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How to check if a manufacturer recall affects you?

Carlton Boyce / 14 April 2016

What should you do if your car needs to be recalled due to a fault?

Cars in a traffic jam
More than a million cars are recalled in the UK every year

When a car manufacturer discovers one of its models has a potentially serious fault, it initiates a recall, asking owners to return their car to the nearest dealership so it can be fixed. 

This is big business, with more than a million cars being recalled in the UK every year. 

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Toyota topped the list in 2015, recalling well over half-a-million cars because of potentially serious faults with the airbags fitted to seven of its models. Honda recalled more than 400,000 of its cars, again due to potentially faulty airbags, while Mercedes, Renault, Vauxhall, and Land Rover also made the top ten, recalling tens of thousands of their cars for pre-emptive repairs.

So it’s a huge problem, and likely to get even bigger with the recent news that Volkswagen is likely to recall 11 million cars worldwide as a result of the diesel emissions scandal. But there is no need to panic; here’s our guide to checking whether you’re affected, and what to do if you are.

How worried should I be?

Vehicle recalls are only carried out because the manufacturer has identified a safety concern, something that is defined as:

“a failure due to design and/or construction, which is likely to affect the safe operation of the product without prior warning to the user and may pose a significant risk to the driver, occupants and others.”

So if you hear from the people who’ve made your car, you should definitely act on their advice and take whatever steps are necessary.

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What is the recall process?

The vehicle manufacturer will notify the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) that a recall is needed and contact the registered keepers of the cars that are affected.

The letter will explain what the problem is, what the consequences could be if the repair isn’t carried out, and who the owners need to contact to arrange to have the work carried out. 

This is likely to be a bit of an inconvenience, but nothing more because most recalls only take a couple of hours to effect and are completely free.

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Sounds straightforward

It is, in theory. The trouble is, cars get sold and databases become corrupted and incomplete, so it isn’t always as easy for the manufacturer to contact the current owner of a car as you might imagine – and if you’ve bought a second-hand car then you’ve got no idea whether the previous owner took the recall as seriously as they should have.

This leaves you as the driver and owner, in charge of a potentially dangerous car. 

It also leaves you liable in the event of an accident that was caused by a fault that would have been repaired under a manufacturer’s recall. This will, at best, leave you out-of-pocket, as your insurance company probably wouldn’t pay for any related claims. 

At worst, well, let’s just say that there are greater losses than financial ones…

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What can I do?

If you’ve bought a new car and kept the vehicle log book, or V5, updated with your current address then you should be fine, because if there is a problem, you’ll receive a letter in the post.

However, if you’ve bought a second-hand car it is always worth checking to see if it has been the subject of any recalls by clicking this link

If you find that your car has been recalled, you should contact your local dealer and ask them to check their records to see if the work has been carried out.

Reporting a problem

While the manufacturers are very good at spotting a problem, you can submit your own report too if you think your car has a problem that the manufacturer has missed or is otherwise unaware of.

The DVSA has a simple online form that will prompt an investigation.

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Car accessories

The DVSA database doesn’t just comprise cars. It also contains details of recalls that affect:

  • motorcycles, quadricycles and tricycles;
  • caravans and horse boxes;
  • child car seats;
  • seat belts and harnesses;
  • tyres;
  • components and parts;
  • agricultural equipment;
  • lorries, buses, coaches and minibuses.

You can check for these recalls here. The database will only show vehicles, parts and accessories that have been the subject of a recall, so if you can’t find it there that’s because there isn’t a problem!

For more tips and useful information, browse our motoring articles.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.