When a safety recall is issued for a given make, model, and year of a vehicle, the recall may not apply to every car that matches those criteria. Typically, recalls are limited to cars that were made at a certain factory, have parts from a specific supplier, or built during a certain time frame. So, how do you know if your car is recalled?
From the Automaker
Automakers typically send a letter to vehicle owners when a car has been recalled. The letter usually includes specific details about the recall or defect and instructions on what to do, such as taking the car to an authorized repair facility. In most cases, you will need to take your car to an automotive dealership that services your brand of car.
From Your Dealership
When you buy a new or used car, the dealership may offer you a vehicle history report, which should list any open recalls for your vehicle. It may also list any recalls previously completed.
When you take your car in for regular service at a car dealership, the service department may check your vehicle against the automaker's database for any open recalls. If a recall is found, the dealership likely will be able to make the repair for you.
From the Government
You can receive advance notice of motor vehicle recalls through an automated email system from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The system allows you to opt-in to receive information about all vehicle recalls or just on specific cars. While you'll still need to check with the automaker or your local car dealer's service department to verify whether your specific car is recalled, this system can give you a timely heads up.
To register for automatic notifications, go to http://www.safercar.gov, click on the link for Email Recall Notifications, and complete the onscreen prompts. (Note: From Safercar.gov, you also can search for past motor vehicle recalls, read the details of recalls, and select to receive recall notices for recalls on tires and child restraints.)