What to do if your car is recalled

By Allstate

Last updated: January 1

When there's a recall on your vehicle, you may be wondering what to do. Hearing there could be a potential safety issue with the vehicle you drive every day can be cause for concern. Knowing what to do if your car is recalled may help you feel more at ease.

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What is a safety recall?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that a safety recall is issued if either the manufacturer or the NHTSA determines that a vehicle or its equipment pose a safety risk or do not meet motor vehicle safety standards. The NHTSA notes that these recalls can include the vehicle, equipment such as air bags, tires or even a car seat. Manufacturers are required to file a report that includes the following information:

  • Details of the applicable vehicle/equipment and number affected
  • Description of the defect or noncompliance issue
  • What led up to the decision to recall
  • Explanation of the remedy
  • Recall schedule

How will I know about a recall?

After it has been determined there is a need for a recall and a report is filed, the NHTSA says that the manufacturers have to try to notify registered owners and purchasers of the vehicles by first class mail within 60 days. (This information is obtained through state motor vehicle offices.) The NHTSA says the letter should instruct owners on how to get the issue fixed, the time frame for when the fix will be available, how long the repair should take and whom to contact if there is an issue getting the repair made. It will also remind vehicle owners that there should be no charge to correct the vehicle's problem.

The NHTSA also provides an online tool that allows consumers to search for recalls using the vehicle identification number.

What can be recalled?

Normal wear and tear and issues that arise because of an aging vehicle are not covered under recalls. The NHTSA explains that generally only defects that present a safety threat will trigger a recall. Such defects can include, but are not limited to:

  • Malfunctioning steering equipment
  • Leaky fuel systems
  • Airbags that deploy improperly
  • Wiring issues that are a potential fire hazard
  • Car jacks that may collapse
  • Accelerators that stick or malfunction

What do you do when your car is recalled?

Once you find out the recall applies to your vehicle or parts, getting it fixed should be a priority. According to the NHTSA, by law the manufacturer must choose one of three options for correcting the issue:

  • Repair: The vehicle or part will be repaired by the manufacturer at no cost to you.
  • Replacement: If the problem cannot be fixed, the manufacturer can provide you with another identical vehicle or a similar model.
  • Refund: The manufacturer can choose to refund the purchase price of the vehicle, minus a reasonable amount for depreciation.

The same options generally apply to manufacturers of vehicle accessories, such as car seats. Additionally, if you had already paid for repairs for a problem that is recalled, the NHTSA says you may also be able to get refunded for the cost of service.

No matter what the issue, if you think your vehicle is part of a safety recall, contact your manufacturer or service center right away to find out what your options are. The recall may simply be a precaution, but it may require immediate action. Either way, it's a good safety measure to make sure the repair is made as soon as possible.