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Here’s an un-fun fact: 39 million vehicles were recalled in the first six months of 2014 alone. So don’t be surprised if at some point you need to bring your ride in for a fix. This primer will help you speed through the process and get back on the road as soon as possible.

What Does a Recall Mean? Recalls occur when manufacturers or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are made aware of defects in certain vehicles. These usually come to light through consumer complaints. Generally, when enough reports are confirmed, the vehicle is recalled so the necessary adjustments can be made.

Did You Know?

3.5M used cars with unfixed recalls were listed for sale on Craigslist and other websites in 2013, according to Carfax.com

How Will You Know? Automakers are required to send letters to customers with details including where to take vehicles for service. If you hear about it secondhand, or you’ve bought a used automobile, check the NHTSA site at www.safercar.gov, which lists recalls. If your vehicle’s on the list, call your dealer or the manufacturer to arrange its repair.

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What a Recall Alert Should Tell You Expect a description of the specific defect and the risk it poses. There should also be a list of the potential warning signs for the problem, how the manufacturer will fix it, where you need to bring it, and how long the repairs will take (the manufacturer also has the option of offering a new replacement vehicle, or refunding your purchase price in full).

Why You Should Act Fast Depending on the nature of the defect, your safety may be at risk. Cars and trucks have been recalled for malfunctioning accelerators, defective steering parts or air bags that deploy randomly. All could pose a serious danger to drivers and passengers.

Who Pays? Not you. By announcing they accept the recall, the manufacturer is accepting the financial liability for the specific repairs as long as you bring your auto to the designated repair site.

Tip
So what are the safest cars? Check out the 2014 list here.

If the Problem Persists… If the problem persists after the fix, contact the manufacturer directly. In the unlikely case that you do not receive a satisfactory response, contact the NHTSA consumer protection representatives and they may reach out to the manufacturer on your behalf.

If You Need More Info… Check out the NHTSA’s Motor Vehicle Safety Defects and Recalls, which outlines all your rights and answers any questions you might have about procedures.