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Consumer Tips

You’ve Received a Safety Recall — Now What?

Learn what to do if you are notified about a safety recall for your vehicle.


To keep drivers safe, vehicles, tires and equipment can be recalled. Typically, a vehicle manufacturer initiates a recall voluntarily, though you may hear about a vehicle recall as a result of a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigation or a court order. When a vehicle has a safety recall, the manufacturer is required to notify all vehicle owners about it. Your notification letter includes:

  • The description of the defect, including any possible resulting safety risks and other hazards.
  • The description of how the manufacturer intends to repair the defect, including when repairs can be scheduled and how long they are estimated to take.
  • Instructions for what to do if you’re unable to take your vehicle in for service within the specified time.
I Just Received a Recall Notice — What’s Next?

First things first: Don’t delay. When recalling a vehicle for safety reasons, manufacturers are required to fix the problem at no charge. Your manufacturer also can choose to replace your vehicle with a similar model or refund your purchase, accounting for depreciation.

It’s especially important to take immediate action if the safety-related defect could cause significant harm such as:

  • Faulty steering components that result in loss of control.
  • Accelerators that break or stick.
  • Wiring issues that could cause a fire.
What If My Vehicle Is Unsafe but I Haven’t Received a Recall Notice?

The NHTSA evaluates consumer reports of vehicle safety issues. If enough consumers submit complaints about the same or similar issue, the NHTSA opens an official investigation. Here’s how to report safety issues:

  • U.S. Department of Transportation’s Hotline (1-888-327-4236).
  • Online at safercar.gov.

The NHTSA doesn’t consider all defects safety related. Examples include malfunctioning air-conditioners, body panel rust, and ordinary wear and tear of equipment such as batteries and shock absorbers.

Regardless of whether your vehicle has a safety recall, the NHTSA recommends using its Recalls Lookup Tool at safercar.gov at least twice per year. This tool searches for safety recalls based on your car or truck’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).

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