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A whopping 50 million vehicles on the road have open recalls. Thousands of Fords, Nissans, Hyundais and Hondas were recently added to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s list. Tap or click here to check if your model is affected.
Perhaps a manufacturer finds a part on a specific model wears out faster than expected and decides to replace it for everyone. Faulty or outdated software can pose significant problems. And sometimes, the problem is more urgent, like the Takata airbag recall that started in 2013.
If you own a car, this article is for you. I’m going to tell you how you can go online to find out if your vehicle is subject to a recall and get email notifications of future recalls. You should share this valuable intel with your family and friends, too.
1. Find your car’s VIN
The first step is to find your vehicle’s 17-digit Vehicle Identification Number, or VIN, for short.
The VIN is found on most vehicles by standing outside the front windshield and peering down at the lower driver’s side corner of the dashboard. It can be a little hard to see, so look carefully. Some cars also have it printed on an emblem on the driver-side door jamb.
If you can’t locate your car’s VIN, check your vehicle title or registration, or look in your insurance documents.
By the way, it’s wise to take a photo of your car’s VIN, so you always have it handy. Tap or click for 9 more photos you should always have on your phone.
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2. Update your registration
Make sure your car’s manufacturer can reach you. That means keeping your registration up to date and ensuring your current address is on file. Yes, you may hear about a serious recall through a letter in the mail.
Your first stop is checking your vehicle. Look at the registration sticker in the corner of your plate to make sure the marked year is current. You can also visit your state motor vehicle department’s website to see whether you need to pay any fees or go through emissions testing to bring your paperwork current.
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3. Use the NHTSA recall checkup tool
Once you have your VIN, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) recall lookup page. Enter your VIN into the provided search field, and the results will show the number and type of safety recalls that apply to your specific vehicle. (If you don’t have your VIN, try searching for your car’s year, make and model instead.)
The search tool includes unrepaired vehicle safety recalls from the past 15 calendar years. You’ll also see vehicle safety recalls from major light auto automakers, motorcycle manufacturers and some medium/heavy truck manufacturers.
Suppose you don’t get any results; good news! Your vehicle is not part of a current recall.
Pro tip: It’s also a good idea to search the VIN when you buy a used car to know if you will need to deal with any safety issues after taking ownership.
Aside from car recalls, the NHTSA’s site is good for checking for recalls on vehicle accessories like car seats, tires and other car-related equipment.
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4. Be proactive
Just because your vehicle isn’t currently subject to recall doesn’t mean it won’t get one in the future. For that purpose, the NHTSA also offers an email notification system to receive alerts about recalls.
To sign up, enter your email address, and choose up to five vehicle models, makes and years. You can also choose to get an overview of all vehicle recalls each week and whether to receive alerts about tire or car seat recalls.
The NHTSA site is also an excellent spot to compare vehicle safety ratings, check your tires and find out how easy a car seat is to use. Browse the Ratings page here.
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5. Register with Carfax
Carfax compiles your vehicle’s various records, including accident reports, service schedules and recall alerts. The best part is, it’s free.
To set up an account, go to carfax.com. Don’t click “Get CARFAX Reports.” That will prompt you to pay for a complete vehicle report, which is not what you want.
Instead, click “Sign Up” in the top right corner and create an account. Add your vehicle by searching for your VIN or license plate.
After registering, you’ll get a monthly report with open recalls for your vehicle, its value and any services due.
What to do if your vehicle is part of a recall
Where do you take your car if it’s part of a recall? Recall service work is generally done at your car dealership. Give them a call to schedule an appointment. Having the recall number is handy, but they can also look up recall information through their records.
Recalls can be for potentially dangerous issues, so schedule your car’s service as soon as possible. Dealerships typically have shuttle services. You can drop off your car and have them pick you up when it’s ready. Your dealer can even arrange for your car to be towed if the recall is for a severe issue.
And remember, the dealership will complete all repair work made on your car due to recall for free. That includes parts and software.
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Learn about all the latest technology on The Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.