How to Get Recall Info for Your Car

recall lookup for any car, various portals to compare -- red X as in do not drive with a recalled part

A report from Carfax revealed that there are a somewhat incredible 57 million cars on the road that have an unrepaired recall. The states with the highest numbers of unfixed recalls, said Carfax, are California, Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, and New York. To put that into perspective, 17.2 million cars were sold in the United States in 2017, per Kelley Blue Book. In other words, there are more than 3 times as many cars on the road that are in need of a recall-related repair as are sold annually.

Recalls become so commonplace in the news that they seem almost innocuous – but a recall occurs because a vehicle is believed to have flaws that could threaten the lives of occupants and others on the road.

Since recalls so commonly go unresolved, it is important for each of us as drivers to be informed on this topic and take action as appropriate. Many car owners, unfortunately, do not know how simple it is to access this information and get their cars into the best and safest possible working order.

Getting federal recall information really is not difficult or time-consuming once you know your options: the NHTSA recall search portal, Cars.com, Consumer Reports, and automaker sites. Each of these resources is given consideration below.

The NHTSA recall search portal

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the agency of the federal government that issues and oversees automotive recalls. That agency is the ultimate source for this data. All you need to have in hand is your make, model, and year of the car, and you will be able to pull up all recalls issued by the NHTSA.

Once you are on the NHTSA Recalls Page, you will see the option to enter a vehicle identification number (VIN). If you have that, you can go ahead and enter it. You also should see a tab at the top, directly next to VIN, that says, “Vehicle.” Through this tab, you can simply enter the make, model, and year to get any recalls.

Once you are in the “Vehicle” section, assuming that choice, you select the year from the “Model Year” menu. Next, make your choice from the “Make” menu. On the right, you should see a “Go” button.

After you have clicked “Go,” you should see any recalls listed. Each one will have a brief description and the next steps to get it repaired.

Again, though, if you want to get more granular with the car, you can go back to the “VIN” section. You will typically be able to locate your VIN on your insurance documents, registration papers, or the car itself (on the frame at the side when you open the driver’s door, or possibly behind the steering wheel on the dashboard). You can enter that 17-digit number, and you should see whether the various recalls have been completed on that particular car. (In other words, you get more data if you do have the VIN available.)

The NHTSA site gives full information for your car also. For the 2013 Nissan Sentra, for instance, you will see that the vehicle has 6 recalls, 3 investigations, and 283 complaints, with an Overall Safety Rating of 4 out of 5 stars.

You see Front Driver Side and Front Passenger Side crash test scores as you scroll down the page. Eventually you get to fuller information for the recalls.

Note that another way to get into the NHTSA system directly is to go through SaferCar.gov, a site run by the US Department of Transportation. This site is an information portal and resource that gives you access to safety issues with the car, including recall data. When you click the button to perform a search from within this portal, it automatically open the NHTSA system to complete that request.

Cars.com

Cars.com (suggested by Digital Trends in its car recall advice) has a very similar tool the government, pulling in quite a bit of the same data but through a different system and organization of features. Within Cars.com, you again want to put in the make, model, and year for your car. You then need to add your ZIP code (which is unrelated to the federal data).

When you have entered that information, the site will give you data from the NHTSA site.

Consumer Reports

If you want to check a non-government service and want one that doesn’t take any advertising money, you can use the portal provided by Consumer Reports. Notably, to use Consumer Reports’ Car Recall Tracker™, you need to set up a free account, which requires entry of your name, email, and creation of a password.

Within the Car Recall Tracker, as soon as you have created your login, you will see the option to enter year, make, and model of your car to add it for tracking.

For each recall that might come up for your car, Consumer Reports provides a summary of the issue with the car and forward steps you can take. It then provides the full text of the original recall notice from the NHTSA. That information has additional guidance on the problem, the danger of not fixing the component, and contact details for further information.

Carmakers’ sites

Beyond the federal government’s portal and the third-party sources of this data, you can also get recall information directly through your automaker. The recall pages for some of the major automakers are as follows:

Recall rates from the different carmakers compared

After looking at all this information on recalls, you may wonder which of the carmakers has the best record in limiting them. Well, the study has been conducted.

Figures from three decades of car recalls demonstrate that Volkswagen Group had the highest rate of recalls, while Porsche had the lowest. The number one automaker for timeliness related to recalls was General Motors, while the carmaker that led the way with proactiveness in response to recalls was Tesla.

The research, from iSeeCars.com, used recall data from January 1985 through September 2016, along with numbers on new car sales, to run three calculations:

  • the recall rate for each carmaker in terms of how often a faulty car is produced in relationship to the number of cars sold;
  • the timeliness of recalls in terms of how rapidly and willingly a carmaker is to find issues in its vehicles and to recall them in a three-year window; and
  • the proactiveness with which recalls are approached, a measure of how much recalls stem from the carmaker itself rather than from the NHTSA.

Here are the numbers from the study for each of the top 18 manufacturers, with the recall rate per 1000 cars:

  1. Porsche – 531
  2. Mercedes-Benz – 624
  3. Kia – 788
  4. Tesla – 936
  5. Mazda – 955
  6. General Motors – 958
  7. Subaru – 985
  8. Toyota – 1,028
  9. Nissan – 1,038
  10. Jaguar Land Rover – 1,067
  11. Mitsubishi – 1,089
  12. Ford – 1,139
  13. Volvo – 1,156
  14. BMW – 1,196
  15. Hyundai – 1,266
  16. Honda – 1,307
  17. Chrysler (FCA) – 1,422
  18. Volkswagen Group – 1,805.

That’s right – shockingly, the number of cars recalled was higher for many companies than was their number of cars sold.

Checking your car for unfixed recalls in Boulder

It is frustrating that there are so many recalls (and so many car flaws behind them), but we can help. At Independent Motors, we can advise you if there are any recalls for your vehicle that need to be addressed. Meet our staff.