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Vehicle Recalls and How to Check Your Car

Vehicle Recalls and How to Check Your Car

Vehicle recalls are pretty standard these days, thanks to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Since 1966 the NHTSA has been defining minimum safety standards and enforcing laws that require car manufacturers to comply and fix issues that could endanger drivers.

In many cases, the manufacturer themselves may identify a significant problem with a part or an entire vehicle and recall those affected. Most recalls the public never hears about, but some become very public such as the recall regarding airbags a few years ago and the one involving Audis and the accelerator.

What is a Vehicle Recall?

What is a Vehicle Recall?

A vehicle recall occurs when either the NHTSA or the automobile manufacturer discovers a safety issue with a model or batch of vehicles. They initiate a vehicle recall and send out notices to all owners of the specific vehicle affected. Vehicle owners are instructed to take their car or truck to the dealer for a repair. The manufacturer is entirely responsible for the repair, and therefore, the owner does not have to pay anything to have it performed. They only have to make an appointment and show up.

The NHTSA performs extensive safety testing on every make and model of car and truck to discover safety issues. When they find a problem that repeats itself or they receive an abundance of complaints about an issue on a specific make/model of car or truck, they initiate an investigation. If their testing proves there is a problem, they will issue a vehicle safety recall. Manufactures have 60 days after the NHTSA informs them of the issue to contact all vehicle owners by mail about the recall. They must also include specific instructions on who to contact about the recall and how to fix it. They cannot charge for the repairs; the recall must be free-of-charge to all owners.

Vehicle Recalls by Manufacturer

Most car manufacturers are quite proactive about safety recalls, and rather than cover it up, they openly inform the NHTSA and contact each car owner. Before they can do that, though, they have to have a fix ready and the parts available. These manufacturers work with the car dealerships by educating them about the safety issue and then training them on how to fix it and replace the affected parts.

You can visit a car manufacturer’s website and check for any open recalls on your specific make and model of car and truck. If you have a concern about your vehicle, this is a good practice to perform.

Vehicle Recalls by VIN

Vehicle Recalls by VIN

You can also use a tool on the NHTSA website, the manufacturer’s website or even third-party websites to enter your VIN to find out if your vehicle has any open recalls. Due to the fact that recalls are about safety, it’s a good idea to run your VIN through a check every now and then.

However, keep in mind that just because your vehicle may have an open recall, it may not be dangerous to drive. It is always a good idea to have recalls performed, and the repairs done quickly, just in case.

NHTSA VIN Search Tool

TheNHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) has a VIN search tool designed specially to see if your vehicle has any open recalls on it. The tool goes back 15 years and will show any recalls that occurred during that period. It includes recalls for all “major light auto automakers, motorcycle manufacturers, and some medium/heavy truck manufacturers.” If your vehicle is older than 15 years, it may not show any recalls on it.

If you enter your VIN and see “no unrepaired recalls”, that means the issue was resolved on your specific vehicle, and you don’t have to do anything further. The tool does not work on any international vehicles or ultra-luxury brands.

What to Do if You Get a Recall Notice

If you receive a recall notice on your car or truck, you should follow the instructions carefully. Sometimes these notices may alert you to a serious safety issue, but there is no fix for it. You will receive a follow-up notice when the parts and service are available.

In other cases, you may receive instructions to contact the closest dealer and schedule the repair. When you call, be prepared with your VIN as the dealer will check it against the lot of affected vehicles. Because you don’t have to pay for it, they won’t want to perform a repair that isn’t needed.

Schedule the repair appointment and have it completed. Once done, they will alert the manufacturer and cross you off the list. Save your receipt to prove the repair was completed should you need to when you go to sell it later.

How Long do Recalls Last?

How Long do Recalls Last?

The statute of limitations for a no-charge recall repair is ten years. That means that if your car or truck has a recall, you have ten years to schedule the repair. After that, you are on your own and will have to pay for it yourself. The only exception is tires and those you must have replaced within 180 days of receiving the recall notice.

Also, to qualify for the no-charge safety recall, your car or truck must not be older than 15 years.

How to Check for Vehicle Recalls on Your Car or Truck

You do not have to wait for a recall notice to check your car or truck and fix it. So, if you are wondering how do I check for recalls on my vehicle? It’s very simple. You can either visit the manufacturer’s website or visit the NHTSA or another third-party website that scans VINs for recalls.

When you decide to buy a new or used vehicle, it’s good to run the VIN through a safety recall check online to see if there are any open recalls and if the car has been repaired. When you decide to sell your vehicle, you will have documentation proving you had the issue fixed, so a buyer won’t have to worry about it.

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