Skip to main content
Find a Lawyer
Please enter a legal issue and/or a location
Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

What To Do About a Vehicle Recall Repair Notice

Most of us don't realize our car has a safety-related defect until we get a recall notice in the mail. Many assume the issue or safety risk is not a big deal. Unfortunately, the safety issue must be significant if the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or vehicle manufacturer thinks it's worth issuing a recall.

What are you supposed to do when you learn of a safety recall? Usually, you'll receive a recall repair notice. If not, you can always search online using your vehicle identification number (VIN).

The manufacturer or NHTSA will direct you to the dealership where you purchased your car, truck, or SUV. Once there, the dealer's service center or mechanic should fix the issue.

In this article, we'll address frequently asked questions about recall remedies. We will also explain what to do if you discover a recall but never receive a notice. Finally, we'll discuss your options if your vehicle is not repaired correctly after the recall.

What are my recall remedy rights?

You must understand your rights during a recall. Under federal law, you have the right to a free recall remedy. The dealership or manufacturer cannot charge you for any repairs made to your car. The only exception would be if the mechanics discover that there are ancillary issues with your vehicle and you authorize them to fix them while repairing the recall.

The manufacturer should contact you with directions for fixing the faulty part or vehicle equipment. They should mail you a letter with information about the vehicle safety issue, recall, and remedies. The manufacturer's notice must also explain how to get the problem fixed.

While your recall remedy is free, the manufacturer determines the remedy. Federal law requires that the automaker address your car's safety concerns. However, the law doesn't give you a choice of solutions. If a recall notice or warranty promises to repair your car or provide replacement parts, you cannot demand a refund for the cost of the vehicle.

Can I contact my dealership's service department?

The first thing you should do when you receive a recall notice is call your local dealership. This may or may not be the same place you bought your vehicle.

Most auto manufacturers administer their recalls through the service departments at their dealerships. The dealership service department is typically well-equipped to repair or replace the makes and models of the vehicles they sell.

If you encounter difficulties with your dealer's service department, speak to the manager first. Customer satisfaction is vital to car dealerships. Most managers will want to uphold their reputation and service ratings. Keep in mind that recalls can swamp a service department's schedule. Being patient and polite will go a long way.

Can I contact the manufacturer?

Contact the manufacturer directly if the car dealership cannot resolve your issues. The letter notifying you of the recall should provide a toll-free number. You can obtain the manufacturer's contact information from your car owner's manual or the dealership.

You may be able to call a toll-free number and speak to someone about your recall. Be prepared to play phone tag until you get the right party on the phone. Once you speak to the responsible person, they should be willing to sort out any problems with the recall process. They'll work with the dealership to fix any miscommunications or other issues.

Can I contact NHTSA?

NHTSA is the federal agency responsible for car safety and recalls. If you encounter problems with a recall and your dealership or manufacturer cannot help, you can always file a complaint with NHTSA.

NHTSA monitors recalls and works closely with manufacturers to address safety issues. The agency can resolve your problem or put you in touch with someone who can.

Do I have to pay for a car recall repair?

Vehicle owners are not responsible for the costs of repairs when NHTSA or the manufacturer issues a recall. Contact a product liability attorney if the dealership attempts to charge you or refuses to do the work without payment.

It is against the law for a dealership or auto manufacturer to charge you for recall repairs. The dealership must offer free repairs. Inquire about a loaner car if the dealership thinks it will take more than a day to fix your vehicle.

What if the dealership says I'm too late?

If the dealership tells you you're too late to receive free repairs, you have options. If you received your recall notice late, that is not your fault. Your personal injury lawyer can intervene and demand that an authorized dealer fix your car, truck, or SUV as required by the recent recall.

If you knew about the safety recall but waited too long to get the repairs, you may have no choice but to pay. To be eligible for a free remedy, the vehicle cannot be more than 15 years old on the date the defect is determined. The date is calculated from the date of the sale to the first owner.

Can I get money instead of the repair?

Vehicle owners do not have the luxury of choosing their recall remedy. The car manufacturer determines this. Typically, the only remedy available is to get your car, motorcycle, or SUV fixed by the local dealership. This is true for both new and used vehicles.

Other times, if there is no viable or cost-effective solution, the manufacturer may offer you a replacement vehicle. It is rare, however, for the manufacturer to provide a refund. You can demand reimbursement for any out-of-pocket expenses you experienced due to the recall.

How long can a dealership keep my car for repairs?

Manufacturers or dealerships can take 30 days to fix recalled vehicles. The 30 days do not have to be consecutive. You may need to take your car in for repairs several times. As long as the total days without your vehicle are less than 30, there isn't much you can do.

If it takes longer than 30 days, you may be able to pursue damages under your state's lemon law. For example, your product liability attorney can demand a refund, a replacement vehicle, or, at a minimum, compensation for repairs and inconvenience.

Should the automaker give me a rental car?

The law does not require auto manufacturers or dealerships to provide vehicle owners with a rental car while it is under repair. However, the NHTSA does encourage them to do this. The last thing a company wants is negative press. It's bad enough that they have to announce the recall in the first place. Many automakers will offer buyers rental car coverage if a recall is necessary.

Why would it take an extraordinarily long time to fix my vehicle?

Fixing a recalled vehicle would take longer than usual for several reasons. Sometimes, the manufacturer identifies a safety issue but has yet to figure out how to fix it. Other times, the parts are unavailable. This could be due to new technology or a supply chain issue.

Talk to an Attorney If You Have a Problem With a Recall Repair

Manufacturers are responsible for promptly taking care of recalls. If they fail, they may be held liable for any injuries caused by the recalled product. Learn more about your legal options by speaking to a local product liability attorney today.

Was this helpful?

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

Or contact an attorney near you:

Next Steps

Contact a qualified product liability attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

Help Me Find a Do-It-Yourself Solution

Copied to clipboard

Find a Lawyer

More Options