Different Vehicle Recall Statuses and How To Handle Each One

Vehicle recall concept

When you own a vehicle, it’s a crucial part of your life — you depend on it to bring you safely to work, school, and anywhere else you need to go. If you received a recall notice in the mail, you are likely concerned, frustrated, and confused. However, you should be aware that not every recall involves a safety risk. It’s important to understand the recall status of your vehicle and how to handle it.

Determining if Your Vehicle is Subject to a Recall

If your vehicle is registered, the manufacturer will send you a letter in the mail within 60 days of notifying the NHTSA of its decision to issue a recall. The NHTSA also emails recall notifications to vehicle owners who have signed up for these alerts. Additionally, certain apps will send notifications about recalls affecting your car to your smartphone.

Recall Status by VIN

If you did not receive notice of a recall and would like to check the status of your vehicle, the NHTSA website provides a recall status search option. By entering your vehicle’s VIN, you can learn whether there is an open recall by status — the search results will also disclose unrepaired vehicles affected by a recall within the last 15 years.

There are three recall statuses that might be displayed after you search by your vehicle’s VIN.

  1. Recall INCOMPLETE - indicates that there is an open recall, but the vehicle has not yet been repaired
  2. Recall INCOMPLETE. Remedy Not Yet Available - simply means that the manufacturer has not provided the necessary remedy yet.
  3. Number of Open Recalls: 0 - This means there are no open recalls regarding your vehicle model, or the issue in your car was already fixed.

What Should You Do If Your VIN Search Shows a Recall Status?

When a vehicle is subject to a recall, the manufacturer will inform owners of the repair or replacement necessary to resolve the issue. It’s critical to contact an authorized dealership as soon as possible to schedule the repair once the remedy is available. You should also follow the manufacturer’s interim guidance regarding a vehicle recall. In some instances, you should not drive the vehicle until the problem is fixed — in others, the manufacturer may have specific instructions to follow depending on the defect.

An authorized dealership is required by law to fix a recall issue free of charge. A fix might involve making a specific repair or replacing a faulty part. In most cases, recall issues are resolved relatively quickly. But if the defect continuously arises after the dealership makes repairs, you might be entitled to assert your rights under California’s Lemon Law.

Additionally, if you had vehicle repairs performed before a recall was issued for the same defect, you may be reimbursed for your expenses. It’s vital to keep any receipts connected with the repairs. Manufacturers are usually required to cover the costs of safety-related repairs made up to one year before a recall. But if the NHTSA opened an “engineering analysis” over a year before the recall, the date it was opened would begin the term for compensation eligibility.

Types of NHTSA Vehicle Safety Recalls

When a vehicle fails to meet minimum safety standards or an unreasonable safety risk is found, the vehicle manufacturer or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) may issue a recall. When this occurs, vehicle owners will be notified, and the manufacturer will make the necessary repairs or replace the defective part at no cost.

Recalls can include a broad spectrum of issues ranging from steering wheel defects, faulty seatbelts, unreliable tires, software flaws, bad brakes, sticking accelerator controls, wiring system problems, and defective airbags. In some cases, recalls may be issued for non-safety issues such as those involving paint or rust, faulty air conditioning units, and radio malfunctions.

Vehicle safety issues are typically addressed in the following ways:

  • Technical Service Bulletin —Technical Service Bulletins (TSB) are often confused with recalls, but they are not the same. Manufacturers issue TSBs when a problem is found in a vehicle model, and a remedy has not yet been determined. While a TSB makes recommendations to prevent an issue, repairs are not customarily performed for free. However, the repair may be covered if a vehicle is still under warranty.
  • Voluntary recall — When a manufacturer discovers a safety issue in a particular vehicle model, they usually issue a voluntary recall without the NHTSA’s involvement. Voluntary recalls arise from a manufacturer’s testing, information gathering, and inspection procedures. If a problem is found, the manufacturer must report the findings to the NHTSA and take appropriate action.
  • Mandatory recall — A mandatory recall is one that is ordered by the NHTSA. These typically involve serious safety issues and require full disclosure.

Notably, service campaigns are different from safety recalls. A campaign occurs when a manufacturer believes an improvement must be made in order for a vehicle to run more efficiently — they will then voluntarily perform an inspection or repair. Service campaigns are usually preventative and do not involve safety issues.

Contact an Experienced Southern California Lemon Law Attorney

Being part of a recall doesn’t make your car a lemon. But if the problem persists, it’s essential to know that you have rights under California’s Lemon Law. A knowledgeable lemon law attorney can assess your case and advise you of your remedies. The attorneys at The Ledbetter Law Firm are committed to providing high-quality legal services and effective counsel for clients who have been inconvenienced and burdened by vehicles that fail to conform to their warranties.

The Ledbetter Law Firm works with clients throughout Southern California who have purchased lemons and assists them with obtaining the refund or replacement vehicle to which they are entitled from the manufacturer. With offices conveniently located in Torrance and San Diego, California, telephone and video conferencing options are also available. Call (310) 878-0067 to schedule a consultation with a California Lemon Law attorney today.