Car Safety Recalls
A safety recall involving a motor vehicle or an item of motor vehicle equipment can be independently conducted by a manufacturer or ordered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In either case, the manufacturer must file a public report describing the safety-related defect or noncompliance with a federal motor vehicle safety standard, the involved vehicle/equipment population, the major events that resulted in the recall determination, a description of the remedy, and a schedule for the recall. NHTSA monitors each safety recall to ensure the manufacturers provide owners safe, free, and effective remedies according to federal laws and regulations.
Manufacturers are obligated to attempt to notify owners of recalled products. For vehicles, that means manufacturers merge their own records of vehicle purchasers with current state vehicle registration information. For equipment, where state registration records do not exist, manufacturers are obligated to notify their distribution chain and known purchasers of the recalled equipment. However, even if you do not receive a notification, if your vehicle, child seat, or other item of equipment is involved in a safety recall, the manufacturer is obligated to provide a free remedy.
Each notification letter must contain the following information
- describe the defect or noncompliance;
- the risk or hazard posed by the problem, including any warning of the problem;
- a brief description of the free remedy, including when the remedy will be available and how long the repair will take; and
- a description of what the owner can do if the owner is unable to have the problem corrected within a reasonable time and without charge.
Recalls involving tires are specifically limited so that the owner has only three months from the date of notification to have the recall work accomplished. All other safety recalls are in effect for the life of the product.
Federal law does not provide for reimbursement for damages that the defect or noncompliance may have caused, nor for reimbursement for costs incurred in correcting the problem before the manufacturer declared a safety recall. However, owners may be able to recover such expenses privately. Historically, most manufacturers will reimburse owners for the costs of repair incurred before the safety recall, if the owner has kept the receipts for service.