The Critical Role of Car Recalls for Road Safety

The US recorded the highest number of road fatalities since 2012 in 2021, with around 47,000 documented. Although this volume dipped in 2022, this doesn’t mean that you and your loved ones are safe from motor vehicle accidents. Everyone on the road, including drivers like you, can be involved in car accidents.

Among the causes of car accidents is negligence, which may involve not knowing if your vehicle is subject to an open recall. Recalls are essential to rectify vehicle issues before they worsen and lead to accidents. But as a first-time driver, you may be unaware of these regulations.

As a driver, you are responsible for maintaining road safety by keeping your car in good condition. So, why are recalls significant, and how can you check if your vehicle is subject to one?

Understanding Car Recalls

Manufacturers issue vehicle safety recalls when unforeseen issues arise after the cars are on the market. These notices are released when they determine defects in specific car models. They can occur in a single vehicle but are typically issued for various models within a certain manufacturing period.

Suppliers and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) can also issue vehicle safety recalls. When the NHTSA determines that vehicles have defects, they will require the manufacturers to inform their consumers by mail.

The following are common issues addressed by safety recalls:

  • Airbag defects
  • Fuel system issues
  • Faulty brakes
  • Transmission problems
  • Wiring defects
  • Child seat issues
  • Seatbelt issues
  • Structural problems

Note that recalls shouldn’t cost you. Federal regulations require manufacturers to provide one of the following services at no cost:

  • Repair the issues
  • If the problem is unfixable, manufacturers can opt to replace the vehicle with another vehicle, either with an identical model or one that possesses similar or equivalent specifications and value
  • Refund the purchase price minus the potential depreciation cost

The manufacturers shoulder all of these recall services. They shouldn’t charge you with anything. However, this typically only applies to cars up to 15 years old, counted from the day the car was sold to you. But if your car is older, it isn’t necessarily free of charge. So it’s essential to ask the manufacturer first.

How To Check if Your Car Has an Open Recall

Checking for recalls is simple. 

  1. Locate your vehicle identification number (VIN). You can find it on the lower left of your car’s windshield, registration card, driver-side doorjamb, or insurance card
  2. Type your VIN in a VIN number lookup tool from the NHTSA or other reliable recall finder websites. The search result will show if your car has an open safety recall and what steps to take

You can also check for recall alerts in your email, as manufacturers are required to send notices within 60 days. Sign up on your manufacturer’s website for automatic email alerts.

Why You Should Check if Your Car Is Subject to a Recall

While recalls are sometimes a hassle for manufacturers and car owners, they are essential to keep you, your loved ones, and others safe on the road. Here are the significant reasons to check if your car is subject to a recall:

Upholding consumer rights

Before you buy a car, the manufacturer explains every detail, including its specifications, quality, and condition. They ensure that you receive a vehicle that works as expected. So, recalls are essential to ensuring their commitment to upholding your consumer rights.

With recalls, manufacturers acknowledge their oversight and immediately act to repair or replace your car. Notifying you as quickly as possible is their commitment to keeping your trust and fostering integrity in their services.

Ensuring proper maintenance

A minor inconvenience won’t necessarily cause catastrophic tragedies. However, it can still affect your vehicle’s durability and structural integrity, reducing its longevity.

For instance, if left untreated, a minor leak can worsen and cause engine corrosion. Similarly, software glitches can disrupt essential digital systems like the check engine light and tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS).

By addressing recalls, you take an immediate step to prevent the defects’ future complications. It can help you understand the importance of proper and regular maintenance to extend your car’s lifespan.

Compliance with regulations

Comprehensive laws and regulations govern automobile manufacturing. These regulations prioritize public safety and environmental considerations. For one, the NHTSA enforces these standards for automobile manufacturers in the US.

When the NHTSA identifies car defects through testing, manufacturer admissions, or consumer reports, this Federal agency will intervene by initiating recalls. Manufacturers, in return, shall comply with these directives.

Adhering to the NHTSA’s recalls ensures the manufacturers’ compliance with regulations so your car meets standards based on public safety and environmental requirements. As such, the government and manufacturers collaborate to ensure that vehicles aren’t just innovations but also safe and secure modes of transportation.

Protecting potential resale values

Remember that cars are depreciating assets. It means your car reduces some value over time due to wear and tear. The overall condition of your vehicle is a significant consideration for potential buyers if you sell your car in the future.

When you diligently address recalls, you can assure your buyers that the vehicle is maintained properly and regularly. Concurrently, dealers and valuation experts can deem your car more valuable and less risky. This way, you can still resell your car at a reasonable price, and the new owner won’t have to deal with costly repairs after purchasing.

If my car is recalled, will it expire?

No, car recalls don’t expire. Even If you buy a secondhand car, you can still be subject to one.

However, scheduling repairs can be challenging if your manufacturer goes out of business or discontinues servicing the parts with issues. This is why it’s essential to address your recalls immediately whenever possible.

Stay Informed About Your Safety Recalls

Recalls are significant safety precautions that prevent issues before they escalate into something dangerous. Staying informed about car recalls can help you address and prioritize them immediately. This way, you can ensure your vehicle’s safety and reliability.

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