Stranded man looking under hood of car

How Vehicle Owners Can Keep Up with Recalls

Under federal law, car manufacturers have an obligation to issue a recall of vehicles or parts if they detect a flaw in the manufacturing process that results in a faulty part. This federal regulation is covered under “lemon laws,” which are a series of statutes that protect customers if they’ve purchased a defective vehicle.

It can be hard to know whether you have a lemon or not. Oftentimes, you’ll have to take the car for a repair for the same problem several times to determine if there is a defective part. Lemon laws cover cars under a manufacturer’s warranty or an extended warranty from a certified pre-owned dealership.

Keeping up with recalls for your particular make and model can help you stay safer, alerting you to a possible problem with your car’s engine or other components.

How do car recalls start?

Car manufacturers may notice problems during testing in the manufacturing plant or they may begin receiving multiple warranty claims for the same issue, prompting an investigation. 

Because the testing and record-keeping at car manufacturing plants is so precise, manufacturers can often determine which vehicles were affected in production within a span of days.

Other times, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigates the issue after receiving complaints from consumers. This is the agency that supervises automotive recalls. Recalls often occur when there’s a significant safety issue affecting the vehicle.  Such issues may include faulty headlights, problems with backup camera displays, or issues with the fuel valves.

How do I know if there’s a recall?

Usually, the car manufacturer will contact all vehicle owners about a recall, stating the problem and recommendations for repair or replacement. 

Official Recall Notices are sent out through the mail. They will have federal logos printed on the label stating “Safety Recall Notice.” The contents include information about what the safety hazard is and how you can have the problem corrected.

Car companies also announce recalls online and send out mailed notices. However, if you’ve purchased your car from a factory-authorized pre-owned car dealer as a second or third-party owner, you may not receive that emailed notice. If you’re concerned about missing a recall, you can sign up with a recall reminder tracker or app.

It’s essential to have your car’s vehicle identification number (VIN) on hand, since recalls may only affect cars made during a particular time frame and not all models of that model year. 

The VIN is a 17-character combination of letters and numbers found at the bottom of the windshield on the driver’s side. You may need the VIN to sign up for any free repairs or replacements the company offers through the recall.

Do I have to pay for recall repairs?

Generally, no. According to federal law, all safety recall repairs must be provided free of charge on cars less than 15 years old. A car manufacturer may also issue a recall on older cars if they notice a defect in the parts.

The dealership should perform the recall repair at no cost to you. However, it can take weeks for the dealerships to be informed of the recall or months for them to get the necessary parts to implement the recall.  Such delays may impact your lemon law rights and entitle you to a repurchase or a replacement.

Contact the car manufacturer if the dealership refuses to make the recall repair.

Have you received a recall notice?

If you’ve received a recall notice, make sure to read it carefully. The recall notice will have instructions on how to get the repair done and where to go as well as state whether it is safe to continue to drive your car until the recall is performed. 

If you’re concerned about the safety of your vehicle, or if you’re having problems getting the repair completed, a lawyer experienced with lemon laws can help. Give us a call today.

For more information call the experienced trial attorneys at (858) 259-5009 for a free case evaluation.


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