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How to check if your car has a safety recall
  • Posted February 26, 2019

How to check if your car has a safety recall


February 23, 2019

How to check if your car has a safety recall

By Francis Navarro,

Recalls on vehicles happen every time. A manufacturer might find that a certain part on a specific model wears out faster than expected and decides to replace it for everyone. Sometimes, the problem can be something more urgent and dangerous, like the exploding tire recalls of the '90s.

But you have to agree that these are interesting times we live in. Thanks to technology, we just don't take our modern cars to the dealer to sort out the mechanical issues, there are computer bugs to deal with too.

It's no longer just about the mechanical components, such as your engine and transmission -- drivers now have to worry about the software that's running their cars' various components.

Hardware or software, dealers and car makers typically send email or regular mail notices to their customers if there is a safety recall, but records aren’t always up to date and it can be easy to miss a letter sent in the mail.

Fortunately, you can go online and easily find out if your vehicle is subject to a recall. Here’s how:

1. Find your VIN

First, find your vehicle's car's unique 17-digit Vehicle Identification Number, or VIN, for short.

You can find the VIN 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 will also have it printed on an emblem on the driver side door jamb.

If you can't locate your car's VIN, especially if it's older, it may be easiest to check your vehicle title or registration or look in your insurance documents.

2. Use the NHTSA recall checkup tool

Once you have your VIN ready, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) recall lookup page. Enter your 17-character VIN into the provided search field and the results will show the number and type of safety recalls that apply to your specific car. If you don't get any results, then good news, your vehicle is not part of any current recall.

It’s also a good idea to run the VIN when you buy a used car so you know if you will need to deal with any safety issues after you take ownership. The search tool covers the last 15 years of recalls, so be aware that older vehicles may not generate results from long-past recalls. Note: Don't have your car's VIN? Try searching for its year, make and model instead.

Aside from car recalls, you can also use NTHSA's site to check for recalls on other vehicle accessories like car seats, tires and other car-related equipment.

Important: Just because your vehicle isn’t currently subject to a recall doesn’t mean that it wont get one in the future. For that purpose, the NHTSA also offers an email notification system if you want to receive alerts about recalls.

3. Visit

Aside from the NTHSA's site, one of the best online destinations to check for safety information on your car is, a site run by the U.S. Department of Transportation and powered by the NHTSA, too. is filled with car safety information including crash ratings, complaints and defects, tire safety tips, information on safety technologies, car news, and child car-seat guidelines.

Another great resource you can use on is its Vehicle Manufacturer Information Toolkit. This database has printable fact sheets And since it's powered by the NHTSA, also links directly to the NTHSA's VIN lookup tool.

4. Contact your dealer

Now, where do you take your car if it's part of a recall? Recall service work is generally done at your car dealership, so give them a call to schedule an appointment. Having your recall number is handy, but they can look up your recall information through their records, too.

Recalls can be for potentially dangerous issues, so make sure you schedule your car's service as soon as possible. Dealerships typically have shuttle services so 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 serious issue.

And keep in mind that, it doesn't matter if its software or parts, all repair work made on your car due to a recall will be completed for free.