Anyone who owns a car wants to feel safe while on the road, and there are measures in place to make sure that happens. That’s why we have traffic laws, safety standards and regulatory bodies to make sure that automakers design vehicles that are safe for consumers.
What happens when a problem isn’t caught until the vehicles are already sold? If a product has issues that could affect consumer safety, that product can be recalled. What happens during a recall? How do consumers know what’s going on? Here are some answers to the top six questions that consumers ask about automotive recalls.
1. What is a car recall?
A car recall happens when, after a repeated problem is discovered in some car models, the manufacturer asks the owners to return those cars for repairs. Typically, recalls are triggered after an investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
2. What happens when my car is recalled?
You will typically receive a notice in the mail. This notice will tell you which car models are part of the recall, what problems the recall is trying to address and whether a repair is available.
It will also contain instructions for getting the repair, or for situations in which you think you received the recall notice by mistake.
3. Are car recall repairs free?
Yes! Repairs given as part of a recall are, by default, warrantied repairs. Since the manufacturer is issuing a recall to address a safety defect, it is up to the manufacturer to cover the costs of the recall-related repairs. You should not be charged for repairs given to you as part of a recall.
4. Do car recalls expire?
No, they do not. As long as the manufacturer is in business and the parts needed for the repair are still being made, drivers with recalls on their vehicles can take them in for free repairs.
5. Where do recall-related repairs take place?
To get a repair offered as part of a recall on your vehicle, you should take your vehicle in to a licensed dealership for that specific manufacturer. If you bring your vehicle in to a dealership for a different manufacturer, that dealership may not even know about the recall, let alone have the parts needed for your repair.
6. How do I check for recalls on my car?
If you want to know about recalls on your car, you can search your car by make/model or by its VIN on the NHTSA’s database.
If you’re still curious about how car recalls work, check out our recall guide. If you want to know what else the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration makes available to the public, read our guide on manufacturer communications and NHTSA investigations.