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Car Recall: How to Navigate Through the Process

Recalls are becoming more and more common these days as cars get more complex and safety becomes a larger priority for a growing number of Americans. So what do you do in this situation? We can help you find out if your car has been recalled– and how to navigate this process.

Check the Mail

Manufacturers are required to notify vehicle owners when they’re recalling a car. Typically, this is done through the mail in a letter from the automaker marked “recall notice.” If you get such a letter, don’t discard it or throw it out thinking it’s an advertisement. It’s probably an actual recall notice, and the letter usually goes over the problem that has caused the car to be recalled, the intended repair procedure and the timeline for getting the problem fixed.

What If There’s No Letter?

Unfortunately, contacting a vehicle’s owner isn’t always easy. If you’ve purchased a used car, an automaker might not know that the car’s ownership has changed. Likewise, if you move to a new address, an automaker might have trouble contacting you to let you know that your car has been recalled.

As a result, we strongly suggest periodically checking to see if your car has any open recalls. This is surprisingly easy to do: Just go to the federal government’s recall lookup website and type in your vehicle identification number (VIN) to see if your car currently has any open recalls. Alternatively, you can call a dealership for the make of your vehicle and provide them with your VIN to find out the same information. If you need help finding your VIN, check your registration or insurance documents or look at the base of your car’s windshield or on the driver’s side doorjamb.

Next Steps

Once you’ve identified that your vehicle does indeed have an open recall, it’s time to figure out how to address the problem. Either the recall notice says when the parts will arrive or your dealership will tell you over the phone. Once that time has come, make an appointment with your dealer to bring your car in for the repair.

Sometimes, automakers don’t know when the replacement parts will be ready. Be persistent: Call your dealer periodically to find out if the recalled parts are in, and be sure to schedule an appointment in advance to make sure you don’t have to wait long before your car is fixed.

Cost and Convenience

Fortunately, all safety recalls are performed free of charge. You  can also ask for a loaner vehicle, although not every dealership will have a loaner vehicle available for you to use while your car is in the shop. If a dealer can’t get your car into the shop immediately for recall work, take the first appointment available.

We strongly suggest getting the work performed as soon as possible. Recalls are usually issued due to parts that have  defects or caused accidents injuries or deaths. For your safety, Autotrader urges you to take care of your vehicle’s open recalls

Quick Links

You can also visit your vehicle manufacturer’s website to find out if your car has been recalled.

Doug Demuro
Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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