How Do I Find Out About Vehicle Recalls?

It’s one of those calls you’d prefer not to get: There’s something wrong with your car or truck, and the manufacturer needs you to bring the vehicle in for a repair.

Millions of automobiles are subject to safety recalls every year, but the good news is often it’s a minor repair that’s needed at no cost to you. On that note, review your auto insurance policy to see if you have rental car benefits if your vehicle needs to go into the shop for repairs. Regardless, vehicle recalls should always be taken seriously, and you should follow their guidance promptly for your safety and others on the road. After all, a vehicle recall could be due to a potentially dangerous issue.

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Why Vehicles Get Recalled

Several factors drive vehicle recalls. If there’s a consistent problem with a specific make of car or truck, complaints from multiple sources including individual vehicle owners, government agencies, consumer protection groups, police and lawyers can add up. All these complaints are screened by Transport Canada, which will let the vehicle manufacturer so it can take the proper investigative steps and run tests to confirm the problem and determine the fix.

From there, a recall notice goes out to inform vehicle owners of the defect and what they must do. The necessary repairs are usually free of charge and carried out by an authorized dealer or shop. While some recalls can mean you’re separated from your vehicle for a short time, most are more straightforward. Serious defects might include airbags that don’t deploy when they should or deploy when they shouldn’t. It could be faulty ignition switches that can turn off the engine when the car is being driven, causing sudden power loss thereby preventing airbags from functioning in a collision, or safety belts and child safety restraints that fail.

Other defects that might prompt a recall but are not so much about safety usually involve features on the car that don’t work, such as a faulty lock on the glove compartment or the sunroof not opening properly. In Canada, it could be something as simple as a lack of labels in both official languages. No matter how minor the problem, it’s wise to get the issue fixed as soon as possible whenever a recall is issued.

How You Are Notified of a Vehicle Safety Recall

Major recalls tend to make the news, but regardless of the magnitude of the problem, vehicle manufacturers are required to send out recall notices to each car owner. However, if they don’t have current contact information for you or you’re the second owner of the vehicle, you may not be contacted.

If you do suspect that your vehicle is the subject of a recall, you can check the manufacturer’s website or social media feed. Depending on the nature of the problem, some automakers might only send out the notice via technical service bulletins to dealership service departments to check for and fix a particular issue the next time you bring a vehicle in for a regular service or repair.

The Government of Canada also posts a wide range of recall notices online that include vehicles and children’s car seats, and Transport Canada’s Recalls and Safety Alerts mobile app provides real-time notification of vehicle recalls. Its Motor Vehicle Safety Recalls Database also tracks vehicles or tires subject to a recall.

What to Do if You Receive a Vehicle Recall Notice

No matter how trivial the problem, be sure to follow the instructions in the notice from your vehicle manufacturer. If the next steps aren’t clear, get in touch with the manufacturer via phone or online. If the notification states your vehicle is unsafe to drive, keep it off the road until it has been repaired.

Don’t wait for a formal notice, either. If you suspect your vehicle may be subject to recall or be unsafe to drive, find out for sure. As a rule, it’s always a good idea to register your tires and your child car seats with their respective manufacturers you receive recall information directly. Make sure you know your vehicle identification number (VIN), so you can look up your vehicle to see if it might have a problem. Keep in mind that not all vehicles of a specific make, model and model year group are necessarily subject to a recall. It may just a certain group of vehicles manufactured at the same facility or a subset with a particular part that was changed midway through production.

Recalls Can Affect Your Car Insurance

Major, high profile recalls are usually followed by insurance companies assuring car owners their policy costs will remain the same. Still, it’s a good idea to take recalls seriously, so your coverage isn’t affected.

Repair costs and car safety ratings do have an impact on your auto insurance, and both are influenced by vehicle recalls. You could find your rates going up because your vehicle has been declared unsafe and is being recalled because these models cost insurance companies more to cover. However, if you’re in an accident because of a safety recall you did not know about, your insurer will pay the claim and seek reimbursement from the manufacturer.

Be Proactive

Being aware of vehicle recalls isn’t just about your safety, but also that of passengers and others on the road.

When you go to buy your next new or used car, check online to see if they are subject to any recalls and contact an authorized dealer to find out if repairs have been carried out. Buying from a dealer registered with organizations such as Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council or Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council ensures the full disclosure of a vehicle’s history and condition, which can help you avoid any nasty surprises.

If you suspect your car has a serious issue, but there’s been no notice, be the one to sound the alarm. You can report a problem with a vehicle, tires, or child car seat to Transport Canada’s Defect Investigations and Recalls Division.

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