How to Know If Your Car Has Been Recalled

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Car recalls can be annoying. They require you to take time off work, stand in line at the dealership, and sit around while your car is getting fixed. And if the repair takes a few days, you’ll have to figure out transportation alternatives as well.

Some recalls are pretty minor. In mid-March 2016, Maserati recalled more than 28,000 cars sold between 2014-16 because of faulty floor mat anchors.

Other recalls are serious. In 2014, GM recalled 30 million cars worldwide due to faulty ignition switches. By GM’s own count, 128 people were killed in accidents related to the switches.

The recall process

In 1966, the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act was enacted. It gave the Department of Transportation the authority to force manufacturers to recall vehicles or other equipment that did not meet federal safety standards. In the ensuing 50 years:

  • 390 million cars, trucks, buses, motorhomes, motorcycles, scooters, and mopeds have been recalled in the US alone

  • 46 million tires have been recalled

  • 42 million child safety seats have been recalled

To illustrate how rough some years have been for vehicle manufacturers and consumers, in 2014, 64 million cars were recalled at the same time that only 16.5 million vehicles were sold.

What causes recalls?

Car manufacturers assemble cars using parts made from many suppliers. If there is a major failure of a part, the car is recalled. As an example, in 2015 the airbag manufacturer, Takata, recalled 34 million airbags that the company supplied to nearly two dozen car and truck manufacturers. When deployed, the airbags were found, at times, to shoot shrapnel inflator parts. Some of the recalled air bag models dated as far back as 2001.

It was the responsibility of the vehicle manufacturers to issue the recall and do the repairs for the cars and trucks that were equipped with the Takata air bags.

Choosing a safe car to buy

iSeeCars.com is a website for buyers and sellers of new and used cars. The company conducted a survey of the history of cars sold over the past 36 years, and the recall histories since 1985.

The survey concluded that Mercedes is the least-recalled car. And the manufacturer with the worst recall-to-sales ratio? According to the survey, Hyundai has had the worst ratio of cars recalled: 1.15 cars recalled for every car sold since 1986.

Other companies on the list with the most recalls are Mitsubishi, Volkswagen, and Volvo, each of which has recalled one car for every one sold over the last 30 years.

How you’ll know if your car has a recall

If you purchased your car, either new or used, from a dealer, they will have your VIN and contact information on file. If there’s a recall, the manufacturer will contact you by mail or phone, and provide instructions on how you need to get the car fixed.

Recall letters sometimes come with some form of the phrase “Important Safety Recall Information” printed on the front of the envelope, making it look like a piece of junk mail. It’s a good idea to resist the temptation to play Carnac the Magnificent, and actually open the letter.

The letter will explain the recall, and what you’re to do. Most likely, you’ll be instructed to contact your local dealer to get your car fixed. Keep in mind, you’re not the only one in your area who has received a recall notice so it’s best to contact the dealer immediately and make an appointment to get your car repaired.

If you hear about the recall on the news, but you’re not sure if your car is affected, you can contact your local dealer, who will look up your VIN. Or you can call the Auto Safety Hotline of the National Traffic Safety Administration (888.327.4236).

You can also visit your vehicle manufacturer’s website for up-to-date news on recalls. You may be asked to enter your VIN to ensure accuracy.

Who pays for recall repairs

Car manufacturers are only on the hook to pay for repairs for eight years from the date of the car’s original sale. If there is a recall eight years after the original sale, the repair bill is on you. Also, if you are proactive and fix a problem prior to the official announcement of a recall you could be out of luck trying to get reimbursement.

However, some companies, such as Chrysler, have reimbursed customers whose vehicles malfunctioned due to a not-yet-announced recall.

Ten most recalled cars

These are the top most recalled cars in America. If you’re driving one of these vehicles, it’s a good idea to check and see if yours is among those recalled.

  • Chevy Cruze
  • Toyota RAV4
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee
  • Dodge Ram 1500
  • Jeep Wrangler
  • Hyundai Sonata
  • Toyota Camry
  • Chrysler Town & Country
  • Dodge Grand Caravan
  • Nissan Altima

What you should do if you get a recall letter

If you see something in the mail that resembles a car recall notice, open it to see what it says. You’ll need to decide for yourself how serious the suggested repair is. If you think it’s serious, call your local dealer to book an appointment.

Ask how long it will take to make the repair. If it’s going to take a full day, ask for a free courtesy car or shuttle ride to and from work or home.

If you get wind of a recall before it’s announced by the manufacturer and you choose to get the work done beforehand, ask the dealer who is going to be responsible for the repair bill. In all likelihood it will be the owner.


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Michael

15 years of experience
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Michael
15 years of experience
Mercedes-Benz GL450 - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Atlanta, Georgia
Micheal was punctual and friendly. Work was completed within promised time. Will definitely use again.
Volvo S80 - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Roswell, Georgia
Michael was SUPER QUICK with doing my brake and rotors. Great communication throughout the whole process. Will always recommend

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19 years of experience
Toyota Sequoia - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Newport Beach, California
Kenneth did a great job and very knowledgeable. He has a great attitude and I will for sure be using him again.

Chuy

13 years of experience
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Chuy
13 years of experience
Honda Civic - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Cicero, Illinois
Excellent work on doing the breaks for my car and the break and steering system flush I’ll definitely recommend and take into consideration for chuy’s work whenever I need a fix on my car

Richard

16 years of experience
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Richard
16 years of experience
BMW 328i - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Dublin, California
Richard was an outstanding mechanic. After he arrived, the first thing he did after taking the initial pictures of the car is an assessment into what work was asked. He quickly verified that I did not need brake fluid and my front brakes even-though it affects his personal commitments and time, which I think is highly appreciate and thorough professional. He was detailed oriented - took time to make sure that all the issue are fixed. He paid attention to detail in overall car assessment- he goes above and beyond. He was also teaching me through the process which I found highly educational and appreciate him providing the information ensuring and making me comfortable what he was doing and explaining patiently all the questions that was thrown at him. When he works - you know he's highly skilled and experienced and knows his stuff. He is highly experienced. He is a "Master" mechanic in true sense :)

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