What is a car recall and should I be worried?
Cars are often recalled to be fixed – sometimes years after going on sale – but what does it mean and should you be worried if your car is recalled?
Recalls affect thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of cars around the world every year, and many of those recalls affect Australian vehicles given all vehicles sold here are sourced from overseas. Some recalls are for relatively minor things, while some are for life-threatening safety issues, such as the Takata airbag recall.
For most car recalls, there is no reason to worry. Most safety recalls are for very minor issues that won’t have a catastrophic effect on your vehicle, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore them.
What happens and what to do
When a car is recalled it will be listed on the Australian Product Safety website and the brand will send a letter to the owner of the vehicle to have it fixed free of charge at an authorised dealership. Even if you are not the first owner, there’s a good chance you’ll receive the letter if your details are registered to the vehicle’s registration plate and corresponding VIN number.
If the recall is minor you might not get in straight away to have the car fixed, but when you do it will always be free and there is no charge to the owner for parts and labour.
Car recalls, as you can imagine, can be ridiculously expensive for manufacturers both in terms of potential damage to reputation and the cost of actually carrying out the work and supplying new parts. While you won’t usually receive compensation for recall work being completed on your vehicle, all of the work and necessary parts should be performed/supplied free of charge. If you’ve had your vehicle serviced by an independent mechanic after the end of the initial service period then you’ll have to go back to the main dealership to have the recall work performed… your around-the-corner mechanic can’t do it.
The serious recalls
One of the most serious recalls in automotive history is still on-going and relates to faulty Takata airbag units used in millions of vehicles around the world, including over three million vehicles on the road in Australia. It is the biggest recall in Australian automotive history and nearly all of those vehicles have been fixed.
However, given the severity of some of the airbag units – the Alpha inflator which has resulted in many deaths – the need to address this recall is dire, and Australian state governments in fact took the step of banning re-registration of vehicles is the recall was not addressed.
This recall was so widespread that some manufacturers offered compensation in exchange for buying back cars as there were so many vehicles affected.
Ultimately a car recall isn’t a terribly serious issue though, with only a small number of cars being recalled actually affected by the ‘issue’. That said, it pays to be vigilant and if you do receive a recall notice then don’t ignore it, act on it.