According to CarFax, 6.28M vehicles in California have open recalls – more than any other state in the nation.

Here are some good things to know about recalls, how to find out if your vehicle has an open recall, and what to do about them.

What is a recall?

First, we need to cover “what is a recall?” There are 2 kinds of recalls:

1. NHTSA Recalls

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issues recalls that are mandatory and typically quite serious. By law, any repairs made under this safety recall must be paid for by the manufacturer of the vehicle. NHTSA issues vehicle safety standards and requires manufacturers to recall vehicles and equipment’s that have safety-related defects. According to NHTSA, “A recall is issued when a manufacturer or NHTSA determines that a vehicle, equipment, car seat, or tire creates an unreasonable safety risk or fails to meet minimum safety standards.”

2. Voluntary Manufacturer Recalls

A safety recall is a vehicle manufacturer’s request for owners or lessees to bring a vehicle in for repairs, adjustments or replacement due to a known defect in the vehicle. Auto manufacturers will often release vehicle safety recalls or technical service bulletins (see below) for certain vehicles to prevent harm to consumers and to reduce their liability.

It’s important to note that, most decisions to conduct a recall and remedy a safety defect are made voluntarily by manufacturers, but often after NHTSA has already begun an investigation. When it comes to recalls, manufacturers are required to fix the problem by repairing it, replacing it, offering a refund, or in rare cases repurchasing the vehicle.

Additionally, you might come across something called a Technical Service Bulletin. While a technical service bulletin (also called a manufacturer communication, or TSB) is not a recall, it is a recommended service repair issued by the vehicle manufacturer after an unexpected problem has occurred in several vehicles of the same year, make, and model. Technical service bulletins are often not safety-related, unlike recalls.

Manufacturers are required to contact/inform owners or lessees of vehicles that are subject to safety recalls, but do not contact them for technical service bulletins. Instead, TSBs are provided to dealerships to help them fix problems when an owner or lessee comes to their dealership complaining of the problem.

Does my vehicle have an open recall?

Now that we’ve covered what a recall is, how do you find out if your vehicle has an open recall?

For all safety recalls, manufacturers are required to notify registered owners by first class mail within 60 days of notifying NHTSA of a recall decision. Manufacturers should offer a proper remedy to the owner. Often, however, the owner or lessee of a recalled vehicle will not receive notice as their address has changed.

Fortunately, you can check your vehicle for safety issues and recalls on your own at anytime by searching your vehicles VIN number via NHTSA.

If you are notified of an open recall or find one via the VIN number search, follow the instructions for the remedy, if one is available. Unfortunately, sometimes a manufacturer does not yet have a fix for a recalled safety problem and can only notify the owner or lessee that a problem exists.

What if my car doesn’t have a recall but I keep having problems?

If you’ve been to the repair shop multiple times for the same problem or if your vehicle has been in the shop many days for a variety of problems, and it still isn’t fixed, you may have a lemon.

California’s Lemon Law provides for repurchase or replacement of vehicles that are having problems which substantially impair the use, value or safety of the vehicle, including, but not limited to:

  • Brake issues
  • Engine stalling/not starting
  • Heating/cooling problems
  • Transmission issues
  • Other engine issues (vibrations, noises, overheating, etc.)

Less serious, but still significant, problems can also qualify your vehicle as a lemon. These problems may include a window that keeps breaking, a heated seat or mirror that doesn’t function properly, faulty fuses, dashboard lights that won’t go off, an inoperable navigation system, a failing backup camera, or a short in the interior lighting system that cannot be fixed after multiple attempts.

If you are experiencing issues with a repeated problem or variety of problems, you may have lemon. As a reminder, make sure to save ALL documentation from these repair visits – you’ll need these documents created by car dealerships as they are extremely important in California Lemon Law cases.

If you think you have Lemon, don’t hesitate to contact California Lemon Law Attorney, Liz Gayle, for a free consultation today by calling TOLL FREE: 1-866-STOP-LEMONS (1-866-786-7536). Remember, by law, the manufacturer is responsible for paying our legal fees on the Lemon Law cases that we resolve for you.