Millions of vehicles are affected by manufacturer recalls each year, presenting safety concerns for drivers everywhere. One of the biggest dangers is simply not knowing whether your vehicle has been recalled. Fortunately, there is an easy way to check for recalls using the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration's (NHTSA) VIN Look-Up tool. The tool could be especially helpful for those who are not the original owner of the vehicle.
"If you're the second, third or fourth owner of the vehicle, the manufacturer may not have your contact information on file to send you a recall notice, so it's important to check regularly," says Jim Clifford, director of underwriting research for loss prevention and safety at USAA.
The VIN Look-Up tool uses the vehicle identification number (VIN) to find incomplete safety recalls over the past 15 years. The tool also can be used to look up recalls on some other vehicles, such as motorcycles. You can sign up to receive recall email alerts for vehicles you own.
If your vehicle has been recalled, it's best to respond quickly.
"Contact your dealer and schedule an appointment as soon as you reasonably can," Clifford says. "Your car is an investment you need to protect, and you need to make sure it protects your family, too."
Here are three other tips to keep in mind:
Repairs are free with a recall notice. Manufacturers are required to repair vehicles under recall at no charge, even if you are not the original owner.
You can beat the crowd. It can take months to receive a recall slip from the manufacturer, so be proactive if you hear about a recall for your make and model. Verify that your vehicle has been recalled using the VIN Look-Up tool or call your local dealership. If repairs are necessary, the dealer may be more likely to have the necessary parts on hand at the beginning of a recall and able to make repairs quickly.
Keep your recall notice handy. Don't tuck it away where you'll forget it — having the slip around is a good reminder to get repairs done if you haven't already. The recall notice also contains valuable information and is important to keep on file as part of the vehicle's maintenance history.