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How to check if your vehicle has a recall?

last updated October 23, 2014 by

With only two month left in the year, we have already broken the record for most auto recalls ever. As of this month, automakers have issued recalls for an estimated 56-million vehicles in the U.S.

This week alone, Toyota has issued a recall on roughly 250,000 vehicles in the U.S. for their faulty airbags. 29 separate auto manufacturers have issued recalls this month according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The agency also released a consumer advisory this week, alerting owners of 7.8 million vehicles to take “immediate action” to replace dangerous defective airbags.

With the amount of recalls popping up so frequently many consumers have begun to tune them out, but with the amount of death and injury associated with this particular recall is not to be ignored. Here are a few tips to keep you safe from recalls:

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If you own the car:

If a recalled has been issued for a car, the automaker is required by law to notify the vehicles owner via mail. With the amount of spam sent in the mail, these may be easy to miss. To help avoid missed recalled letters the letters feature the NHTSA emblem and include the words “SAFETY RECALL NOTICE” in large writing. The letter will include instructions on what to do to resolve the recalls issue. The service to fit the problem should be provided free of charge to the owner.

Recalls are not always considered a serious risk and many owners ignore the problem assuming that service departments will take their time handling such recalls, causing more hassle then help to the owner. But the fact is recalls bring in new or returning customers many who choose to have other maintenance done such an oil change or other minor work done at the same time. Many dealerships often see this as a perfect time for owners to browse their showroom while waiting for their car, giving the dealer the opportunity to sell the owner on a new car. So basically, don’t allow yourself to be sold on a service or new car unless you are interested but more importantly don’t avoid taking your car in for a recall fix, these should be taken seriously.

If you don’t receive a letter or aren’t sure if your car is safe, the NHTSA has a feature online that allows you to check for any recall issued in the last 15 years. The website will also tell you if the recall has been fixed or not. Once you are on the website just type in your vehicle identification number (VIN) and any recalls issued should pop up.


If you are buying a car:

According to, an estimated 3.5 million used cars were for sale last year that had unfixed recalls. If you are looking to buy a used call, get the VIN number for the specific car and follow the steps above to check for any unfixed safety recalls. If there are unfixed recalls, ask the owner to have them fixed before you buy or use this to negotiate a lower price. If you do purchase a car with an unfixed recall, be sure to take it to the dealership right away to have it fixed.


If you are renting a car:

There is currently a bill under consideration in Congress that would allow rental agencies to rent cars that have had a recall issued only if the recall has been fixed. But at this point it is still possible for companies to rent vehicles that have unfixed recalls.

In general, to avoid lawsuits, many of these rental agencies remove cars or have them fixed if they are issued a dangerous recall. But until the bill is passed into law, rental companies are not obligated to have recalls fixed. There are a few steps recommended to avoid renting a vehicle with an unfixed recall. First, check your rental agencies website for their policy on recalls. Some company’s state that they do not rent recalled vehicles until the recall has been fixed. But other agencies are vague or do not have clear information regarding recalls. If you are unsure, call and ask. You can also check yourself to see if recalls have been issued or fixed on the vehicle using the website above but that is difficult since most agencies only give you the type or car being rented such as “mid-size,” not that actually make and model of the vehicle. Even more, you won’t know the VIN of the vehicle until you pick it up making it very difficult to check the recall status.