Vehicle Recalls

Understanding the Recall Process: What to Do if Your Car is Recalled

Why do vehicle recalls exist? A faulty break or sticky accelerator is a pretty scary thought – especially if your loved ones are in the car. One small problem and suddenly your car has become a death trap. Although vehicles undergo rigorous safety tests before reaching the market, sometimes defective cars do sneak through. If cars are deemed unsafe they will be called back – and as a car owner it is important to know what to do during vehicle recalls.

What are Vehicle Recalls?

The government has in place very strict safety standards that vehicles must abide by in order to be sold and driven – if a car is deemed to have a safety related defect it must be pulled off the road. Although recalls can be demanded by the government, manufacturers will generally call back troublesome models voluntarily – having a lot of dangerous cars on the road is just bad for business.

During recalls manufacturers will call back a certain model of car or vehicles that use a particular model of equipment – they are not looking for the one car that slipped through the system. Examples of safety defects that might start a car recall can include broken steering wheels, accelerators, windshield wipers, tires, and air bags, among other things.

How Do I Find Out If My Car Has Been Recalled?

Once a manufacturer notices a safety defect in its cars it must, within a timely manner, notify all registered owners of the cars. Manufacturers can find the names of owners at State motor vehicle offices and the vehicle recalls process requires manufacturers to inform owners how to get the problem corrected – at no charge to the owner. Aside from the mailing, manufacturers may also run advertisements to get the word out about their car recalls.

If you think you missed your mailing and your car was subject to a recall you can call the Vehicle Safety Hotline at 800-424-9393 or visit the government’s website, safecar.gov, to double check. Be sure to have your car’s brand and model number handy.

Car Recalls and What to Do Next

Your car’s manufacturer is required to tell you what to do in its vehicle recalls mailing. This includes how and where to get the problem corrected, when the remedy will be available, how long it should take, and who to call if you have any problems during the process. The law requires manufacturers to offer three options during car recalls – repair, replacement, or refund. If you opt for a refund take into account that you’ll get the purchase price of your car minus an amount for depreciation. Repairs should cost you no money but be paid for by the manufacturer.

What to Do if Denied a Remedy

Vehicle recalls should not cost you any money – that is, if your car is less than 10 years old. Unfortunately, manufacturers are not required to repair defects in cars older than 10 years. Further, there is some lag time between the notification of a defect and the start of the remedy process. The lag is to allow manufacturers time to inform dealers about the remedy process and to distribute repair equipment to dealerships.

If however, your car is less than 10 years old, and the time lag has passed – you should go to your dealer and tell them about the law. All dealers are required to honor vehicle recalls and to repair a recalled car at no cost to the owner – and that’s regardless of where you originally purchased your car. If your dealer is not honoring the law, it may be time to call a lawyer.

Reimbursements on Repairs

If your car is recalled after you’ve already paid for repairs you may be entitled to a reimbursement. Manufacturers must reimburse owners for repairs caused by the defect if the repairs were made within the year prior to the recall. Once the recall is made, and the manufacturers have sent out their last recall notices, you have 10 days to notify the manufacturer of your repairs. You will however need documentation of the repair – so be sure to keep your receipts!

NOTE:The information here is not legal advice and is only presented to you so you can know your options if you purchased a lemon. As with any legal issue, you should seek the advice of a qualified attorney.


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