Although there is no law requiring used car dealers to stop selling recalled vehicles, AutoNation has announced that none of its 293 franchises across the United States will sell any vehicle that has an open safety recall, as Ashlee Kieler reports for Consumerist. Kieler goes on to quote a statement made by Mike Jackson, Chairman, CEO, and President of AutoNation: “There’s no way to expect that customers would or should know of every safety recall on every vehicle they might purchase, so we will ensure that our vehicles have all recalls completed.” He adds that AutoNation makes it their company’s responsibility as a retailer “to identify those vehicles and remove them from the market until their safety issues have been addressed.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives the following examples of defects that it considers to be safety related:
- Steering components that break suddenly, causing partial or complete loss of vehicle control.
- Problems with fuel system components, particularly in their susceptibility to crash damage, that result in leakage of fuel and possibly cause vehicle fires.
- Accelerator controls that may break or stick.
- Wheels that crack or break, resulting in loss of vehicle control.
- Engine cooling fan blades that break unexpectedly causing injury to persons working on a vehicle.
- Windshield wiper assemblies that fail to operate properly.
- Seats and/or seat backs that fail unexpectedly during normal use.
- Critical vehicle components that break, fall apart, or separate from the vehicle, causing potential loss of vehicle control or injury to persons inside or outside the vehicle.
- Wiring system problems that result in a fire or loss of lighting.
- Car ramps or jacks that may collapse and cause injury to someone working on a vehicle.
- Air bags that deploy under conditions for which they are not intended to deploy.
- Child safety seats that contain defective safety belts, buckles, or components that create a risk of injury, not only in a vehicle crash but also in non-operational safety of a motor vehicle.
In a Los Angeles Times article last year, Jerry Hirsch wrote: “On average, about 25% of recalled autos still need the repair 18 months after the recall was first announced.” He warns that when too many car owners are not getting their cars fixed, it puts everyone on the roads at risk of an accident.
So what can consumers do to find out if the used vehicle they bought was recalled but never repaired?
According to an NHTSA video, if the manufacturer initiates a recall on your car, you will receive a letter in the mail with an offer from the manufacturer to fix it for free. You can also find out if your car has been recalled, or sign up for alerts about future recalls, by visiting NHTSA’s SaferCar.gov site, or by downloading its mobile app, for Android and for iPhones.
SaferCar.gov offers a Recalls Spotlight feature that displays the latest information about recalls in the news. To find out if a recalled vehicle has been repaired, you can use NHTSA’s search tool, by visiting https://vinrcl.safercar.gov/vin/ and entering your vehicle’s VIN number. The results will tell you: if there are safety recalls on your vehicle that have not been completed and if any safety recalls have been conducted on your vehicle in the past 15 years. But keep in mind that this VIN search tool only covers recalls by “major light auto automakers, including motorcycle makers.” It does not provide completed safety recall information, or “very recently announced” safety recalls for which not all VINs have been identified. If you are concerned about driving your potentially unsafe vehicle long distance, consider having the vehicle shipped.
In addition, NHTSA strongly encourages vehicle owners to tell it about any safety issues they are having. You can report your safety complaint at https://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/ivoq/ or by calling 888-327-4236 from Mondy through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. TTY: (800) 424-9153