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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the agency responsible in the United States for traffic safety and regulations. Originally enacted in 1966, the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act gave the NHTSA the authority to issue vehicle safety standards and identify and manage vehicle recalls through car manufacturers. Due to thousands of fatal accidents every year, the NHTSA aspires to the highest safety standards.

Use GoodCar's Vehicle Recall Lookup to instantly check for any open or historic recalls associated with your vehicle.

Recalls and Why You Should Be Aware of Them

Vehicle defects cause many highway accidents. Therefore, the NHTSA has made manufacturer recalls mandatory for anything that affects safety. Whenever a vehicle or motor vehicle part poses a danger to drivers, other motorists, or pedestrians, the NHTSA will demand a recall. A safety recall may involve brakes, windshield wipers, engine cooling components, wiring, electrical systems, accelerator issues, lights, safety belts, child restraints, airbags, steering, and even motorcycle helmets.

Millions of vehicles have experienced recalls. You could be driving around in an unsafe vehicle right now with an open recall. Therefore, it's imperative to regularly check for any recalls on your car and get them repaired as soon as possible so your car or truck meets federally mandated safety standards. Recalls are provided by the manufacturer or car dealership at no cost to the car owner.

Startling Recall Statistics

Since 2000, almost 500 million vehicles have been recalled for various defects and safety issues. The company that tops them all is Ford which had to recall 21 million vehicles back in 1981 for a powertrain issue where the car would slip out of "park" and roll away. It caused thousands of accidents before the recall. Back then, Ford addressed the issue by sending out warning labels to 21 million owners. Unfortunately, they didn't fix the problem until years later.

Crash Test Ratings

Along with initiating safety regulations and managing recalls, the NHTSA performs in-depth crash tests on every new vehicle. They post these as crash test ratings to show how well vehicles stand up to side, front, and rear collisions. Before buying any new or used car, it's worth checking out crash test ratings to ensure your and your family's safety. Crash Test Ratings are available in the GoodCar Vehicle History Reports AT NO ADDITIONAL CHARGE!

Vehicle Recall Information

According to the United States Code for Motor Vehicle Safety (Title 49, Chapter 301), motor vehicle safety is defined as "the performance of a motor vehicle or motor vehicle equipment in a way that protects the public against unreasonable risk of accidents occurring because of the design, construction, or performance of a motor vehicle, and against unreasonable risk of death or injury in an accident and includes nonoperational safety of a motor vehicle." Additionally, a defect is "any defect in performance, construction, a component, or material of a motor vehicle or motor vehicle equipment."

Using your VIN (vehicle identification number), you can quickly and easily look up a vehicle recall. The information you find may include:

  • The number of recalls
  • Customer complaints
  • Investigations by the NHTSA
  • Overall safety rating
  • Information about crash testing
  • Technical details
  • Recalls and other safety issues
  • Manufacturer's communications

GoodCar's Vehicle Recall Lookup Tool is Free to Use

Frequently Asked Questions About Vehicle Recalls

A recall is when a manufacturer or the NHTSA determines that a vehicle has a serious safety issue (it could be one part or the entire vehicle). The automaker must alert customers and fix the problem. A recall is necessary when any motor vehicle item fails to comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. The vehicle manufacturer is required to send out a recall notice to vehicle owners. Affected patrons can take their automobile to any authorized dealer for repair.

You should receive a notice from the automobile manufacturer. However, because cars change hands often, and people move around, the NHTSA or car maker may not have your current information, and you may not get the proper recall notification in the mail. You can always use GoodCar's Vehicle Recall Lookup tool right now to see if there are any open recalls on your car or truck. GoodCar.com monitors vehicle recalls for its members for up to three cars you can monitor in your virtual garage.

Things like a broken air conditioner, ordinary wear-and-tear on the vehicle, paint quality, or excessive oil consumption do not constitute safety-related defects. Only items that affect the functionality of the car and its compliance with federal safety standards qualify for a car recall.

You can find your VIN in one of four places. A VIN is most often located on the dashboard on the driver's side of the car and the inside of the driver's door. You may also find it under the hood embossed on the front of the engine block. On older cars, the VIN may appear on the front end of the frame. You can also find it on your vehicle registration or insurance card.

You should contact your local dealer and schedule an appointment to fix the issue as soon as possible. If you did not receive any paperwork from the manufacturer, your dealership could provide you with safety tips and instructions. The recall repair is free to vehicle owners.

Visit safercar.gov to report a safety issue with a vehicle. The NHTSA takes every safety incident seriously. If they receive several complaints about the same problem, they will open an investigation and may issue a recall later.