Has Your Car Been Recalled? Here's What You Need To Do

Oct 06, 2014 06:30 PM EDT | Jordan Ecarma

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You're probably tired of reading about vehicle recalls. In a record year for American carmakers, General Motors alone has recalled nearly 30 million vehicles after even more recalls on Friday.

But it's vital for owners to realize that safety recalls like GM's 2.6 million-vehicle small car announcement earlier this year don't do much good if the vehicles are not brought into dealerships for repairs.

One reason the flood of recall headlines likely didn't hurt the GM brand too much is that "recall fatigue" has a deadening effect on consumers' reactions.

"I think perhaps people worry less about the recalls than the newspapers do," said Herb Chambers, CEO of auto dealership group Herb Chambers Cos, as quoted by Reuters.

Apparently they don't worry enough--around a third of all recalled vehicles aren't taken in for repairs, while 36 million cars and trucks on U.S. roads have an unrepaired defect, Bloomberg News reported in April.

GM CEO Mary Barra's ambitious goal to repair every single one of the small cars recalled for flawed ignition switches will be difficult to achieve, Bloomberg said. Ushering in a plethora of recall announcements, the disastrous switch recall has been connected with at least 23 deaths and dozens of crashes.

In an effort to streamline the repair process, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently launched a new system through SaferCar.gov that lets consumers check if their cars have been recalled by looking up the Vehicle Identification Number.

Under the new rules, carmakers are required to update their websites with the VIN information at least on a weekly basis. The program will additionally require auto companies to send direct notice of recalls with "bolder" warnings to affected owners within 60 days of informing the NHTSA of a recall.

So what should you do when your vehicle gets recalled?

If you're not sure the recall affects your particular model, you can search its VIN in the NHTSA system here.

The lookup tool holds information from automakers and brands from Acura to Kia to Volvo and purportedly covers recalls conducted in the past 15 years; however, consumers should note that completed safety recall information and very recently announced recalls are not included.  

You should get a notification by mail.

Recall notices look like any other piece of mail, so maybe be careful about tossing junk mail without at least reading it. Bottom line, a recall letter will tell you that your car has a problem and needs to be brought into a nearby dealership. Recalls should be covered by the automaker or supplier involved in the recall. Under the Highway Safety Act of 1970, consumers cannot be charged for repairs or replacements to a defective part, Jalopnik reported.

Take your car into the dealership.

Call the closest dealer that matches the brand of the car and schedule a time to come in. It'll be fun (OK, it won't be fun, but at least you'll be driving a lot more safely).

Keep watching the mail.

Unfortunately, taking your car into the dealership and getting the issue fixed doesn't necessarily mean everything is good to go. With 2014's record recalls, some models ended up being recalled more than once since they had multiple issues.

If all else fails, contact the automaker.

Customer services are universally known for being quick, efficient and helpful, right? Yeah, definitely contact the closest dealer before doing this, but here are customer service numbers for a few major automakers who had some headline-making recalls this year.

Ford: 1-800-392-3673

GM: 1-866-636-2273

Toyota: 1-800-331-4331

Chrysler: 1-800-334-9200

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