Glitchy backup cameras, loose brake calipers, defective windshield wipers, and engines with a high risk of stalling—these are just some of the issues that have prompted vehicle manufacturers to initiate a recall in recent months.
If you’ve noticed a sudden change in your vehicle’s performance, or maybe you’ve observed a component that has deteriorated more quickly than expected, you may be wondering if your vehicle is subject to a recall.
If a defective component or assembly is identified as the cause of the problem, think twice before paying for repairs or a replacement—there’s a chance that the issue is covered by a recall. But how do you find out if there’s a recall for your car?
Read on to find out.
How Do I Know If My Car Has a Recall?
Safety recalls are announced by the vehicle manufacturer. They are required by law to notify all registered owners of the affected vehicles within 60 days after reporting the recall decision to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
This means that, if your vehicle does have a recall, you can expect to receive a notice (sent via first-class mail) that contains important information about the defect and instructions on how to deal with it.
If you haven’t received a notice yet and you suspect that there’s a problem with your vehicle that may warrant a recall, here are your options for finding out:
Defects are discovered through routine evaluations conducted by federal government regulators like the NHTSA. The manufacturer will also pinpoint early problems as issues will be reported by the press after the car is released.
Check the NHTSA Database
One quick way of determining if your car has a recall issued for it is by checking the NHTSA database. They keep a record of recalls by all manufacturers operating in the country, and you can check for a safety recall by looking up your vehicle’s VIN number.
What is a VIN?
The vehicle identification number (VIN) indicates the manufacturer and unique specifications of a car. It is composed of 17 characters, which are a combination of numbers and capital letters.
The VIN can be used to determine if a car is covered by a recall. It is also essential for tracking registrations, claiming warranties, identifying theft, and securing insurance coverage.
Don’t know your VIN number? You can usually find this unique code somewhere in your vehicle, although the location can vary.
Contact the Dealership
Another method for finding out if your vehicle has a recall is by calling your dealership.
Luckily, you don’t have to go straight to the manufacturer just to get your car fixed during a recall. Local dealerships are authorized to perform the necessary action to fix the issue, based on the parameters of the safety recall.
However, you can’t just show up at the dealer without an appointment. What you should do first is call your dealer and schedule your repair. This is crucial as dealers can only handle a certain number of cars per recall work at a given time.
The procedure can vary per manufacturer and the type of problem involved. If the issue is critical, the manufacturer may provide a towing service to transport your vehicle to the service center.
Some manufacturers may even loan you a vehicle while yours is being serviced.
What Happens If My Car Gets Recalled?
As previously mentioned, once a defect is detected, the manufacturer will issue a recall and must notify the vehicle owners. They are also required to perform any of the following in order to address the issue:
This is the most common way of dealing with a recall. Repairs are usually the solution for fixing small or minor defects. If your vehicle’s issue is the type that is addressed with repairs, contact your manufacturer’s customer service to report the problem.
You can also visit your dealership to start the repair process.
In some cases, the manufacturer may replace the entire assembly of the affected component. A new original equipment manufacturer or OEM-grade replacement will be provided free of charge.
Contact your automaker to start the replacement process. You can also stop by your local dealership.
Report the issue and its corresponding recall number, then follow the instructions that will be provided to you.
If the entire vehicle is recalled, you will likely receive a refund. The manufacturer will calculate the refund amount by deducting the depreciation value of the car from its purchase price.
Are Car Recalls Free?
If you find your VIN on the NHTSA’s list of vehicles for recall, all recall-related services should be free. This includes manufacturer-provided towing services.
Schedule an appointment with the local dealership. On the day itself, remember to bring the recall notice to avoid any delays. If the dealer refuses to resolve your car’s recall issues in the manner stated in the recall letter, you have the right to file a complaint with the NHTSA.
You may also inform the manufacturer of the dealer’s refusal.
Do Safety Recalls Expire?
Car recalls don’t have an expiration date. However, car manufacturers are entitled to conduct recall services for as long as it’s in business or for as long as the affected part is still being made.
In addition, car manufacturers are regularly filing quarterly progress with the NHTSA. The report includes the number of vehicles that have been serviced, the parts that were repaired, and even owners that haven’t been reached during the recall period.