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Media post: What Happens If Your Car is Recalled?

Sometimes we hear tragic stories about car accidents being caused not by negligence or mistakes on the part of the drivers involved. Instead, the accidents are because of problems with the design, manufacture, or assembly of vehicle components.

When there’s an issue with how a car is made or a particular part, it can lead to a malfunction or sudden breakdown, potentially causing severe injuries or even death.

When someone’s a victim in this type of situation, they may be able to sue the carmaker for damages to compensate them for medical bills, lost income and pain and suffering.

The hope is that before things get to that point, if a car manufacturer realizes an issue, they take steps to fix it.

These steps may include a safety recall. We’ll explain what you need to know below.

What is a Recall?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a safety recall occurs if the manufacturer or the NHTSA determines a vehicle or its equipment is a safety risk or doesn’t meet vehicle safety standards.

Based on information from the NHTSA, the recalls might include the vehicle itself, tires, a car seat, or equipment like the airbags.

A manufacturer has to file a report. That report for the recall will include details about the vehicle and number affected and a description of the particular issue. The report will also explain why the manufacturer decided to issue a recall, an explanation of what they’re doing to fix it, and a recall schedule.

When a report is filed, then the NHTSA requires that the car manufacturer notifies vehicle purchasers and registered owners by first class mail within 60 days. If you receive a recall letter, it should tell you what to do to fix the issue and who to contact.

The NHTSA maintains an online tool so you can search for recalls using your VIN too.

What Defects Can Be Recalled?

Overall, issues related to normal wear and tear because of an aging vehicle won’t be covered by a recall. Only defects creating a safety issue trigger recalls. To provide examples, flaws that could lead to a recall include leaky fuel systems, malfunctioning steering equipment and airbags that don’t deploy the right way.

Accelerators that malfunction and wiring issues are also some of the reasons a vehicle might be recalled.

Less commonly, there are also recalls related to emissions, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) usually deals with these.

Can You Still Drive Your Vehicle After a Recall?

If you get a recall notice, then it should tell you if your car is safe to drive or not. It’s rare for a manufacturer to give a do not drive warning, but it does happen. If you’re told not to drive it, don’t. It could end up being a deadly decision.

If your recall doesn’t have that warning, then you can drive it, but you need to make every effort to get it fixed as soon as you can.

A carmaker may also provide you with certain situations the car is unsafe to drive. For example, there might be one feature they say not to use until you get the vehicle fixed.

Are the Repairs Free?

If you receive notice that your vehicle is being recalled for any reason, according to federal law, the repairs have to be free of charge on cars up to 15 years old.

The clock on that starts from the time the car was sold to the first owner instead of being based on the model year. If your vehicle is older than that, still car makers and dealers will usually work with you to provide free repairs for safety.

Buying a Car with an Open Recall

Based on federal law, there’s a ban on the sale of new cars if they have an open recall. The same protection does not exist for used cars.

Before you buy a used car, it’s a good idea to do some research to make sure there are no recalls requiring repairs. You can do that by visiting the NHTSA website and putting in the car’s VIN.

Overall, if your car is recalled, you don’t need to be worried. It can be a bit of an annoyance to get it fixed, and taking corrective action is a priority, but beyond that, you shouldn’t worry too much about getting a recall notice.

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