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Drivers Guide to Vehicle Recalls

Did you know that an estimated 1 in 5 vehicles on Canadian roads have unfixed or open safety recalls? This means they’ve been deemed unfit to drive by their manufacturers! We’re here to clear up any confusion surrounding vehicle recalls; what they are, how to check if your vehicle has any, what to do, and who pays for the fix.

What is a vehicle recall?

A vehicle recall happens when a vehicle model is found to have an issue that poses an unreasonable safety risk or fails to meet minimum safety standards. The safety of yourself and others is imperative on the road, so manufacturers and sometimes even federal governments will issue a recall to all vehicle owners who are affected by the issue. Issues can range from being related to the vehicle’s design, certain parts, or even software issues for the onboard computers. 

While we’re focused on vehicle recalls specifically, recalls can be released for just about anything including vehicle-related items like tires and child safety seats.

How do I check if my vehicle has a recall?

If you’re the registered owner of a vehicle that has a recall, manufacturers are obligated to notify you of the recall, describe what the problem and its consequences are, and provide instructions on how to get it fixed. This typically happens via a letter in the mail. However, there may be vehicle recalls that are unattended to if you purchased a used vehicle. Whether you have a new or used vehicle in Canada, you can check the history of recalls through the Motor Vehicle Safety Recalls Database or take your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), often found in the corner of your windshield or on your registration documents, and run a complete vehicle history report via Carfax, this will tell you if there are any unfixed recalls on your specific vehicle.

For a complete list of recalls that include vehicles, as well as tires and child car seats, visit the Government of Canada database.

Is it legal to buy or sell a used vehicle with an outstanding recall?

Manufacturers are required to notify you of recalls, but dealerships and private sellers are not. If you’re in the market for purchasing a vehicle, you should look into the recalls ahead of time to confirm if there were any, and then you can check against the VIN to see if the recall fixes were completed. If you have already purchased a vehicle and did not check for recalls first, double-check now and ensure that any issues get addressed as soon as possible.

Typically, once you purchase and register a used vehicle, you’ll be updated for any recalls as the purchaser of the vehicle. However, there are instances where this doesn’t happen so you may want to do your due diligence and update the manufacturer directly to make sure you are kept in the loop if any new recalls occur. To do so, call the manufacturer’s customer service department with your VIN in hand and let them know you now own the vehicle.

What do I do if my vehicle has a recall?

Whether it’s a new recall, or you’re finding out about an old and unattended recall, since the problem is on the manufacturer’s end the solution is dependent on them too. If you’ve received a letter, follow the steps to get the issue fixed - it will likely require that you take your vehicle to its nearest manufacturing dealership. Don’t be surprised if you’re contacted by them directly as well, they take your safety very seriously and you should too! If you are looking up old recalls or see a new one that you didn’t receive a letter for, contact your nearest dealership and let them know. They’ll help guide you to get the fix completed.

Who covers the cost of vehicle recall repairs?

Your manufacturer isn’t just obligated to notify you of the repairs needed, they’re obligated to cover the cost of the repairs as well since the fault lies with them. If your repairs are going to take a significant amount of time, the dealership will likely provide a rental vehicle for free, too! The only exception here is if your tires are recalled. In this case, tires are sometimes required to be taken in within 5 years of the notice for them to be repaired for free.

Vehicle recalls are announced to maintain and increase the level of safety for all road users. It’s important to check any recently purchased vehicles for recalls, as well as making sure that you’re up-to-date on any recalls that come out after you’ve made your purchase.

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