Finding an automotive recall notice in your mailbox can be a real pain in the backside. After all, who wants to deal with the hassle of finding a dealership, making an appointment, and waiting for hours while they fix something that was their fault in the first place. But do you know what’s worse than getting a recall notice? Not getting one.
You see, if you have a used car, it’s very possible that it may have been recalled at some point. And here’s the worst part: nobody has to inform you about it. Yes, you may be stuck driving around a vehicle which may be defective and dangerous. That can lead to some serious problems (the least of which would be your car insurance going up after your brakes fail or your steering wheel goes kaput.)
Here’s how the recall process works: if a part or mechanism in a vehicle is discovered to be defective, the manufacturer notifies the franchised dealerships which sold those vehicles when they were new. But these manufacturers do not alert the used car dealerships which resell the vehicles. Even if a used car dealer knows that a certain make and model has been recalled, it has no obligation to make those repairs – or even tell potential buyers that a recall exists.
Used car dealers respond to this charge with a somewhat valid point: even if the vehicle they’re selling has been recalled, there’s no way for them to know if that particular vehicle has already been repaired. There is no national database that is searchable by vehicle identification number. The bottom line? A used car dealer, vehicle auction company, or individual can sell you a pre-owned vehicle that still requires recall-related repairs.
So how can you find out whether your vehicle has this problem? Here are a few tips.
Look online. To see a list of recalled vehicles, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website at NHTSA.gov.
Ask your mechanic. In some cases, a mechanic may be able to tell you if a given part has been replaced. Make sure that you trust the mechanic to give you an unbiased opinion.
“Get the CARFAX!” A service called CARFAX can provide the repair and recall history of each individual vehicle. You just go to the site, enter in your VIN number, pay the fee (about $35), and the CARFAX will be mailed to you. Use this to see if repairs were made in conjunction with any recalls.
Hopefully, your used vehicle has either not been recalled or has already been properly repaired. But if it hasn’t, then you get the joy of experiencing the same hassles that you would have had you actually seen a recall notice in your mailbox. Congratulations!
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