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Can You Still Drive a Recalled Vehicle?

Posted in Car Accidents on August 24, 2022

When buying a new car or truck, there’s an expectation that it will be safe and reliable without any problems for a long time. That isn’t always the case, and recalls are more common each year. In 2020 alone, more than 13 million automobiles were recalled worldwide for faults that posed safety issues. In 2022, Ford recalled over 300,000 trucks and is facing other issues with its cars and SUVs. 

Can you still drive a recalled vehicle? Components such as tires, airbags, and latches can malfunction, and entire systems such as the steering or transmission could pose risks. For most drivers, parking their car or truck until it can be repaired isn’t possible. They rely on their vehicles for work, family, and travel but making sure the automobile is safe is the top concern. 

How Recalls Work

When vehicles are designed and tested, the manufacturers intend for them to work without any issues. Quality and safety are every carmaker’s top priority. But consumer demand and a global supply chain mean that not every part is built in-house. When they depend on outside vendors to produce items such as roof panels, computer control chips, and tires, manufacturers risk sending out a defective vehicle. 

Carmakers will sometimes discover a problem after the vehicle is manufactured and issue a recall. In other instances, car dealers will notify the makers of issues such as fluid leaks while cars are on the lot. Defects can also be discovered when consumers begin driving their vehicles regularly or experience accidents. Auto manufacturers will investigate the issue and create a plan for repairing or replacing the faulty parts.

Regardless of how a recall is discovered, the carmaker will send notifications by mail to those who bought a new vehicle from a dealer. In addition, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) allows drivers to check the recall status of any car or truck, even if the owner bought it second hand.

Most Recalls Are Not Dangerous

Car manufacturers are required to issue recalls and repair them as a way of protecting public safety for their products. Since a problem is rarely dangerous enough to require the owner to stop driving the car completely, it’s possible to keep using it for necessary trips until it can be fixed.  This can be helpful since making time to take a vehicle in for repairs can be difficult for many people, especially if there is no authorized dealer nearby. 

This doesn’t mean that recalls aren’t frustrating. In 2022 alone, Ford Motor Company has issued multiple recalls for trucks, cars, and SUVs, and their buyers are unhappy about the time spent getting repairs done. One driver experienced two different recalls on her 2021 vehicle with under 2000 miles of driving. Replacing parts for the engine oil leak and the brake pad issues required a month for each problem. 

Even though most recall issues aren’t a risk, it’s still recommended to take the car or truck in as soon as possible for repairs. Driving a car or truck with a known safety issue unnecessarily puts other people at risk. Automotive insurance policies may raise rates for a driver who doesn’t have the car repaired promptly when there is an active recall for the vehicle.

Take Every Recall Seriously

Recalls are in place to protect drivers, other motorists, and pedestrians who could be injured or killed if a vehicle fails and causes an accident. Some 2021 Ford Broncos experience catastrophic engine failure that causes the engine to suddenly stop while driving. This kind of issue could easily cause a multi-car accident through no fault of the driver. 

Having a vehicle repaired as soon as a recall is issued can avoid injury and loss of life. A recall notice will indicate if the car or truck carries a “do not drive” warning. In some instances, it will state that the automobile should be parked outside to avoid a fire inside a garage. Even without warnings like this on the recall notice, it’s still best to only use the car for essential trips and traveling to the dealership for repair.

Dealerships will work to get the car repaired as soon as parts are available and often provide loaner vehicles to use in the meantime. Having the repairs completed can be difficult to accommodate but ultimately makes the vehicle safe to drive again. 

Consumer Rights During a Recall

When a recall happens, drivers have the right to have their vehicle repaired, replaced, or refunded. Car manufacturers want to reduce their costs during a recall since the number of affected automobiles can run into the thousands, but consumers are still owed a remedy. Most owners can have the work done at a dealership, even when the vehicle is older.

Federal law requires carmakers to provide free repairs for a safety recall on automobiles up to 15 years old, based on the date they were first sold (not model year). Automakers will also usually repair vehicles older than 15 years for safety and to protect their reputation. Not every dealership will comply with this on vintage cars, however, and owners should contact the original manufacturer if they experience any problems with a car dealer.

Liability When a Recalled Vehicle Causes an Accident

The question of who is responsible for an accident involving a recalled vehicle can be very complicated. Depending on the date of the recall and the date of the crash, injured parties may be able to sue the manufacturer for product liability. For example, if a tire pressure monitor is faulty, it may not warn the driver about an underinflated tire. If the tire blows out and causes a collision, victims could have a viable lawsuit if the manufacturer failed to issue a recall quickly enough. 

Until a company issues a recall, it usually bears all the responsibility for any damages its faulty vehicles cause. Once the recall is announced, some of the obligation is on the owner’s shoulders to fix the problem. However, a driver who experiences a crash related to the recall defect within days after the notice was issued may have legal standing for a claim if they were unable to have the vehicle repaired that quickly. Understanding who is at fault and how much liability they bear requires investigation and research by an experienced lawyer.