Auto Recalls: It’s Easy to Check Your Car’s Safety

A sad fact of life is that cars are not always perfectly built. Due to a manufacturing oversight, or engineering flaw, a few cars can come off the line with defects that prove to be hazardous. Fortunately, manufacturers and government agencies vigorously investigate these sorts of issues and send out recall notices to inform the public of the danger associated with particular cars. The more you understand about the recall process, the easier you can protect you and your family from dangerous situations.

What is a Recall?

Simply put, a recall is a public announcement advising of repairs that are imperative for vehicles found to have serious defects affecting auto safety. When cars are manufactured, occasionally models built at a specific factory or at a specific time will have errors in production or engineering that result in defects that compromise safety. As these defects are reported to the manufacturer or government after being sold to the public, the issues are investigated, and eventually corrected. A recall is issued for those particular cars, and the problem is fixed by the manufacturer, free of charge.

What are Some Common Defects That Result in Recalls?

In general, recalls are limited to defects that affect auto safety. The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigates any issues that affect the reliability of the accelerator, brakes, or steering. Leaks or wiring resulting in fire hazards and airbag deployment problems are also often targeted for recalls.

How do You Know if Your Car has had a Recall Issued?

In the worst cases, the owner of a car under recall will experience the problem first hand. More typically, however, car owners will be notified of the potential problem by mail. They might also be notified electronically if the car is equipped with an automated communication system, or if the owner maintains an account with the manufacturer. These methods assume that the owner can be located and informed, which isn’t always the case.

Can You Learn About Recalls on Your Car Even if You Haven’t Been Notified?

Yes. It is simple to determine proactively if your car (or a car you are interested in purchasing) is under recall. The NHTSA maintains an online database of recalls based on a car’s year, make, and model at their website. This will not tell you if your car specifically has any recalls, but it will tell you if cars like yours do. By calling a dealership and providing your car’s VIN number (see below), you can find out about your car specifically. Another reputable organization that provides information for recalls by VIN number is CarFax.

What is a VIN number?

The VIN number is the specific vehicle identification number for your car. All cars built since 1981 have a VIN in the same standardized format. Prior to 1981 different companies used different VIN styles. Every car’s VIN number is unique.

How do You Find Your Car’s VIN Number?

The VIN number is usually on the driver’s side dashboard. You can see it by standing outside the car and looking in lower corner of the windshield on the driver’s side. The VIN number might also be found on a sticker on the door post, where the driver’s door latches to the car frame. Finally, your car’s VIN number can be found on the insurance card and policy, as well as on the title.

Whether you own a car or are thinking about purchasing one, knowing if it is safe should be one of your main priorities. One factor to consider is recalls. Fortunately, learning if the car in question has any outstanding safety recalls is easy to do. A few minutes spent investigating recalls by VIN number online, or on the phone with a dealership can save you lots of time and money down the line. following these tips could save your life or the life of a loved one.