It’s hard to believe it, but in this era of the vehicle recall, there are over 57 million U.S. automobiles on our roads that have been recalled for at least one defect, according to this year’s study on the matter by Carfax. The owners of these defective vehicle owners, for whatever reason, have not had them fixed. The repair is free and usually done in a couple of hours. Go figure.
The latest Carfax numbers also tell us that New York, California, Texas, Florida, and Pennsylvania have the most vehicles with open recalls.
The massive recall of airbag inflators made by Takata, for example, is well known. But according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), nearly 60,000 people still drive around with deadly airbags, oblivious to the efforts of automakers and the NHTSA to hook them up with dealerships which are anxious to replace the defective devices. In some areas, dealerships are even calling and knocking on people’s doors – literally – trying to get them to bring their vehicles in.
Why are So Many Cars Still Unrepaired?
Carfax’s data suggests that busy Americans’ work/life balance may be one reason that some vehicle owners don’t know about a recall, or don’t get it promptly fixed. Light trucks and minivans – vehicles often used by businesses and busy families – are most likely to have unfixed recalls.
Another reason is that when older vehicles are targeted for recalls, the repair rate tends to be lower, partly because it can be harder to contact owners. The older the vehicle, the more likely that it has been sold – usually more than once — so mailed recall notices fail to reach the current owner.
This brings to mind another problem when it comes to used cars with unresolved recalls. Federal law prohibits the sale of a new car if it has been recalled. But there are no state or federal laws requiring a dealer to fix a recalled used car before selling it. New York City is the only major municipality in the U.S. which requires used car dealers to even alert buyers to recalls!
A dozen groups – including Consumers Union and the Consumers Federation of America – are now petitioning the FTC to require dealers to at least inform buyers of unrepaired recalled vehicles. It’s unlikely that Capitol Hill will mount any real initiatives to address the used car recall question anytime soon.
Is There an Open Recall on Your Vehicle?
It could be worse, though. Last year, Carfax reported active vehicles with open safety recalls – or one in four vehicles on the road in 2016. This year’s count – 57 million – finds that percentage down to about one in every five vehicles with an open recall. If keeping up with defective GM ignition switches, Toyota’s unintended acceleration issues, Fiat Chrysler’s transmission problems, Jeep’s fires, the Takata airbag mess, and whatever comes down the pike in the future are all too much, here’s a simple solution.
Write down your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). You’ll find it on your dashboard underneath the driver-side windshield. Then go to www.SaferCar.gov, and enter the VIN. You will immediately see what recalls your car has and whether repairs have been completed.
Carfax also offers a free service that notifies you about new recalls when they’re issued. You can have your vehicles continuously monitored for recalls by Carfax for free through the myCarfax.com app. Just enter your license plate or VIN, and you’re in. Cool, huh?