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A guide to car recalls

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    A car recall tends to be newsworthy and can affect many drivers across the country in one fell swoop. If you’re currently dealing with a car recall or aren’t sure if it applies to you, it might seem a little intimidating. However, recalls are more common than you may think. Here’s what to know about the ins and outs.

    What is a car recall?

    Car recalls, sometimes also referred to as safety recalls, occur when a vehicle or part of a vehicle malfunctions and/or falls short of motor safety standards. Recalls are issued by either the car’s manufacturer or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

    Potential causes for a car recall can include (but aren’t limited to):

    • Faulty steering equipment
    • Improperly functioning airbags
    • Wiring issues
    • Fuel leaks
    • Brake malfunctions

    When the recall is issued, affected drivers will need to have the problem corrected, involving both the manufacturer and a dealer/mechanic.

    How to check if my car has a recall

    When car recalls are issued, the manufacturer must notify by mail all known owners of the affected make and model. For used car owners, ensuring your car’s ownership records are updated with the manufacturer will ensure you get notified in the event of a recall. It’s also important to update your address with them if you move.

    If you suspect your car has a recall on it but haven’t received an official notice, you can check with the manufacturer or an authorized dealer. Alternatively, you could subscribe to recall alerts issued on the NHTSA website.

    The NHTSA also has a recall database where you can look up your car using its vehicle identification number (VIN). The VIN is typically located on your registration paperwork and the lower, driver’s side corner of your dashboard, where it meets your windshield. If you can’t find the VIN, you can use your car’s make, model and year to look up recall information.

    What to do if your car has a recall

    Your recall notice may direct you to take your car to your nearest authorized dealership. The timeframe for your repair will vary depending on the number of cars affected by the recall and the complexity of the repair required. If the vehicle’s malfunction is serious enough, you may need to consider taking your car off the road until the necessary repairs can be made.

    In summary

    Recalls help drivers stay safe by taking potentially faulty equipment off the road. Drivers typically receive an official recall notice from the manufacturer with steps to address the issue. If you didn’t get a notice but suspect you may be subject to a car recall, there are online resources available to help you check.

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