Has Your Car Been Recalled?
It is possible that as many as 1 in 4 cars on Ontario roads have an issue serious enough to warrant a manufacturer recall. Some of these issues are little more than annoyances while others are life-threatening. But what is a recall? If your car has been recalled and you didn’t get the word, how much danger might you be in? And what should you do?
Product recalls affecting cars have existed for decades.
In 1978, both Cadillac and Ford issued recalls of their vehicles. In the case of Cadillac, some cars made between 1959-1960 were recalled to solve a problem that could cause a loss of steering control while Ford recalled 1.5 million Pinto and Mercury Bobcats due to the possibility of the fuel tank catching fire after being rear-ended. Perhaps the most famous recent recall was the GM ignition recall of 2014, where 2.6 million cars were found to have a defect that would cause it to turn off while being driven – a scandalous situation that caused at least 124 deaths that was made even embarrassing by the leak of a document illustrating GM’s attempts to spin the situation by instructing its representatives to avoid using words such as “deathtrap” and “decapitating” while describing its vehicles.
Serious car recalls affecting drivers are still happening, and are fairly common. In 2015, millions of airbags were determined to be defective and potentially lethal. This year has already seen recalls for the Mercedes-Benz 2016 SLK and the 2009 and 2012 GL classes, the 2016 Toyota Camry, and the 2015 and 2016 Ford Explorer and Lincoln.
Most car recalls, however, are not for life-threatening problems, and even those that tend to affect relatively few people. Any car is a complicated piece of machinery, and the series of circumstances needed to cause the fault for which the car has been recalled can be quite specific. As a result, even a serious known issue may only affect 1 in 2000 drivers. That said, particularly in cases of life-threatening issues, this still leaves drivers with a potential time bomb under their hood, and it is always better to be safe than sorry.
What does a recall mean?
Despite the image of cars being collected up and locked away by the manufacturer, the reality is far more mundane. When a car has been recalled, if you are a registered owner of the model in question (such as having bought the car new from a dealership), you will receive a letter informing you of the nature of the problem, and the recall. You then bring the car to the dealership, where the defective part is replaced or repaired at the manufacturer’s expense. If the problem is so severe that your car should not be driven at all, the dealer should provide a loaner vehicle until your car has been repaired.
If you bought your car second-hand, or it was given to you by a family member, or you moved and the dealership no longer has your current address, you might not receive the letter informing you of the recall. If this is the case, there are resources available. Transport Canada provides the Motor Vehicles Safety Recalls Database, where you can look up the make and model of your car, and see if there are any recalls for it.
While there are dangerous and even scandalous faults that have resulted in vehicle recalls, most are quite ordinary and unlikely to affect you even if you are driving one of the recalled vehicles. However, it is always better to be safe than sorry, and if you might be driving one of the many vehicles on Ontario’s roads that have been subject to recall, you should check the Motor Vehicles Safety Recalls Database, take your car to the nearest dealership, and get it repaired.