What Kinds of Problems Prompt an Auto Recall?

car recall

Each time the ignition switch starts the engine and you pull your car onto the road, you put an enormous amount of trust in your vehicle. Considering how many millions of people travel at high speeds on crowded highways in these two-ton metal boxes, it’s remarkable how safe most feel when they drive.

Even with strict safety standards, there’s plenty of opportunity for a defective piece of equipment or poor assembly to compromise a vehicle’s safety. And if you watch the news, you know that auto recalls are a common occurrence.

One of the most recent and significant recalls involved Takata airbags. Because of malfunctioning inflator units, they unexpectedly exploded in the faces of drivers and passengers. So far, these frightening incidents have been linked to nine deaths and more than 100 injuries. By February 2016, there was talk of recalling 70 to 90 million Takata airbag inflators in addition to the 29 million regulators that have already been recalled. This means as many as 120 million vehicles could be called in for repair.

This is but one example of a major safety issue triggering a major recall. There are many other varieties of safety recalls that range in severity. To better understand what triggers a recall, let’s take a look at the broader picture.

What leads to an auto recall?

The only real requirement that leads to an auto safety recall is that it poses a direct safety risk. Anyone can report a problem they believe jeopardizes their safety. Either the car manufacturer can independently conduct the recall or it can be mandated by the National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). Once a recall is issued, the car manufacturer must file a public report about the recall and attempt to notify owners of the affected cars.

According to the NHTSA, the most common reasons for recalls include: 

  • Steering components that break suddenly and cause partial or complete loss of control.
  • Problems with fuel-system components that result in fuel leakage and possibly cause vehicle fires.
  • Accelerator that may break or stick.
  • Wheels that crack or break, resulting in loss of control.
  • Engine cooling fan blades that break and injure persons working on a vehicle.
  • Faulty windshield wipers.
  • Ignition switch problems.
  • Seats and/or seat backs that fail unexpectedly during normal use.
  • Critical vehicle components that break, fall apart, or separate from the vehicle.
  • Wiring system that results in a fire or other hazard.
  • Car ramps or jacks that may collapse.
  • Air bags that deploy unexpectedly, under conditions in which they should not deploy.
  • Child safety seats that contain defective safety belts, buckles or components.

Why do auto recalls seem to be happening more than ever? Find out in the next post.

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