Vehicle Safety Recalls

How to Check for Vehicle Safety Recalls

Vehicle safety recalls prompt car owners to take their cars back to the dealership. There are a number of reasons a manufacturer would issue a vehicle safety recall. Sometimes they do so at the insistence of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Most of the time the recall is for manufacturers to effect a small repair or to change a car part. There are more sinister reasons though, such as particular vehicle models catching on fire. The NHTSA observes every safety recall, to ensure that vehicle owners receive safe, free, and effective remedies from automakers according to the Safety Act and Federal regulations. If there is a safety recall, the vehicle manufacturer will fix the problem at no charge.

How to Check for Vehicle Safety Recalls

When is a Recall Necessary?

Vehicle safety recalls become necessary when the manufacturer or the NHTSA determines that a motor vehicle fails to meet minimum safety standards or there is an unreasonable safety risk. A manufacturer is also obliged to fix the problem by replacing or repairing the defective part or by offering a refund.

Vehicle Safety Definition

The United States Code for Motor Vehicle Safety (Title 49, Chapter 301) defines car safety as “the performance of a motor vehicle or motor vehicle equipment in a way that protects the public against unreasonable risk of accidents occurring because of the design, construction, or performance of a motor vehicle, and against unreasonable risk of death or injury in an accident, and includes non-operational safety of a motor vehicle.”

A car fails to meet the above code if it has a defect. The code defines this as “any defect in performance, construction, a component, or material of a motor vehicle or motor vehicle equipment.”

A safety defect is therefore defined as anything in a vehicle or motor vehicle equipment that:

  • poses a risk to motor vehicle safety, and
  • may exist in a group of vehicles of the same design or manufacture, or items of equipment of the same type and manufacture.

How to Find Out About Auto Recalls

Other than overhearing recall information about your particular car make and model, there are other ways to find out about open recalls on cars and trucks.

Dealership Notification

One way to find out about safety-related defects is through regularly scheduled maintenance at the dealership. They will either tell you when you take the vehicle in for a service, or they will contact you directly because they have your car listed on their system.

Manufacturer Notification

Manufacturers must attempt to notify vehicle owners if their vehicle has a recall. They can do so because they merge their vehicle purchase records with current State vehicle registration information. In the case of equipment for which there are no State registration records, makers must still to send recall alerts to their distribution chain and known purchasers of the equipment needing repairs.

Register Your Car on Purchase

Manufacturers fulfill their obligation to notify owners by sending recall notifications in the mail. However, these can be easy to miss. A more proactive solution to finding out about recalls is to register your new car on the SaferCar App. To do this you will need to provide your car’s registration details and VIN. The app will then be able to automatically alert you on your phone if the NHTSA has issued a recall advisory.


Look for vehicle and vehicle equipment alerts at To do this you will need your VIN.

What is a VIN Number?

VIN is short for Vehicle Identification Numbers. This is your car’s unique fingerprint. It is the exclusive identifying code for a particular vehicle. Therefore, no two of the 17-digit VINs are identical.

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