Roughly 1 out of every 5 cars on U.S. roads today (nearly 50 million vehicles) has an open safety recall that has not yet been repaired!
Recall notices are something many people don't think about when they buy a new or used vehicle. You assume everything is fine and that there is nothing that might be potentially unsafe or dangerous about your vehicle. If you bought your vehicle from a new or used car dealer, you may also assume that any safety recalls that may have been issued in the past or currently have been taken care of. But chances are you could be WRONG on both counts!
Auto makers do their best to maintain a data base of the people who have purchased and own their vehicles. The tracking system works fairly well for new vehicles, but as a vehicle ages and changes ownership over the years, car companies tend to lose track of who the current owners are. Consequently, you may not receive a notice if and when a recall is issued for your vehicle.
Recall notices will be publicized to the general public via news media outlets, and will be listed in an auto maker service data base as well as government recall data bases (but only if the recall is safety or emissions related). The government does not track most defect recalls that are NOT safety or emissions related, so it may take some digging to find out if there might be a defect recall for your vehicle. Doing an online search for recalls for your vehicle (enter the year, make and model) will usually turn up any recalls that might be out there.
Another important point to note is that even if there is a recall on your vehicle (any type), there is no guarantee that a new or used car dealer will check for such recalls, and then make the recommended adjustments or repairs to correct the problem BEFORE they sell you the vehicle. Sometimes it is just an oversight but other times they don't even bother to check, or don't want to invest the time and effort to make the adjustments or repairs.
Authorized new car dealers are reimbursed for recall repairs by the vehicle manufacturer, but independent repair facilities are usually not paid for such work unless there is a special agreement with the auto maker. So if a used car dealer is not part of a franchised new car dealer operation, there is no incentive to check for recalls or to do anything about a recall if one has been issued. Basically, it is up to you to search for any recalls, and if one or more are found, to take your vehicle back to the new car dealer for the required adjustments or repairs.
Recall repairs and adjustments should be made at NO COST to you if you take your vehicle to a new car dealer to have the work done.
That doesn't mean a new car dealer won't try to sell you unrelated repairs or services, but the basic recall work should be free.
Automotive makers may issue a recall for any of several reasons. If they have discovered a "manufacturing defect" either from their own internal quality control checks or from complaints they have received from vehicle owners, they may issue a recall to correct the problem. These types of recalls may or may not be safety related, but typically involve inspecting your vehicle to determine (1) if it has the defect, and (2) to then correct the defect by replacing a component, repairing or adjusting components as needed, or installing new computer software in your vehicle.
Sometimes these types of recalls are made to address a driveability issue, an emissions problem, upgrades in engine, transmission or other system software, or things that may affect the appearance or integrity of your vehicle (like a water leak, loose trim moldings, etc.). As a rule, these types of recall issues are NOT serious or dangerous, and should NOT affect the safety of your vehicle. Even so, you should not ignore them because they can and do provide a benefit to you and may help improve or prolong the life of your vehicle.
Serious problems that are discovered that may affect the safety of your vehicle typically are the result of a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigation based on consumer complaints and/or private lawsuits against a vehicle manufacturer. If NHTSA receives enough complaints about a problem with a certain year, make & model of vehicle, they will open an investigation into the matter to determine if (1) the problem is random or if there is a pattern failure involved, (2) if the problem is serious enough to pose a danger to the vehicle occupants or driving safety, and (3) issue an recall notice if their investigation determines it is serious enough for such a recall.
DO NOT IGNORE SAFETY RECALLS! Why? Because your life may depend on it! There have been numerous safety recalls involving defective Takata airbags that have exploded with excessive force causing severe injuries and death. There has been a backlog of getting these older airbags replaced because of the huge number of vehicles involved. Even so, auto makers have been working hard to replace these dangerous airbags as quickly as replacement airbags become available.
For more information about airbag recalls, Click Here.
In addition to defective airbags, safety recalls may involve seat belts, brakes, steering, tires, windshields or side glass that may not be properly bonded to the vehicle, structural issues with suspension components, defective steering linkage components, and potential fire hazards due to wiring faults or battery defects in hybrid or electric vehicles.
Don't know if your vehicle has an outstanding recall notice?
Go to https://checktoprotect.org and enter your vehicle's VIN number (usually located on a metal plate at the base of the windshield on the driver's side) to see if there are any outstanding recalls for your car, truck or SUV.
You can also go to Safercar.gov and search their data base of auto manufacturer recalls.
Free Carfax Safety Recall Check