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What you need to know about car recalls.

Chances are you’re more than familiar with the concept of an auto recall, as major recalls surface somewhat regularly, garnering huge media attention. But would you know what to do if your car was recalled?

For the most part, recalls on vehicles are usually issued after a few major safety problems are detected, to protect vehicle owners. Some are major recalls that result in the automakers having to fix or replace millions of vehicles. Others are smaller and don’t gather quite the notoriety.

When a recall is initiated, car makers are required to notify all registered owners of that model using information from state motor vehicle offices. Another way to stay on top of car recalls is to sign up for e-mail notifications from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) at www.safercar.gov. Signing up for this list will also notify you of tire and child safety seat recalls – a good idea since manufacturers can only directly track down customers who have registered these items with the manufacturer.

Once a recall has been issued, the manufacturer can fix, replace or refund the recalled item. In the case of an auto recall, the manufacturer can also offer a refund that factors in a reasonable depreciation of the vehicle. The letter you receive from the manufacturer should spell out the appropriate action you should take if your vehicle has been recalled. If you do not receive this type of letter when you think your car has been involved in a recall, or not enough information is provided in the letter, contact the NTSHA at (888) 327-4236 or visit its website for more information.

If it turns out that you have already paid for repairs to remedy the problem addressed by a recall, you are entitled to a refund for those repairs. To receive a refund, the repairs must have occurred less than one year prior to the manufacturer’s notification to the NTSHA of the defect, or after the NTHSA opens an engineering analysis to determine the problem, using whichever event happened first. This is another reason it’s always a good idea to hold onto the receipts for repair work.

The age of the vehicle can also determine whether it’s eligible for a recall, as vehicles that are more than 10 years old when a defect is determined are typically not eligible for free repairs. In addition, tires must have been purchased within five years of the determination in order to be eligible.

By following the proper procedure during a recall, you’ll make sure you have a working – and, most importantly, safe – vehicle.

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