How To Respond To An Automobile Recall

A guide on how to handle vehicle recalls.

Features
• Automotive: How-To • Automotive: Repair

Matt Anderson's Take
For some, getting a recall notice in the mail is scary. Like being summoned to jury duty scary. Or maybe it's less scary but still annoying like running out of your beverage while still having 3 bites of a tasty taco left. Either way, it's not a good thing and it's sure to be a hassle. After all, has anyone ever visited a dealer for an auto repair that wasn't some sort of hassle or inconvenience? Exactly.

What's worse is that these days it seems like recalls are happening more and more frequently. They're in the news constantly now. We're seeing everything from bad ignition switches to faulty air bags to hacked Jeeps and everything in between.

So What Do You Do When You Get A Recall?

Well, let's back up just a little bit. Assuming your dealer has your current address, you should get a notice in the mail about any recall. Even if you didn't get a notice in the mail you should occasionally check the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website and see if you're vehicle is on any recall lists. I mean, do you really want to rely on the post office to deliver important safety notices like this? I don't. The NHTSA website still let you search by make and model or even by vehicle identification number (VIN) which is a serial number unique to just your car. You'll find your VIN on the dashboard of your car, near the bottom of your windshield on the drivers side.

I've Been Recalled, Now What?

If a recall pops up for your car then it's time to get it into the dealer to be fixed. See, automakers don't take recalls lightly because they cost a lot of money to the manufacturer to deal with. Of course, lawsuits tend to cost even more and that's why we're seeing so many recalls these days. Automakers want to avoid future pricey lawsuits so they're all being extra cautious right now.

Since most recalls are for safety related issues, it's best to respond quickly. It's as easy as contacting your car dealer and setting up an appointment. The repair itself will be completely free, but your dealer may try to up-sell you on other services like an oil change, belt change, or other major or minor maintenance services. Also note that, depending on the repair being made, the recall may take several hours or even a day or more.

The other reason to act quickly is because chances are good that many others will be taking their car in as well. You'll want to beat the crowd and avoid delays. If the recall is large they may face delays in getting parts as well so call as soon as possible.

Keep your recall paperwork handy and bring it to the dealer when you go in for the repair. When the work is done, keep that slip and any paperwork they give you with your auto files. I like scanning in all of my paperwork so it's online and backed up to the cloud. Either way, proper paperwork showing all repairs (recall or not) is good to have when it's time to sell the car so keep good records.
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