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What You Need to Know About Car Recalls

Valuable advice for car owners on car recalls and how to respond when a car manufacturer issues a recall.

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4 Things You Need to Know About Car Recalls

4 Things You Need to Know About Car Recalls

Car manufacturers try their best to make sure every vehicle that comes off the assembly line is safe, reliable and ready to drive. Even so, things happen – and recalls are sometimes necessary.

When a car manufacturer discovers a defect that could put the integrity of the vehicle in jeopardy or create a safety problem, they can issue a recall. The affected owners then take their cars to the local dealer for a free fix. Here are four facts you need to know about car recalls.

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1. Car recalls aren't limited to new cars

1. Car recalls aren’t limited to new cars

Even if your car is from an earlier era, it could be subject to a recall. Manufacturers find defects in their vehicles at different times in their life cycles: Sometimes a problem is apparent right away, but other times it can take years (or even decades) for the issue to become apparent.

No matter how old your car is or when you bought it, you need to act whenever you hear about a recall. Even if your car has been operating perfectly for years, failing to heed a recall warning could put you and your passengers in danger.

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2. You can check your car's recall status

2. You can check your car’s recall status

The government keeps a database of recalled cars, and manufacturers do the same. It’s important to check the recall status any time you shop for a new vehicle. Car dealers are supposed to verify that their vehicles are not on any recall lists, but it’s easy for something to fall through the cracks. Checking the status on your own will give you peace of mind and help you get a safe car for you and your family.

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3. You should receive a car recall notice in the mail

3. You should receive a car recall notice in the mail

In a perfect world, you would get a recall notice in the mail within weeks of the recall being announced. Subsequent owners of used vehicles, however, do not always get the notification they need. That’s why it’s so important for owners to check their own vehicles against the recall lists. Don’t assume that you are safe if you checked the recall list when you first bought the car: There could have been a recall after you last checked.

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4. Most car recalls are safety related

4. Most car recalls are safety related

One of the most common reasons for a recall is an imminent safety threat: An ignition switch that could fail, a fuel line that’s subject to leaking, an airbag that could either fail to deploy or deploy with too much force. These safety recalls should be fixed promptly, so if you receive one, your next stop should be the repair shop.

You will need to take the recall notice along when you visit, and you will probably need to make an appointment. Even so, time is of the essence when dealing with a safety recall, and the sooner you get it fixed, the better.