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How Do I Check My Car for Recalls?

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author photo by Eric Brandt June 2018

When a car gets a recall, it's not necessarily an indicator of its reliability. However, these can cause an extra annoyance of making unscheduled trips to the dealer for service that may not even be necessary in some cases. Some recalls, however, are important safety recalls and should be addressed as soon as possible to ensure you're driving safely.

But how do you know if there's a recall on your car? Normally a notice goes out in the mail to let you know about any recall that might be on your car, but in case you miss that notice, you might want to check to see if there's anything your car needs to have looked at by your local dealer.

Luckily, the National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA) has an easy 3-step process to not only see if there are any existing recalls on your car, but to keep you notified of any future recalls. The first step is to go to www.nhtsa.gov, where it's quick and easy to look up your car on the homepage. Just punch in the 17-character VIN which can be found on a label on the lower left of your car's windshield or on your registration card. It can usually also be found on your insurance card.

When you enter your VIN, the NHTSA website will tell you if there are any recalls associated with it that need to be addressed. If there are, the second step is to call your dealer and schedule a free repair. Even if you didn't buy your car from that specific dealer, they'll still be able to help you with the recall as long as it's the same manufacturer.

There may be a delay in getting parts or scheduling service, but that doesn't necessarily mean your car is unsafe to drive until then. Recalls in which manufacturers advise against driving your car until the recall is complete are rare, but Ford issued one in January 2018 advising 2,900 pickup truck owners to stop driving until a recall was complete after a death linked to a faulty Takata airbag.

The third step is to go to www.nhtsa.gov/alerts and sign up for email notifications for any future recalls that might affect your vehicle. Obviously, email is faster than regular mail, so this is the quickest, most efficient way to stay notified.

If you want to avoid buying a car that's prone to recalls, check out this study from car research site iSeeCars that lists the cars with the highest and lowest recall rates.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
How Do I Check My Car for Recalls? - Autotrader