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My Car's Been Recalled: What Should I Do?

From ignition switches to airbags, dealing with safety-related service recalls is one of the less-fun parts of vehicle ownership. Understandably, receiving a vehicle recall notice in the mail can be a bit unsettling, especially when you realize you've been driving around in a car that may be unsafe. The good news is that the issue has been identified and the manufacturer has a plan to resolve this problem at no cost to you.

If you've received a recall notice in the mail, these are some considerations to keep in mind:

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  1. Understand the recall process. A recall notice usually contains the following information: a description of the problem, any risks or hazards it poses, warning signs related to the problem, how the manufacturer will fix it, an estimated time period for when the repair can be made, and instructions for what to do next. Typically, the next step will be to contact your local dealership to schedule the repair. Keep in mind that appointments may not be immediately available since it can take some time for repair kits to be manufactured and distributed to all dealerships.
    By law, manufacturers must offer to repair the problem at no cost to the vehicle owner. If a repair is not possible, two options are available: replacement or refund. In these cases, the manufacturer may replace your vehicle with a similar make and model or choose to refund the purchase price of the vehicle, minus a reasonable amount for depreciation.
  2. Don't ignore the recall notice. Yes, scheduling a recall repair may be inconvenient but it's important that you do not ignore the notice. You'll need to call your local dealership to schedule the repair. If a large number of vehicles are impacted, you may have to wait a bit for the repair to be made. Calling as soon as possible may help minimize repair delays.
  3. Check your car status. Did you misplace your recall notice or can't remember if you received one? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website offers a recall search tool based on your car's VIN (vehicle identification number). Simply enter the VIN to find out if there are any unrepaired recalls associated with your vehicle. Keep in mind that only unrepaired recalls will display; if a repair has been made, the associated recall will not show up.
    It's also possible that the recall notice has not yet been sent, or that it was sent to the wrong address. Manufacturers have 60 days to notify registered owners and purchasers of the vehicles by first class mail. These addresses are obtained through state motor vehicle offices, which is one more reason why it's important to keep your registration address up to date.
  4. Understand what qualifies as a recall. Defects that present a safety threat trigger a recall. Examples of safety defects include malfunctioning steering equipment, airbags that do not deploy properly, and wiring issues that may cause a potential fire. Normal wear and tear is not covered under recalls. Think your vehicle has a safety problem that should become a recall? You can file a vehicle safety complaint on the NHTSA website.

Questions about how recalls might impact your car insurance coverage? Contact your local independent insurance agent to learn more.

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