Are You Ignoring Auto Safety Recalls?

April 19, 2012

Whether you own a new or used car, crossover, SUV, minivan or pickup truck, if you haven’t taken your vehicle in to comply with an auto safety recall, you’re putting yourself, your passengers and people in other vehicles at potential risk.



Safety recalls may be conducted voluntarily by automakers, but official recall campaigns are posted in notices by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). And, when an automaker has a recall, owners are sent notices instructing them when to take their vehicles to the dealer to have the recall remedied. News sites such as FamilyCarGuide (we have a dedicated section) and our colleagues at TheCarConnection, MotorAuthority, and GreenCarReports also publicize pertinent recalls as the details are available.

Why bring this up now? A new survey by Carfax found that over 2.7 million cars for sale online in 2011 still had open recalls. In other words, the owners neglected to take them in to dealers to have the recall taken care of. The study also found that the worst states were California, Florida and Texas, each with more than 100,000 open recalls last year.

FamilyCarGuide spoke with Chris Basso, a spokesperson for Carfax, about the study. Basso indicated that the nearly three million cars offered for sale online (through sites such as AutoTrader,, and various online classified sites) was just the “tip of the iceberg.”

In 2011, there were 15.5 million recalls, compared with 20.0 million in 2010. But Basso said that one-third of the total vehicles recalled each year remain unfixed.

Ignorance is no excuse

There are different reasons why owners may not know about a recall on their car. One is that they moved and didn’t leave a forwarding address with the post office. Maybe they ignore news reports or toss recall notices in the trash without bothering to look at them.

This is both foolhardy and dangerous. Sure, having to take your vehicle to the dealer to accommodate a recall can be a hassle, but when the lives of you and your family are at stake, this isn’t an issue you want to take lightly.

Even what could be considered minor safety recalls need to be taken care of as soon as possible. You never know when you might be in a situation where that windshield wiper problem becomes a dangerous safety concern in heavy downpours or snowstorms, or the mirror placement issue you haven’t gotten around to having fixed means you can’t see vehicles and objects in front, alongside or behind you.

Check for free, set up alerts

Staying on top of open recalls is easy. Carfax offers a free recall check, by manufacturer. Just plug in your vehicle identification number (VIN), and you’ll learn if there are any open recalls. You can also order a vehicle history report, for a small fee. AutoCheck (a part of Experian), offers similar services.

Search for recalls at by clicking vehicle (default), select model year, make, model and component (optional, or check all) and then click “retrieve recalls.” You’ll be served up a complete listing of all the recall campaigns. You can also sign up to receive recall notification by email. While neither of these searches is by VIN, what you do get is complete information about the recall, including what it covers, what the remedy is and when it will be conducted.

One final point is covered well by Richard Read in TheCarConnection. If you’re buying a used car, be sure you’re up to speed on whether there are any recalls for that vehicle that haven’t been taken care of. You certainly don’t want to purchase a used car that falls into that one-third category that have never been fixed.

2003 Honda Pilot EX

2003 Honda Pilot EX

By the way, there have been seven recalls we’ve reported so far in April, including the 2002-2004 Honda CR-V and 2003 Honda Pilot; 2012 Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan; 2012 Jeep Compass and Patriot; 2012 Ford Focus; 2012 Volkswagen Routan; 2011-2012 Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia, and 2012 BMW X5 and X6 SAVs.

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