In our latest investigation, ABC News reported on mysterious fires in parked cars that had no open recalls for a fire risk, but as we spoke to vehicle owners across the country, we discovered several instances of fires in cars that were under a recall for a fire risk – whose owners say they had no idea their vehicles had been recalled.
Here’s how to check whether your car – regardless of the manufacturer – is under a recall:
1. Do a free online search of automotive recalls at SaferCar.gov’s recall look-up tool. You can search for recalls over the past 15 years using your VIN or make/model.
2. You can read about consumer complaints about various car makes and models. Click on “Keyword (Complaints Only)” and entering keywords separated by commas to search. Keep in mind these are consumer complaints, not recalls, but can be useful information.
3. Consumers may file complaints about vehicles, tires, car seats or other equipment .The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says it looks for patterns in complaints to help decide whether to open an investigation.
4. If you are purchasing a used car, be sure to first check it out at VehicleHistory.gov or by using a vendor such as CARFAX.com. Never assume that a used car has had its recalls addressed by the seller.
5. To stay on top of automotive recalls, sign up at SaferCar.gov here to receive email alerts and download a mobile phone app.
In 2016, there were 927 separate recalls affecting 53.2 million vehicles nationwide. NHTSA’s guidelines call for issuing a recall when there is an “unreasonable safety risk” or failure to meet minimum safety standards. In most cases, recalls are made voluntarily by manufacturers.
Consumers are notified by mail by the manufacturer. If you get a recall notice, contact your local dealership as soon as you can to obtain the free repair or remedy.
Sometimes, in the case of a widespread recall – like the recent Takata air bag recall – local dealerships won’t immediately have replacement parts available. In that case, consumers should follow the advice in the recall, which may include not driving the car until it’s fixed.
If you buy a used car, you should still get notifications about recalls, as manufacturers are supposed to keep track of registrations at state DMVs. But just in case, you can also sign up for the NHTSA announcements.
Do you have a consumer problem? Contact The ABC News Fixer.