It’s Daylight Saving Time (DST). The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) invites you to check your vehicles for factory recalls twice a year when the time changes with to and from DST.
Any time the NHTSA issues a vehicle safety recall the manufacturer is supposed to mail notification to all owners of record. But mail gets lost or overlooked, cars and trucks get bought and sold, and previous owners of a car you bought used as a used vehicle might have overlooked or simply disregarded a recall.
According to the federal agency, many vehicles with recalls aren’t repaired. In 2018, for example, there were more than 900 recalls in the U.S., which involved more than 33.5 million vehicles. Because the same model may have been subject to multiple recalls, the total number of unique vehicles involved is less than 33.5 million, but that number is published. The NHTSA says owners of 75 percent of recalled vehicles have their cars fixed, but that still leaves a significant number with potentially dangerous problems.
You can go to the NHTSA website to search for recalls by year, manufacturer, and model. That type of search is helpful if you are thinking of buying a car, new or used, and want to check the recall status for that model.
To look up a specific vehicle, a Vehicle Identification Number or VIN search is the most direct and most accurate way to find out about recalls or complaints.
Each motor vehicle sold in the U.S. has a unique 17-character VIN that identifies the manufacturer, the year it was built, and the specific car, truck, or SUV. The VIN consists of digits and capital letters, a combination which allows greater variation than just numbers.
Some states include the VIN on vehicle registration and insurance documents, but all vehicles have the VIN in two locations. Look for an identification label on the driver’s door jamb. The VIN is also stamped on the vehicle on the dashboard under the windshield on the driver’s side.
You can check for recalls on the NHTSA site. In addition to explaining the problem, the site also details owner complaints and provides specific information about getting your vehicle checked out and, if necessary, repaired. Factory recall repairs are performed at dealerships at no cost to owners.