Seems every time you turn on the news these days, yet another manufacturer is recalling yet another group of cars. And, while the TV reporters gleefully tell you the recall is happening, what they don’t tell you is what to do if your bucket is one of the ones involved. But don’t trip; your lifetime auto advisor is always here to break it down for you.
Here’s what to do if your car is recalled...
What To Do If Your Car Is Recalled: Step One: Chill Out
Don’t freak out, chill out; and assess the situation. Just because a bunch of cars like yours have been recalled, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re riding around in an explosive fireball capable of barbecuing your entire family in a nanosecond. What it usually means is while it is possible you’re riding around in an explosive fireball capable of barbecuing your entire family in a nanosecond—the probability is only slight. And yeah, we know, there’s lots of comfort in that statement—right? Seriously though, what it usually means is your ride is not exactly in compliance with some standard or another and if you bring it back to one of your manufacturer’s dealers, they will make every effort to put it straight. So don’t freak out—chill out—and go check it out.
What To Do If Your Car Is Recalled: Step Two: Trust, But Verify
Even if your car is one of the recalled models you’ve been hearing about, there is still a chance the recall doesn’t apply to you. If it does, you should get a whimpering letter of contrition from the people who so shoddily built your rolling deathtrap in the first place. Why? Because NHTSA is all up in their grille telling them to do so. However, you don’t have to wait for this happen. After all, if they couldn’t get your car right the first time, it’s very possible they won’t get the letter right either. Get your car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) from the plate at the base of the windshield on the driver’s side of the car (assuming your car wasn’t recalled because they forgot to put a VIN on it), go to SaferCar.gov and look to see if your car is among those listed as being in need of an intervention.
What To Do If Your Car Is Recalled: Step Three: Determine Your Eligibility For A Repair
Depending upon the nature of the situation, your manufacturer might well be required by the Feds to repair your vehicle for you on general principle. But in some cases, if your car is too old, you might get fried when you go see about it. Typically the deal is if you purchased your vehicle new within the last 10 years, or if it was first sold as new within the last 10 years (if you got it used), you’re good. They have to perform the repair for free. Now, let’s say you already figured out something was up a long time ago and you went and got it fixed on your own. In that case, the manufacturer still has to reimburse what you paid to fix their mistake. But, you have to act quickly because the cutoff for cash reimbursement is within 10 days after the mailing of the last recall notice. With that said, if your ride is more than 10 years old, you'll have to decide if your life is worth the cost of the repair because the builder doesn’t have to deal with anything they screwed up over 10 years ago.
What To Do If Your Car Is Recalled: Step Four: Chill—Again
You’ll have a certain amount of time within which you can get the car fixed for free. If the problem isn’t leading to a death-defying circumstance, try to hold off until the middle of the recall period to get your car dealt with. Given human nature, there’ll be a mad rush of paranoid individuals when the recall is first announced, and there will be a mad rush of professional procrastinators at the end of the period. So, if you go in the middle, you'll probably avoid the rushes. Another thing you need to be aware of is when the grace period the Feds afforded the manufacturers to get started runs out. By law, once a recall is announced, the federal government has to give the manufacturer time to put a correction plan in place. If you go in before the grace period is up, you could very well be kicked to the curb until later. When you’re looking online, or reading the letter—if your ride is affected—try to find out when the grace period ends too.
What To Do If Your Car Is Recalled: Step Five: Be Ready To Get Hardcore
There have been numerous situations in which good innocent people have been seriously dogged when they took their rides back in good faith to try to get its demons exorcised. If, for any reason a manufacturer's authorized service center refuses to work with you after you show them the letter, or have otherwise proven your chariot is eligible for rehab, contact the manufacturer directly, and/or turn NHTSA loose on them. You’ll find instructions for doing that right here.