Consumer Reports: Don't put off car recall fixes

Posted at 7:51 AM, Dec 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-01 09:23:38-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — As the pandemic has continued, a lot of folks have put off doing things like major home repairs, doctor's appointments or car repairs. But you really don't want to put off getting important safety recalls fixed.

If you're working from home, you're probably not driving as much as you used to. But if your car has an open recall you really don't want to put it off.

Let’s start with the basics: How do you know if your car was recalled in the first place?

"Car companies are required to notify owners by mail, but sometimes they don’t reach the second or third owner. So check the NHTSA for open recalls on your car," said Keith Barry, Consumer Reports auto editor.

If you find one, you’re not alone: Tens of millions of cars get recalled every year to correct problems ranging from software glitches to headlight problems to leaks that can cause fires.

"Bottom line: Every recall is important and should be taken seriously," Berry said.

If the safety defect is serious enough, you might be advised not to drive the car, or to park it outside until it’s fixed.

The good news: In almost every case, recall repairs are free but it is your responsibility to get them done.

"One thing to keep in mind: Consumers are not entitled to a rental car or a loaner. Sometimes a dealership or an automaker will offer one as a courtesy, but it is not required by law," said Berry.

One other important thing to know: Cars can legally be sold even if they have an open recall. So if you’re buying a used car, it’s especially important to run the Vehicle Identification Number through a recall database to be aware of any recalls that need your attention.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or NHTSA has a recall database online where you find out whether your car has an open recall that needs to be fixed. You'll find the search tool at and you can actually look up your specific vehicle.

The first thing it asks you is for your car's VIN - that's the 18 digit vehicle identification number. You can find it in several spots around your car. Your dashboard on the driver's side, the door jam on the driver's side and on the back hatch. You type that in and it will tell you whether your car has been the subject of any recalls in the last 15 years and whether those recalls have been fixed or not.