You’ve certainly seen the headlines about the dangerous Takata airbags. All kinds of safety recalls seem to be occurring more frequently these days. But how do car recalls work? Let’s find out.

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Rising Numbers

In the old days, news about a manufacturer recall devastated car sales, but not anymore. According to Forbes, in 2013, the auto industry recalled 22 million vehicles… and sold just over 15 million. In most cases, recalls barely even cause a dent in sales. But other situations are very serious.

The recent Takata airbag recall was the biggest in automotive history, and it affected nearly two dozen brands. This defect causes shrapnel-like metal to be released from the airbag device into the car. In the U.S., approximately 34 million vehicles have been potentially involved (get a link to a full list of affected cars below).

How Recalls Are Born

When an auto maker sells a car, they get feedback from many sources – dealerships, consumers, and mechanics. If enough complaints of the same kind come in, the company begins investigating. In most cases, valid problems result in a manufacturer initiated safety recall.

For cars sold in the U.S., the car company must notify the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) which maintains a database on all recalls.

Recall Process

Once the NHTSA has been notified, the car maker accepts responsibility to explain the details of the defect and how it plans to resolve the issue. From there, owners are notified by every means possible, including mail and even by phone. In newer cars with online systems, messages are sent directly to the car’s computer system.

Repair Phase

Once you hear about a recall, you can take your car in for service. In an official recall, the repairs are always covered by the manufacturer.

Varying Degrees Of Danger

In most cases, recalls don’t pose a significant threat to safety. However, in the Takata airbag situation, serious harm or even death could result. The car maker’s objective is to make sure all owners are contacted. This is especially challenging when a vehicle has been sold by the original owner.

Not The Same As A Warranty

Recalls are not the same as a warranty. Warranties cover the costs of unexpected breakdowns during the warranty period only. Once the factory warranty runs out, you pay for these costs. An extended warranty for cars can be purchased when the factory warranty expires so your costs remain covered. Recalls, on the other hand, are always paid for by the manufacturer.

More Resources

Besides keeping your eye on the news, you can sign up for email alerts from the NHTSA. This keeps you up to date on recalls for any vehicle. And you won’t get bothered with news about every car make. You can actually register your car and get notified only when a recall applies to your vehicle’s make and model.

Here’s a full list of vehicles that have been affected by the Takata recall.

Even if your vehicle hasn’t been recalled, an extended warranty for cars will cover costly repairs. Get a free quote from CARCHEX now.

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