be addressed.
If you have been in a car accident and you suspect it was the direct result of a manufacturer defect, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact the personal injury attorney Brian White for a free consultation. There is no fee unless you win.