What Should I Do If My Car is Recalled?

Sami Haj-Assaad
by Sami Haj-Assaad

Updated March 2019

Every year millions of cars are recalled. Here’s what you need to do to if yours is one of them.

Recall announcements are often made by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) rather than the automaker. You probably have better things to do than pour over NHTSA’s database, so we publish announcements about widespread recalls.

SEE ALSO: Automotive Safety Recalls

You can also check to see if your car is affected by a recall by going to the “vehicle owners” section of SaferCar.gov and searching for your vehicle. Vehicles aren’t the only products that NHTSA requests to be recalled by the manufacturer. Child seats and tires are monitored for safety concerns as well.


Getting Notice

If your car is affected by a new recall, then you can expect to notification in the mail. These letters are sent out by using the state’s vehicle registration database.

The letter will inform you that there’s a potential safety concern with your vehicle and generally will ask you to take it to an authorized dealer for service. In some cases, like when there’s a need for a replacement part, the letter will state when the safety fix will be available and how long the repair will take. In some extreme cases, the letter will even tell you to stop driving your car.

See Also: Do You Have To Get Warranty Work Done At The Dealership?

Don’t worry if you lost the letter or didn’t receive it in the first place. You can still obtain the notice of the recall from the NHTSA website and take it to your local dealership to get help. Just click the link above to go directly to the correct page.

Fixed Free of Charge

Recalled cars are remedied free of charge, so you can just take your car in to the service department of your local dealership.

It’s also possible to apply for reimbursement from the manufacturer if you paid to fix the issue before the recall was announced.

Unfortunately, there are scenarios where you can be stuck paying for the repair. If your car hasn’t been fixed within 10 years of the recall notice then you’ll be on the hook for the cost. Additionally, manufacturers may challenge NHTSA’s recall request in court. If the case is still open, then you’ll have to pay out of pocket as well. It’s important to save the paperwork from the repair because you can be reimbursed retroactively if the court decides to uphold the recall.

See Also: 5 Affordable Tools all DIYers Should Have

Pain Free Safety

It can be easy to confuse recalls with “technical service bulletins” (TSBs), because they both offer no-charge remedies. However, recalls are requested by NHTSA in order for the automaker to meet the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, while TSBs are manufacturer-provided solutions for unsatisfactory performance or unforeseen repairs.

See Also: Takata Airbags Recalls: Everything You Need to Know

It’s also important to understand that sometimes, manufacturers also voluntarily issue recalls without being asked by the government.

With your car repaired and up to safety code, you’re good to drive with confidence. Don’t forget that recalled vehicles can be recalled again.

Sami Haj-Assaad
Sami Haj-Assaad

Sami has an unquenchable thirst for car knowledge and has been at AutoGuide for the past six years. He has a degree in journalism and media studies from the University of Guelph-Humber in Toronto and has won multiple journalism awards from the Automotive Journalist Association of Canada. Sami is also on the jury for the World Car Awards.

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Join the conversation
  • Alex Kozovski Alex Kozovski on Apr 14, 2014

    You should not buy another Toyota.. that's for sure.

  • Raymond Ramrez Raymond Ramrez on Apr 16, 2014

    Recalls are meant to protect the customers, and the sooner the better for new models. My 1995 Buick Regal had one recall in 1996 due to misaligned rear brake lines that were close enough for the tire to wear them. The fix was a realignment and only 20 minutes. I still have the Regal after almost 20 years! GM's new CEO gave new orders to fix EVERY PROBLEM, so we read about them now more often. That is great news!