Car Recalls and the Questions You May Have


Posted in:
Tips & Advice

Have you ever looked in your mailbox and received a letter from your car’s manufacturer that says “RECALL”? Usually, the letter will be marked with words like “Urgent” or “Important”.

While those words are usually accurate, not everyone is great about taking action from a letter in the mail. With so much “junk mail” to sift through, it is easy to file something away, or throw it away all together and forget about the letter.

So, if you’ve got a scratch in the back of your mind that nags at you about your car, maybe you should check into your vehicle’s recall status.

Let’s go over some basics about a recall to help you out.

What is a recall?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – whose sole function is to keep people safe on America’s roadways—a recall is a serious thing and requires consumers to take action.

“A recall is issued when a manufacturer or NHSTA determines that a vehicle… creates an unreasonable safety risk or fails to meet minimum safety standards,” explains the NHTSA website.

This means that there is a significant enough risk to the consumer’s safety – that would be you, the car’s owner – to initiate a recall in order to have the affected part replaced in a vehicle.

How will I know if my car has a recall?

Once it has been determined, either by the NHTSA or the auto manufacturer, that a recall is required, an automobile manufacturer must notify registered owners of the affected vehicles within 60 days.

The company will send you this notice via first class mail. If you think you may have seen one, but don’t know if you paid attention, rest assured. You’ll most likely get more than one notice.

I was a part of the GM ignition switch recall from 2014. I received several notices until I finally took my car to the dealership to be serviced.

Do I really need to take my car in for a recall?

Sometimes it may be easy to see something and think, “Do I really need to be bothered with doing anything about that? My car works just fine, now.”

Well, your car may be working just fine, now, but disaster could be right around the corner. The recall I experienced involved faulty ignition switches on Chevy Cobalts, Saturn Ions, and other older models manufactured by General Motors.

The issue with the switches was that they could shut off in the middle of vehicle operation, causing a loss of power steering and power braking. Not ideal if you’re on the highway driving at 70 mph. Even worse, the loss of power meant the airbags may not have deployed upon collision.

Once I learned that information, I was on the phone with my car dealership to get my vehicle in for the recall ASAP.

Also, if you need more motivation to go and get your vehicle’s recall taken care of, think of the amount of money it costs for an auto manufacturer to initiate and perform a recall. It can cost them millions of dollars to perform.

Sometimes that cost can soar into the hundreds of millions. Check out Reuters.com’s report on the timeline of the GM recall that I was a part of. If a company is willing to spend that kind of money, then you know they think it is important and so should you.

I think I might’ve seen a recall for my car. Where can I check?

Fortunately, there are many resources available to consumers who may be affected by a vehicle recall. You can always go to your car manufacturer’s website and search “recall”.

More conveniently, you can visit the NHTSA’s recall safety website and insert your car’s VIN number. That page will easily help you identify any pertinent recalls that may affect you directly.

Is getting this fixed going to cost me anything?

Absolutely not.

You’ll need to take your vehicle to an authorized car dealership, since they work directly with the manufacturer. It will also be helpful to bring your recall letter with you.

The letter you received from your auto manufacturer will reassure you, and the dealer, that there will be no additional cost to you in getting the recall issue resolved on your vehicle and let the service department know exactly what you need.

Aside from the time it will take you to get your vehicle back to the dealer for the replacement, you won’t be paying anything else.

How do I get my car taken care of?

As stated above, you’ll need to contact an authorized dealership and schedule a service time for your recall to performed on your vehicle. The process should be relatively easy.

For me, all I had to do was wait an hour or two for the part to be replaced. While they were performing the recall service, I had them change the oil, too. It really wasn’t that big of a deal.

If you think that your car is involved in a recall, use the resources above to find out. It’s important to take action as soon as you become aware. Doing so could help you avoid unnecessary risks to your safety. Or, in the very least, it will be one less piece of mail to sort through.

  Published By  
Brandon Evans
Senior Editor at CarShield

Brandon Evans is the senior editor at CarShield. He has been published across multiple industries with work featured in MaxSTL and the VITAL Voice. He holds a B. A. in Creative Writing from Lindenwood University. He writes out of Saint Louis, Missouri.

Questions? Visit our Support Center, or get in touch: