What is a Car Recall?

what is a car recall

You retrieve your mail and begin sifting through the important envelopes and notice one marked, “Important Safety Recall Information.” You nervously open the envelope to learn that your 2015 Nissan Pathfinder has a recall issued for a faulty windshield wiper system. What do you do?

Read your recall letter carefully for detailed instructions on how to proceed. Usually you will be asked to contact your local car dealer to schedule an appointment to complete the repair or replacement. Car manufacturers are required by law to mail letters to affected customers in a recall situation.

What is a Car Recall?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,  “a car recall is issued when a manufacturer or the NHTSA determines that a vehicle, equipment, car seat, or tire creates an unreasonable safety risk or fails to meet minimum safety standards. Most decisions to conduct a recall and remedy a safety defect are made voluntarily by manufacturers prior to any involvement by NHTSA. Manufacturers are required to fix the problem by repairing it, replacing it, offering a refund, or in rare cases repurchasing the vehicle.”

Oftentimes when a recall occurs, the malfunctioned or inadequate part(s) of the vehicle will be replaced, not the entire vehicle. Not to worry though, the manufacture typically incurs the cost of the repair and/installation.

How to Check if My Car Has Been Recalled

What if you have not received a recall letter?  While a manufacture is required to notify you by mail of a recall, you may have recently moved and overlooked submitting a change of address. You can visit the NHTSA website here to look up important recall information concerning your vehicle.

Who Pays for Repair or Replacement in a Car Recall?

All part(s) repairs and/or replacements are covered free of charge by the manufacturer in the case of a car recall. Make sure to contact an authorized dealer to have the repairs completed. Authorized dealers work directly with the manufacturer to correct discrepancies and avoid unnecessary complications. Bring the car recall notice with you when dropping your vehicle off to the authorized dealer.

Who Monitors Manufacturer Car Recalls?

The NHTSA monitors and tracks all safety recalls to ensure manufacturer’s are in compliance with safety regulations. Manufacturer’s are also required to provide effective remedies for all defective products.

Most Recalled Vehicles Between 2013 – 2017


The big, the bad, the ugly. Here are the most recalled vehicles between 2013 – 2017 according to the Department of Motor Vehicles:

Stay Safe. Stay Informed.

Consider signing up to receive email car recall alerts from the NHTSA. The NHTSA “is responsible for keeping people safe on America’s roadways” and is a reliable source for recall updates and new safety insights.

View our Top Driver Vehicle Maintenance Checklist to gain actionable tips to stay safe on the road or register for an online refresher course to learn more.

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