It seems like there is a recall of an automobile part or safety feature at least once each week. With each recall comes the nagging feeling: Is there an important recall I missed?
In addition to knowing why a vehicle or part may be recalled, there are easy ways to check if the vehicle you are driving is the focus of a recall.
The easiest way to check for a recall
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regulates recalls for motor vehicles – cars, trucks, motorcycles, tractor-trailers and so on. On its web site, you can check if your vehicle faces a recall by searching via make, model and year, or by the 17-character vehicle identification number (VIN) which in most cars is located at the bottom of the windshield on the driver’s side.
After putting in either your VIN or make, model and year, the site will guide you to a list of recalls issued for that vehicle along with guidance on how to get the vehicle repaired – usually by taking it to a dealership and having them work on it.
What items are recalled?
The National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966 allows the federal government to issue safety standards and require manufacturers to recall the equipment if those standards aren’t met.
These recalls are concerned with the safety of people in the vehicle. Recalls involving, say, the radio are not included. Many recalls involve items such as tires, brakes or lights as well as air bags, safety belts and door latches.
In case of a recall, manufacturers are required to notify car owners by first-class mail about the problem and the potential safety risks.
The manufacturer has three options: Repair the item, replace the item or give the owner a refund.
If you believe your vehicle is flawed and is in need of a recall, you can complain to the NHTSA. On the site, you will need to have ready:
- Your email address (the site has a phone number for you to call if you don’t have an email address)
- Your VIN
- The make, model and year of your vehicle
- Documentation such as photos, repair invoices or a police report.
The NHTSA warns that while a recall investigation may take a long time, owners will be informed if there is a recall.