A vehicle recall occurs when a manufacturer (or the NHTSA) determines that a vehicle has a safety-related defect or does not comply with a federal safety standard. A defect may exist in a group of vehicles of the same design or manufacture, or items of equipment of the same type and manufacture and pose an unreasonable risk to motor vehicle safety. According to the Safety Recall Compendium, auto manufacturers are required to notify the vehicle's owners about the problem within 60 days. The manufacturer is responsible for repairing or replacing all associated details, though if an owner does not get it repaired in time, the vehicle continues to have an open recall.
Manufacturers are required to fix safety-related defects by repairing, replacing, offering a refund, or in rare cases repurchasing the vehicle. If you found an active recall listed on your vehicle, you need to contact the manufacturer or official dealer to arrange a free remedy. Remember, vehicles with open recalls are a safety hazard to passengers and to others on the road alike, so do not ignore the necessity to get it completed.
When buying a vehicle, you need to check if it has any previous safety recalls, especially when it is a pre-owned vehicle. There is no need to worry about an open recall when buying a new vehicle, as the manufacturer is obligated by law to repair it. Though the case is not the same when it comes to used vehicles.
The National Highway Safety Administration administers safety recalls in accordance with the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act. They issue vehicle safety standards and require manufacturers to recall vehicles and equipment that have safety-related defects. Besides, the agency is authorized to file complaints from the vehicle’s owner and conduct an investigation on recall verification on its own.
NOTE: The recall checkup does not provide information on non-safety related recalls, recalls on international vehicles, some ultra-luxury brands, specialty applications, or recently announced recalls.