By Chris Basso
Our country has a problem with vehicle recalls. Starting in late summer 2014, about 8 million cars with Takata airbags were recalled for a potentially defective airbag inflator. Earlier in the year GM announced an ignition switch recall, which was issued for more than 24 million cars in the U.S. alone.
These two highly publicized recall campaigns helped make 2014 a record-shattering year for auto recalls. At the time of publishing, more than 50 million vehicles so far have been recalled.
But that ISN’T the problem. Here’s what is: people aren’t getting these recalled cars fixed.
In a report for WABC-TV in New York, consumer reporter Nina Pineda talked to an owner of a car that is part of the GM recall campaign for ignition problems. Numerous crashes and multiple fatalities are linked to this problem. However, when asked if he knew about the recall and was “taking the risk of driving and possibly losing power”, the car owner matter-of-factly states, “Yeah”.
With every recall campaign, the government estimates that 30 percent of the cars involved don’t get fixed.
Therein lies one of the root causes of this problem. Do we fully understand the seriousness of a recall? Have so many recalls desensitized us to the seriousness of the issue? Or do we just not care that our well-being could be at risk?
MILLIONS ARE OUT THERE
The WABC example is one of the many reasons why, according to Carfax, more than 46 million recalled cars nationwide haven’t been fixed, which is also known as having an “open recall.” To put that number in perspective, that’s one out of every five cars in the U.S. It’s a staggering statistic that only increases with each new recall campaign.
Used car buyers face the greatest risk of winding up with an unfixed recalled car. In 2014, more than 3.7 million used cars were being sold with at least one outstanding safety recall. It’s scary to think about how many of those were bought by someone who didn’t (and might not still) know an unfixed safety recall exists.
In previous years, recalls weren’t even on most buyers’ checklists of things to consider when car shopping. For many, they still aren’t. Combine that with a skyrocketing number recalls, and the number of cars being sold with unfixed recalls likely continues to grow for years to come.
People aren’t getting these recalled cars fixed, because many don’t even think to look for them.
UNFIXED RECALLS BY STATE
Here is a state-by-state breakdown of car with unfixed recalls in 2014:
|State||Cars with Unfixed Recalls|
Source: Study of 2014 state registration data by Carfax.
WHY A RECALL?
Recalls are primarily issued when an auto manufacturer identifies a recurring problem tied to a potentially defective part. Though the problems differ, one thing remains constant—the potential threat to safety.
Recalls are a good thing. They help prevent other cars and their owners from experiencing the problem. A recall helps maintain the safety, performance, and possibly even the resale value of a car.
Despite the benefits, people aren’t getting these recalled cars fixed.
WHAT’S THE DANGER?
The problems associated with recalls can range from fires and crashes to faulty airbags and more. With every recall campaign, the government estimates that 30 percent of the cars involved don’t get fixed. Do the math and that’s roughly 15 million unfixed cars from the recalls so far in 2014! As the numbers compound, so do the risks not only to the drivers and passengers of those cars, but also to others on the road.
Think about the consequences if the recalled part on your car fails as you’re driving 60-70 miles per hour on a busy highway.
One out of every six cars in the U.S. has an open recall.
In some cases, the recalled parts can fail even when the vehicle isn’t being used and is sitting innocently in your driveway or garage. It happened to this Texas family as well as to this van buyer in Delaware.
People aren’t getting these recalled cars fixed, putting us all at risk.
Once a recall is announced, the manufacturer sends multiple notices through the mail to the registered owners they have on file, telling them their car is part of a recall and needs to be fixed.
Trouble is, not all of the notices reach the current owner. In some cases, the car has changed hands or the person moved before the letters could reach them. Others who do receive the notice may discard or simply ignore them. These reasons and others are why the manufacturers also work with public and private entities to expand their recall outreach efforts.
The good news for car owners is that the manufacturer covers the cost to fix a recalled car at one of its dealerships. So, if you have a Honda, your local Honda dealer will fix the recall for free. Yes, you’ll need to bring your car to the dealership (we know, you don’t like it – few do) and maybe you’ll be without it for a few hours or so. But, this small inconvenience pales in comparison to what could happen if that recalled part fails, as described above.
Some manufacturers have even turned to incentivizing car owners to bring their recalled cars in to be fixed.
So people still aren’t getting these recalled cars fixed, despite it being free AND some essentially get paid to do it??!!
WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW
In addition to recalls being fixed for free, it’s also free to find out if any car has unfixed recalls. There are several online resources available to check for vehicle-specific recalls using the vehicle identification number (VIN). Here’s a few of the top ones:
These sites are good places to get one-time, free checks for open recalls. However, to stay on top of recalls now and in the future, go with myCarfax. Enter your license plate using the website or free app (Google Play, App Store), and the service monitors your car for recalls and other maintenance items. If one is reported, you get an alert on your mobile device or email. Both the website and app are free.
If you find out your car, or one you’re buying or selling, has an open (unfixed) recall, take it seriously and take action immediately. You’re doing yourself and everyone else on the road a favor by having the recall fixed right away. Keep in mind that the problem CAN happen to your car, it CAN happen at any time and it CAN hurt you and others, if not fixed. The bottom line is that it costs you nothing to fix something important.
People aren’t getting these recalled cars fixed, but you can change that. Start now.