In 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recalled 51.3 million automobiles in the United States. That’s an all-time record and almost three times the number of cars that were sold during the year. These recalls included everything from defective ignition switches and steering wheels, to acceleration issues and worn out suspension parts.
Auto recalls occur when a manufacturer (or the NHTSA) determines that a car model (or several models) has a safety-related defect or does not comply with a federal safety standard.
One of the largest automotive recalls this year (2016) that continues to dominate the news involves more than 29 million defective Takata airbag inflators. According to the NHTSA, these airbags have been prone to explode during collisions, resulting in shrapnel flying throughout the vehicle and wounding—and in some cases killing—the driver and or occupants.
Not all automotive recalls consumers receive may pose an imminent threat or danger. Some may be for issues like an annoying rattle or noise emanating from the vehicle or other non-safety issues such as a faulty radio or air conditioner.
Dan Povey, the Deputy Chief of Field Operations & Enforcement for the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) recommends that consumers who receive automotive recall notices shouldn’t ignore them.
“It’s important for consumers to take the notices seriously and read them very carefully,” says Povey. “Follow the instructions and contact your local dealer as soon as possible.”
Recall notices usually contain the following information:
- A description of the defect.
- The potential risks and hazards of the problems including the type of injuries that may arise from the defect.
- A list of possible warning signs.
- Steps the manufacturer will take to fix the issue(s).
- The estimated time to complete the repair.
While recall notices don’t have expiration dates, there can be an expiration date for work to be completed at no cost on vehicles more than 10 years old.
In addition, recall repairs should only be done by dealer representatives that have agreements with vehicle manufacturers to perform these repairs, which also have the expertise to repair the make of a vehicle being recalled.
Manufacturers that initiate vehicle recalls have agreements with dealers to perform recall repairs. Consumers may have recall repairs done by any dealer representative, regardless of where the vehicle was originally purchased. For example, a Honda purchased at Mel Rapton Honda may have a recall repair done by Maita Honda, Folsom Honda or Auto Nation Honda.
Most importantly, consumers should make sure that the dealerships that perform their recall and warranty repairs are registered with BAR as an Automotive Repair Dealer (ARD).
If a consumer believes the work on their vehicle hasn’t been done properly or feels they’ve been treated unfairly by an ARD, they should file a complaint with BAR (www.bar.dca.gov) as well as contact the vehicle manufacturer with complaints about dealer representatives.
Consumers can call the NHTSA’s Vehicle Safety Complaint Hotline at 800.424.9393 for more information on vehicle recalls/complaints. To check for active recalls on your vehicle, it’s best to visit the manufacturer’s website or www.nhtsa.gov.