Car Recalls: What Should You Know?

Every year, thousands and thousands of car recalls take place. For many Americans, hearing about a product defect can be very scary. But are all recalls emergency situations? A large number of these recalls aren’t going to have a serious effect on the drivers. According to a recent article from ConsumerReports.org, numerous recalls happen for “less than perilous reasons.”

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For example, “sometimes they’re for something as benign as a mislabeled sticker.” Or, in other cases, “durability tests find a suspension spring could wear out prematurely.” And even if your car is subject to a more serious recall, it’s not guaranteed that you’ll experience that problem. To be sure, “a vast majority of affected cars will never experience the potential problems outlined in a recall notice.”

Yet many of us aren’t always sure how to tell the difference between a relatively benign and a more serious recall. How can you learn specific details about recalls and whether you need to pay particular attention? And in the event that your car is recalled for a significant reason, what should you do?

Recent Recalls and Consumer Injuries

In 2014, a number of automobile recalls shook the news. Nearly 8 million recalls took place for cars that had certain Takata airbags installed. If you’ve been reading about the Takata air bag recall, you know that these automobile parts “are prone to explode in collisions, spraying passengers with shrapnel,” and “sometimes with fatal results.” Some of the automakers that use Takata airbags include GM, Honda, Toyota, and BMW. Honda was just recently fined $70 million for failing to report more than 1,700 injuries and deaths that occurred in its automobiles, according to an article in the Washington Post.

In addition to the Takata recall, GM also recalled about 2.6 million vehicles in 2014 due to a defective ignition switch. In certain cases, these cars could simply turn off during operation, resulting in serious and fatal accidents. And just shortly before news about the GM recall hit the internet, Toyota and Lexus recalled more than 10 million automobiles because of a problem that resulted in “unintended acceleration” and deadly car accidents.

Learning About a Recall

How do most of us find out about recalls? Whether an auto manufacturer issues a recall for a minor or a serious problem, it will contact car owners by snail mail or email, and it will provide instructions for having the defective part repaired or replaced. How long does an automaker have to alert you to the recall? Once it has informed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of the recall, it must let you know within 60 days.

If you find out that your car is part of a recall, you should follow the instructions—which usually involve visiting the nearest dealership—and have the fix or replacement completed. In some cases, the dealership won’t have the parts in stock that are needed for the repair. In such a case, you should find out if the recall “involves a key operating component, such as the acceleration, brake, steering, suspension, or fuel systems.” If it does, and the automaker suggests that you stop driving the vehicle until it can be repaired, it “should tow your car to a dealership and provide a loaner.”

Social Media and Product Recalls

If you want to stay informed about product recalls, social media can provide very useful tools. For example, you can follow your automaker on Twitter or Facebook. After GM instituted its massive recalls, it began using these precise social media platforms to let consumers know that they needed to pay attention.

If you do sustain an injury from a defective car part, you should always report the problem to the NHTSA and contact an experienced San Diego product defect attorney. You may be eligible to seek compensation for your injuries.

Photo Credit: Manish Prabhune via Compfight cc

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Dangerous Airbag Recall Expands

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