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I witnessed a friend’s close call experience with her own vehicle, which potentially could have been avoided. As her family’s vehicle was in flames in a shopping center parking lot being put out by firefighters I can only imagine how she and her children may have been feeling. She later discovered there was a safety recall for an issue with this vehicle and she never received the mailed notices. This prompted me to research safety recalls for vehicles further. I realized this is a common issue we should all be aware of not only as informed consumers but as vehicle operators to mitigate unnecessary risk to keep our roads and other people safe.
So what exactly is a vehicle recall? A vehicle recall is an automotive specific product recall, a statement from the manufacturer that a safety risk is present in certain vehicle models. Motor vehicle safety recalls occur when a vehicle or vehicle part fails to comply with one or more Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards set by the National Highway Transportation Safety Association (NHTSA), or when cars or parts exhibit a safety-related defect. According to the NHTSA, tens of millions of vehicles are recalled every year in the U.S. with more than 31 million from 786 recalls in 2020 alone.
If you’re unsure if you have a recall for your vehicle, it only takes a few minutes to gain some peace of mind. To check for outstanding recalls on your vehicle, enter your 17 character vehicle identification number (VIN) at the NHTSA’s recall lookup site - www.nhtsa.gov/recalls. The VIN is located on the lower left windshield on the driver’s side of your vehicle, inside the driver’s side door, on your insurance card or vehicle registration. You can also call NHTSA’s Safety Hotline at 1(888) 327-4236. Vehicle owners can also sign up for NHTSA recall alerts to learn about new recalls before manufacturers mail recall notices to affected owners.
Once a safety-defect determination occurs, the law gives the manufacturer three options for correcting the defect: repair, replacement, or refund. Depending largely on cost, the automaker can choose to repair the defect at no charge, replace the vehicle with an identical or similar model, or refund the purchase price in full, taking into account a reasonable allowance for depreciation. The manufacturer is not required to fix the defect if the vehicle was built 15 or more years before the date the defect was determined. Owners are still advised to have the recall work performed, but in this case, they would have to pay out of pocket.
The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) urges you to get in the habit of checking for recalls. Consider it part of your vehicle’s routine maintenance. If your vehicle has a recall, the manufacturer will send a letter to the address that you have listed on your DMV vehicle registration. However, people often overlook recall notices or move without updating their address. It is best to be proactive to ensure your vehicle is safe to drive and keep in mind that safe cars save lives.
There is a free app called SaferCar available for IOS and Android users. When SaferCar discovers a safety recall for the vehicle or equipment you entered, it will send an alert on your mobile device. The app can be found in the Apple store for Apple device users at https://apps.apple.com/us/app/id1526869558 and in the Google Play store for Android users at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=gov.nhtsa.safercar2&form=MY01SV&OCID=MY01SV .
For more Navy and Marine Corps safety-related news, resources and information visit the naval Safety Center's website at https://navalsafetycenter.navy.mil.
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