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Car Emissions Recalls

Most people are familiar with the term "vehicle recall." They may hear about a recall on the news or receive a recall notice in the mail. Typically, auto manufacturers issue vehicle recalls due to safety concerns that may lead to injury. But the EPA may issue a recall for reasons other than safety problems. For example, the agency recalls vehicles that don't meet federal emission standards.

When you receive a recall notice, you may panic. A lot of vehicle owners do. They worry that their car or SUV is undrivable. They fear that they're putting their family's safety at risk. The critical thing to remember is that the law requires the vehicle manufacturer to correct the safety defect free of charge.

Why Are Vehicle Emissions a Problem?

Emissions are the chemical by-products that combustion engine vehicles release into the air. Engines create the gases and release them through the car's exhaust system.

These chemical by-products contain volatile compounds that create smog and pollute the air. Each year, over 149 million Americans experience unhealthy levels of air pollution. At best, air pollution decreases our overall quality of life, and at worst, it can cause serious health problems.

For this reason, the federal government requires vehicles to meet strict emission standards to help keep the air clean and preserve the environment.

California Air Resources Board and Strict Tailpipe Emissions Standards

Some states are stringent when it comes to car emissions standards. California is one of these states. Under California's "Advanced Clean Cars II" regulations, all cars, trucks, SUVs, and motorcycles sold in the state will be zero-emission. This law has nothing to do with motor vehicle safety. It has to do with air pollution and climate change.

California is not the only state with stringent emissions laws. According to Reuters, 22 states now have strict regulations regarding vehicle emissions. Automakers must convert to electric vehicle production and sales to meet these standards.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Emission Standards and Testing

Vehicle manufacturers must design and assemble vehicles to comply with federal emission standards. The national Clean Air Act gives the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the authority to require manufacturers to recall vehicles if the manufacturer fails to meet federal emission standards. The EPA can also require manufacturers to repair cars that don't meet these emission standards.

At the National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory, the EPA tests randomly selected vehicles for compliance with emissions standards. If a particular model fails the tests, the EPA will start a discussion with the manufacturer to generate possible solutions. One such solution is a recall of the problematic vehicles.

How Does an EPA Recall Work?

A recall occurs when an auto manufacturer or government agency removes a potentially harmful or defective product from the market. Vehicle manufacturers must report any defects that affect a vehicle's emissions system to the EPA.

Discovering a defect usually leads to a manufacturer's voluntary recall to repair the problem. Manufacturers must disclose any voluntary recalls regarding emissions systems to the EPA. It's not unheard of for a manufacturer to drag its feet in addressing the issue. It's within the EPA's power to order a manufacturer to recall affected vehicles.

When the recall takes place, an automaker provides recall information to consumers. It must identify the make and model year and the vehicle identification numbers of defective cars, trucks, and SUVs.

How To Check for a Car Recall?

If you're worried that the EPA has issued an emissions recall for your vehicle, there's an easy way to check. You can search the EPA's site for recent recalls at Recalls of Vehicles and Engines.

You'll need the following information to perform a search:

  • Make and model of your car or SUV
  • Year of your model
  • Engine size (in liters)

Another way to find out if there's a recall for your car's emissions is to call your local dealership. It can inform you about an active emissions recall over the phone. If there is, the dealer can also let you know what steps you must take to remedy the issue.

What Happens After an Emissions Recall?

Usually, when you get a notice for safety recall repairs, you can take your vehicle to the dealer to get fixed. It works differently with emission recalls. Once the manufacturer (or EPA) identifies an emissions defect, it must find a way to repair it. This isn't always possible.

What you do after the recall will depend on the nature and extent of the defect. It could be a simple repair or something much more severe.

Recent Car Emission-Related Recall News

Emissions-related problems can be due to a system error in the emissions control or an issue with the fuel pump or fuel tank. Here are some examples of vehicle recalls issued due to emissions problems:

  • 2001-2003: Toyota Prius - Certain vehicles may have low engine power or fail to start due to carbon deposit build-up in the car throttle.
  • 2004-2006: Volkswagen Jetta, Beetle, Golf - Some vehicles have electronic control module (ECM) issues with their software, resulting in excessive emissions violating federal standards.
  • 2007-2008: BMW Mini Cooper - Certain Mini Coopers have a faulty catalytic converter that converts toxic pollutants found in gasoline into less poisonous by-products. A defective catalytic convertor will likely increase emissions levels.
  • 2017: Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche - The EPA learned that Volkswagen circumvented the emission control system in more than 550,000 vehicles. The company admitted they had done this since 2008. Worldwide, the manufacturer had to recall more than 11 million vehicles. The automaker had to pay over $14.7 billion in fines and customer refunds.
  • 2023: Subaru Forester (2024 model) has insufficient tight engine water pipe attachments, causing the vehicle to leak coolants into the environment.
  • 2023: Honda Civic, Honda Accord, Acura Integra, Acura RDX - Due to improper manufacture of the VSA modulator, these vehicles leak brake fluid, polluting the air, soil, and water.
  • 2023: Ford Maverick, Ford Escape, Lincoln Corsair - These vehicles had a block break, causing motor and oil vapors to leak out from underneath the hood into the atmosphere and interior of the vehicle. Only the Lincoln Corsair model with the 2.5-liter hybrid engine was part of the recall.

Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Help if the Manufacturer Recalls Your Vehicle?

If you discover that the auto manufacturer or EPA recalls your car or SUV for emissions-related issues, you should talk to an attorney. You have options if the company doesn't repair your vehicle or provide a refund as part of the recall. offers a product liability attorney directory to help you find a lawyer near you.

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