What Should You Do If Your Car Is Recalled?

So you read in the paper about a car recall, and unfortunately it regards your new auto model. What do you do? The BuyingAdvice Team reveals to you the main aspects of this process.

  • Receiving an official notice: an official notice should arrive by mail from the manufacturer. The letter should make clear how long the repair will take, evaluate the safety risk caused by the defect, and include a number to call if you go through any inconveniences when trying to get the work done.

    Because manufacturers use state motor-vehicle records to determine registered owners of a recalled model, you may not receive the notice. If you are positive your car is being recalled but no letter has arrived, call the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at (888) 327-4236 and ask about your situation.

  • Getting your car fixed: by federal law any authorized car dealership selling that model car is required to do the repair for free. Contact your dealer’s service department to arrange for the recall repair. If the auto dealer refuses to do it, contact the dealership service manager. If he doesn’t offer a solution, contact the manufacturer using the number printed out in the official notice. If this doesn’t work contact the NHTSA at the number listed above.

  • Two exceptions: If your car is more than ten years old when the defect is determined, car recall rules don’t apply and repairs aren’t free. Also, if you had the car fixed yourself before a recall was issued, the manufacturer is not obligated to provide reimbursement.

  • “Recalling” on your own: if your car hasn’t been recalled but you suspect it has mechanical problems due to a factory flaw, you can report it to the NHTSA by dialing the number listed earlier or going online to nhtsa.gov. If the agency receives similar reports from a large number of people – there’s no set number of how many, an investigation could be initiated. Remember that a car recall can be conducted not only by a manufacturer but also ordered by the NHTSA.

  • Different scenarios: have in mind that the law also gives the manufacturer the option to replace the vehicle with an identical or similar model, or refund the purchase price in full minus an allowance for depreciation. The manufacturer initially decides what the remedy will be, but it may be changed if it is not effective. If the car recall implies replacing the vehicle or a reimbursement, contact your manufacturer to know what steps to follow.

Hopefully nothing will go wrong with your car and you won’t have to deal with recalls. But if you do, at least now you know what to do. We suggest reading the NHTSA’s recall booklet for more details.


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