Everything You Need to Know About Vehicle Recalls

iStock 683425144 Credit: Blurred background with the dashboard of the car

A car recall can be for a major fault that makes the vehicle unsafe to drive or to make sure it conforms to laws like federal emission standards. In 2017, over 53 million recall notices were sent to drivers in America. They covered 927 separate recall events which represent a seven percent rise over the previous year. Unfortunately, the number of recalls has been climbing since 2011. Back in 2011, 13.6 million drivers received notices according to information held by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Reasons for Recalls

A recall can be for something life threatening like a fault with a car’s brakes or its safety belts. Electrical issues that can lead to a fire in the engine bay is another serious fault that’s been known to occur. Historically some of the worst cases of manufacturer recalls occurred because a number of customers lost their lives. Car makers have more information at their fingertips now than ever before thanks to onboard computers, and modern cars also benefit from computers during the design phase so some of the worst faults from the past aren’t found in modern cars.

Famous Recalls

In 2010, Toyota suffered badly when they were forced to recall 9.1 million vehicles including popular cars like the Yaris, Tundra, and Camry because accelerator pedals were sticking open on some vehicles. That was a bad fault but it didn’t account for the most famous recall in recent times. Ford was at the center of that between 1996 and 2010 when 15 million vehicles across the world were recalled by the Blue Oval. The firm’s cruise control mechanisms were known to cause fires so they had no choice but to recall their cars from anxious owners.

Hyundai Recalls

The 2018 recall by Korean car maker Hyundai affected just 44,000 cars but it’s an example of the sort of faults cars can develop. The reason for the recall was an alarming one as Hyundai realized there was a major risk of the car’s steering wheel detaching at high speed. If the steering wheel detached from the steering column at any speed, the driver would have little control over their Santa Fe or Santa Fe Sport. Although no injuries or accidents were linked to the defect, the carmaker did the responsible thing and issued the recall.

GM Recalls

In 2016, GM recalled four million cars made in 2014 due to a software fault. The defect affected the car’s airbags and at least one fatality occurred as a result. The car's sensing and diagnostic module was found to be the problem after the Detroit carmaker carried out exhaustive tests on the software. It was going into test mode which meant that the front airbags were not inflating during a crash. The fault affected the Buick LaCrosse, Chevrolet SS, Chevrolet Silverado, the Cadillac Escalade and other models across GM’s brand range.

Don’t Delay

If you get a notice in the mail, act on it straight away. You might associate recalls with new models that the manufacturer is ironing out faults on but you can also get a recall notice for models that were launched a while ago. These faults can be associated with any part of the car’s mechanical or electrical systems and they aren’t always obvious to the driver so don’t take any chances.

What to Do

If you’ve heard rumors that your vehicle has been recalled but you haven’t been notified by the carmaker, you can check with them directly or head to the NHTSA’s website. All you’ll need is the car’s VIN and you’ll be able to check instantly if it’s been subject to a recall notice. The VIN will be matched against vehicle safety recalls that remain incomplete over the past 15 years. If a safety recall has been completed by the manufacturer, if the recall notice was so recent that some VINs have not been identified yet or if the recall was conducted by a small vehicle manufacturer, the search tool won’t identify the car.