Millions of vehicles have been affected by recalls to fix problems that weren’t apparent when they were extensively tested during development. Or, in some cases a manufacturer supplies a faulty part such as Takata with its airbags (Toyota, for example, had to recall an eye-watering number of vehicles in Australia alone). A recall will have different levels of urgency depending on how much risk the vehicle occupants are in of being seriously injured or killed.
The manufacturer usually accepts responsibility for the cost of fixing the recall, and they can take a huge hit. It cost General Motors US$4.1 billion dollars to deal with a recall in 2014.
Recalls can affect any type of vehicle:
- Buses and coaches
- Agricultural vehicles
- Horseboxes and other trailers
They can also affect critical accessories that have standards attached or present a risk of injury when included in a vehicle, such as:
- Seat belts
- Child seats
- Components and parts
What happens if you receive a recall notice?
As your vehicle is registered, it’s possible for a manufacturer to directly contact every owner of the affects model or models by written letter. This letter will contain instructions and information about the fault and what to do. You might also see details about the recall on the TV and internet news, and on social media.
If it’s a large recall affecting hundreds of thousands of cars, you might need to wait some time. First, the company needs to ensure that its authorised service centres and mechanics know how to fix the fault, and that parts are available. It will take time to ship in the parts from overseas. If there are, for example, 200,000 recalls and each fix takes 2 hours, that is 400,000 man-hours of work. That would require 800 mechanics working full time for three months to clear.
In some cases you might be recommended not to drive the vehicle if there’s a serious defect. Your insurance company might refuse to honour claims related to the defect once it’s made public, and this could leave you without a vehicle until you can get it repaired.
If you drive a vehicle in a knowingly dangerous condition you can be fined.
Accessories, components and parts
These often don’t require registration (e.g. car seats or after-market car parts). In this case, you will be relying on the media to inform you of any issues.
Is your vehicle affected by a recall?
You can check on this government website to see if your vehicle is affected. It also has everything from washing machines to bagged spinach. If your vehicle still meets the minimum standard to be on the road, you don’t have to get it fixed.
Darren is an expert on driving and transport, and is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists