Maintenance

What to do when faced with an auto recall


Vehicle safety recalls are designed to keep roadways and passengers safe.

New cars are purchased or leased to provide a reliable mode of transportation. But some vehicles malfunction even when they are fresh off of the dealership lot. Other times manufacturers or safety watchdog groups determine that certain cars and trucks have an issue that requires a recall to keep roadways safe. Vehicle recall statistics are difficult to pin down. That's because there is no standard rate of recalls per year, as recalls depend on safety statistics for particular makes and models. For example, in 2009 more than 40 million Toyota vehicles were recalled due to a faulty gas pedal.

An automotive recall is how manufacturers inform drivers that there could be something about their cars or trucks that presents a risk of injury or property damage. The recall may be independently conducted by the manufacturer or ordered by a safety group, such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The recall involves the manufacturer providing a free, safe and effective remedy for the faulty component.

When a recall is announced, drivers may not have to immediately visit a dealership to have the problem corrected. Owners should wait for an official letter. The letter will narrow down which vehicles are affected. There should be a specific window of time presented in which the vehicle can be repaired. Vehicle owners are urged to pay attention to the performance of their cars or trucks to see if they are exhibiting any problems. If so, schedule an appointment for repair according to the recall instructions provided.

The notification letter should include the risk of hazard posed by the problem as well as the free remedy and how long the repair should take. There also should be a description of what an owner can do if he or she is unable to have the problem remedied within a reasonable amount of time and without charge.

If repair work has been done on a vehicle prior to knowledge of the recall, owners may be eligible for reimbursement for their expenses, provided they kept their receipts. While reimbursement for damages that the defect may have caused are not covered by recalls, owners may be able to solicit reimbursement privately.

The following are steps to take when informed of a recall:

1. Contact the dealer service manager and explain that you are inquiring about work required as part of a recall.

2. If the manager has not remedied the situation and provided the next steps, contact the manufacturer, which should be able to handle the situation.

3. If all else fails, Americans can contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at www.recalls.gov. Canadians can contact Transport Canada at www.tc.gc.ca.