Vehicle Safety Recalls: Get Them Done, And Be Safe

April 28, 2011

As a former car salesman, I was surprised at how often customers brought their trades in for evaluation, still subject to a list of recalls that had not been completed.

Car owners usually receive written notice from their automobile manufacturer telling them to bring their vehicle to a dealership for a free repair of a recognized safety issue. Yet, almost a third of car owners never get the recall repairs done.

One of the most prominent recalls in recent memory was for the Toyota Prius. Sticking acceleration pedal and floor-mat issues were the basis of worldwide recall efforts that affected millions of vehicles. A number of deaths were attributed to the problem.

More recently, General Motors expanded a recall for 2011 Chevrolet, GMC, and Cadillac trucks in the United States because an axle issue could cause accidents. Although just 28,000 vehicles are affected, there are still truck owners who have been notified of the issue, but who have not brought their vehicle in for what amounts to a free repair.

It’s true that there may not be an actual problem with their vehicle just because an owner receives a recall notice. The purpose of the recall is to make sure that a problem identified with some vehicles doesn’t result in damage, injury, or loss of life with others. It’s often a proactive measure on the part of car makers to protect their customers and ward off legal problems.

Not done lightly

Vehicle safety recalls often have serious consequences for car makers. Toyota saw a dramatic drop in sales following the bad press they received with the Prius recalls in 2009 and 2010. It’s also expensive for car makers, especially when large numbers of vehicles are involved. However, not issuing recalls can be more costly in the long run.

Car owner wishing to stay informed on recalls that affect their vehicle(s) can go to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) website, Look for the “SAFETY RECALLS” heading where you can input the make and model of your vehicle. You’ll quickly discover if there have been recalls issued. Next, call your dealer and have them check the vehicle identification number (VIN) of your car in their database. All recall work is tracked by VINs and this will tell you if specific recall work was complete. If not, you need to schedule an appointment with your dealer to get outstanding recall work taken care of.

You can also set up email alerts from the NHTSA so you receive a direct notice when a recall is issued for your car, truck, or SUV. Sign up at

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