Are you Driving an Unsafe Car? What You Need to Know About Recalls

By James C. Owens, Deputy Administrator, U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

Only you can protect your family or yourself from defective or noncompliant vehicles or equipment that could pose a threat to your safety.

Hundreds of injuries have been reported, and 16 people have been killed in the U.S. by defective air bags that are part of the largest and most complex vehicle recalls in U.S. history—affecting tens of millions of vehicles from 19 automakers. Getting these unsafe vehicles repaired is integral to improving safety and saving lives. The U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is urging vehicle owners to take a few simple steps to protect themselves and others from this urgent threat to safety. Learning how to check for recalls is the first important step, and the next is knowing how to get your recall fixed for FREE.

What is a vehicle recall?

A vehicle safety recall is just that—bringing an unsafe vehicle to a dealership to resolve a safety problem when a manufacturer or NHTSA determines that a vehicle or piece of equipment has a safety-related defect or does not comply with federal standards. Manufacturers are required to fix the problem by repairing it, replacing it, offering a refund, or in rare cases, repurchasing the vehicle. In 2019 alone, there were over 38 million vehicles recalled.

Check for recalls

If your vehicle is currently under recall, you should receive a notice in the mail from your vehicle’s manufacturer. If you’re worried about missing a notice, you can also stay up to date on recalls by signing up for notification emails.

You don’t need to wait for a notification to find out if your vehicle is under recall. Visit https://www.NHTSA.gov/recalls and enter your VIN to see if your vehicle is under recall. You can also use NHTSA’s website to check on vehicle-related products, such as car seats, tires or equipment.

Not sure where your VIN is? Look on the lower left of your vehicle’s windshield. It is 17 characters long. Your VIN is also located on your vehicle registration card, and may be shown on your insurance card too.

Get the repair (for FREE!)

If your vehicle is under recall, follow any interim safety guidance provided by the manufacturer and contact your local dealership to get the FREE recall repair.

Report problems for investigation

If you think your vehicle or equipment could have a safety defect, reporting it to NHTSA is important. If the agency receives similar reports from a number of people about the same product, this could indicate that a safety-related defect exists that would warrant an investigation. You can report any suspected safety defects to NHTSA one of two easy ways: by visiting www.NHTSA.gov/recalls, or by calling NHTSA’s vehicle safety hotline (888-327-4236 or 800-424-9393 toll-free from anywhere in the United States, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands).

Vehicle owner reports fuel NHTSA’s work, and that’s why we’re committed to sharing more information with you about how to report recalls. NHTSA recommends checking your VIN twice a year to see if your vehicle is under any safety recall: when you set your clocks forward in the spring and when you set them back in the fall. Stay in touch with NHTSA and keep an eye on your mailbox for direct alerts. And if your vehicle is under recall, get it repaired for FREE immediately. With safer drivers and safer cars, we’ll have safer roads—and your efforts can help save lives.