The safety of our roads depends in large part on driver behavior. But it also depends on the vehicles themselves. When a vehicle has a problem that presents a safety risk, we need to get it off the road. That’s where recalls come in. How, exactly, does the safety recall process work for vehicles? Let’s go through the nuts and bolts.
What is a car recall?
Car recalls are issued when a manufacturer or the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration (NHSTA) determines that a vehicle or specific motor vehicle equipment (tires or car seats, for instance) presents a safety hazard or fails to meet minimum safety standards.
How will you know if there’s a recall on your vehicle?
You should receive a letter in the mail from your manufacturer. To guarantee that this information reaches you promptly, it’s important to keep your vehicle registration and address up to date. A recall letter will inform you of the specific problem and what steps you should take to get it resolved.
All recalls, regardless of the manufacturer, also have a timeframe within which the repair needs to be completed. The recall letter will have that information too. “Recalls come in all shapes and sizes,” says Jarrett Kerrigan, mobility director at AAA Northern California. “But the letter should lay out all the important details.”
To check if a recall has been issued on your vehicle, go to NHTSA.gov and enter your vehicle’s 17-digit VIN (vehicle identification number). You can find the VIN on the driver’s side door jam or on your vehicle registration. It may also be on your insurance card.
What should you do if you receive a recall notice?
Contact your dealership, says Randy Tinsley, an auto service manager at AAA Arizona. In some cases, Tinsley says, your dealership may not have the part available, so it’s better to contact them in advance rather than dropping by.