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Auto Manufacturer Recalls – How to Deal with Them

It seems that, over the past few years, a week doesn’t go by without one of the major domestic or foreign automakers announcing a recall. Depending on the severity of the problem, the process can be quite disruptive. While the recall itself doesn’t affect your auto insurance, an accident related to the defect can raise your rates. For that reason, if you receive a recall notice from your vehicle’s manufacturer, you should act immediately to have the issue repaired or replaced.

If you purchased the vehicle new, a letter will come in the mail advising you of the recall. But, if you aren’t the original owner, you may never find out about the problem, since the notices are only sent out to the registered owner at the time of the recall. Therefore, it’ll be up to the current owner to do the follow up, if he suspects his car is on the recall list. As a result of this gap in communication, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), reports that an estimated 25 percent of recalled vehicles go unrepaired.

Taking into account that there were more than 53 million vehicles recalled in 2014 – the worst year for automakers in U.S. automotive history – 25 percent means that in excess of 13 million vehicles with minor to dangerous defects remain on the road unrepaired, possibly putting the owner or other motorists at risk. And, with older cars, the chances of those vehicles being bought and sold to unsuspecting buyers, who wrongly assume that the previous owner performed the recalled repairs, increase substantially.

The process works pretty much like this: when an automaker discovers a safety defect in one of their models, by law, they are required to notify the NHTSA and conduct a recall. At that point, the manufacturer has 60 days for which to send out recall notification to all registered owners, using information gathered from each state’s DMV. The intent of the letter is hard to miss as the outside of the envelope states the fact that it’s a safety recall notice in bold red letters. Now, it’s up to the owner to take the vehicle in for the corrective repairs.

The letter should not be ignored. The main reason you’re receiving it is that the NHTSA has deemed the vehicle to be unsafe. Continuing to drive it unrepaired could cost you more than just an increase in auto insurance rates – if you have an accident.

If for some reason you just forget, your manufacturer may send out a reminder notice, indicating their records show you have yet to perform the necessary repairs. In certain instances, if the recall is massive, there could be a shortage of parts. Should this happen, the manufacturer will notify you by mail when the parts are available. However, don’t depend on a follow up, since they aren’t required to send you one.

Once you receive a notice of recall, contact the dealership where you purchased your new vehicle or the nearest one available and make an appointment for the repairs, which should be completed at no charge to you. But, be aware that automakers are only required to issue recalls on vehicles that are 10 years old or less, although they do sometimes recall cars that are older, if they believe the defect can cause injuries.

For repairs made prior to the recall being issued, the owner of the vehicle will be reimbursed by the manufacturer, providing the work was performed at one of its approved franchise dealerships.

Used cars present another problem. Independent auto dealers and private sellers are not obligated to have recall repairs performed before they sell the vehicle. That ordeal is left up to the person who buys the vehicle. Unfortunately, they may not even know about the recall. That’s why it makes sense, if you purchase a used car, to check for any potential outstanding recalls using the vehicle identification number or VIN.

By simply logging on to your manufacturer’s website or by going to and entering your vehicle’s VIN number, you’ll know if there’s a current or past recall and whether the work has been completed or not. A little research can go a long way to keep you safe. The bottom line is – don’t leave anything to chance. You could be driving a ticking time bomb and putting yourself or your family’s life at risk.

A little research can also save you some money by making sure you’re getting the best rate on your auto insurance. Why not get a free auto insurance quote today?

Have you ever had to deal with a recall on your vehicle? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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