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Vehicle Recall Guide: 4 Steps to Help You Through the Process

broken muffler

A vehicle recall can be scary. Getting a notice in your mailbox telling you that the car or truck you drive has been identified as part of a safety campaign from the company that built it is a stressful experience, especially if you rely on it every single day.

What should you do if you receive a recall notice, or see a news story that identifies your automobile as potentially being part of a recall?

The most important thing is not to panic. So after you let yourself breathe for a couple moments, here are four steps that will see you through the process.

1. Verify the RecallVehicle recall.

Regardless of how you hear about the recall that’s affecting you — by mail, email or in the news — you should first verify with your dealership that it truly does apply to you. If you bought the car secondhand, then you can always contact the closest dealership of the brand that built your model. Explain the situation, be ready to provide them with the vehicle identification number of your car (hint: it’s on your registration) and validate that the recall is real.

2. Determine the Severity

Not every vehicle recall is sent out to correct life-threatening situations. Sometimes, the recall is intended to take care of a component that could wear out prematurely — but still has many miles or even years left. Other times it may even be related to something as innocuous as a label that didn’t use the correct color or language. Don’t assume your car can’t be driven until the repair has been made.

3. Get a Time Line For Repairs

Some vehicle recalls are big and involve thousands of models all at once. Car companies can have trouble producing the parts needed to do the repairs in a timely manner — and then there’s also the issue of scheduling the repair itself. Find out from your dealer if you can schedule the recall repair in advance, or if you have to wait until the automaker is ready to begin the process.

4. Find Out the Cost

If your vehicle is less than 10 years old, the automaker has to repair it for free — no ifs, ands or buts. If it’s older than that, you’re on the hook for the bill. However, if the issue that the recall addresses is something you have already paid to repair in the past — say, a defective component that failed earlier than predicted — you are eligible to be reimbursed for what you paid.

Check out all the maintenance parts available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information dealing with a vehicle recall, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Benjamin Hunting View All

Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time.  I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.

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