What you need to know about car recalls

Car recalls have been in the news lately with big brands including Mazda, Jeep and Dodge recalling thousands of vehicles due to safety concerns.

The cars were recalled due to serious defects including faults in their wheel bolts, brakes, windshields and headlights.

This follows the largest safety recall in automotive history, just last year, when vehicles with airbag inflators produced by Takata Corp were called in.

If seems like these recalls are getting more common - it’s because they are!

Big global carmakers are making recalls more often as they respond to bad publicity, political pressure and massive fines.

But are the cars we buy now more likely to have dangerous faults than in the past?

Thankfully, the answer seems to be no. The Federal Department of Transport says that while there has been an increase in the number of vehicle recalls announced by manufacturers each year, it's not because cars are more unsafe.

"This is the result of a range of issues, including growth in the size of the vehicle fleet, increasing complexity of motor vehicles, improved quality control processes within manufacturers and changing customer expectations," it said.

So it doesn’t mean your car is more dangerous, but it does mean you do need to know about recalls!

Let’s look at the basics.

Why are cars recalled?

Car recalls are issued for many reasons, from relatively minor defects like faulty indicators, to deadly problems such as the Takata airbags which would shoot shrapnel into the face of the driver when deployed.

What to do if your car is recalled

Don't ignore it, or put it off. Most vehicle recalls are related to safety and it won't cost you anything (apart from time and convenience) to get it fixed. If you don't get the car fixed, you're risking your own safety, and car's occupants - not to mention the resale value of the car down the track.

How will you be contacted?

If your car has been recalled, the manufacturer will try to notify you and advise you to schedule an appointment with your nearest car dealership for repair. However, if you have bought the car second-hand or the manufacturer or car dealership doesn't have up-to-date contact details for you, you may not receive a notice.

All product recalls in Australia are listed on the ACCC's Product Safety Australia website. A recall notice will also appear in major newspapers.

You can also check through the manufacturer of your car on their website or by contacting a dealer. Car manufacturers are required to have a function on their website that allows people to use a vehicle VIN number to find out if their car has been recalled.

Do you have to pay for repairs?

No, you will not need to pay to repair the fault. The car manufacturer will bear the cost of the repair or replacement. If you are charged for repairs, report it to the ACCC. 

When you take car to a dealer to get it repaired, you are also entitled to a hire car. If you live far away or in a remote area, you may qualify for special arrangements.

If your car is unable to be repaired or replaced, your dealer or manufacturer should offer you a refund, according to the ACCC.

How quickly will your car be fixed?

The car manufacturer or component supplier agrees with the ACCC on a timescale for repairing or replacing the defective parts on a case-by-case basis, so the time will vary depending on the level of urgency.

Will it affect the value of your car?

As long as the problem with the car has been fixed, it is highly unlikely to affect the resale value of the car, according to RACQ spokesperson, Paul Turner.

However, if you're trying to sell a car which has been recalled and you haven't fixed the problem, buyers may negotiate you down on price.

How can you find out if your vehicle is subject to a recall?

Check on the government's website, or by entering the VIN on the car manufacturer's website. The same applies if you want to find out whether or not the used car you're buying was recalled and the problem was fixed.

Even if your vehicle isn't currently under active recall, it's important to continue checking as it may be recalled in future.

To ensure you are able to be notified should your vehicle be involved in recalls, make sure the contact details listed against your vehicle are up-to-date by informing your vehicle manufacturer or dealer.

 
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