Ignore car recall notices at your own peril

What to do if your car is recalled

Putting off taking your car in for a recall fix?

Whether it's a life-threatening problem like the Takata air-bag issue, or something less dangerous, experts say never ignore a notice if it comes to your door.

"Open it, read it and understand what the recall is. Use your common sense a little bit, and if you read the letter you'll be able to understand the level of risk involved," said Carroll Lachnit, consumer advice editor for car shopping network Edmunds.com.

Unlike many forms of communication these days, recall notices only get delivered via old-fashioned U.S. Mail, which is why you should make sure your correct address is registered with the manufacturer.

It's especially important for used-car owners to double check their address after they purchase their vehicle.

"If you bought from a private party there's a good chance you're not going to get a notice," said Lachnit. "The seller has no obligation to let the manufacturer know they've sold the car."

Used-car shoppers should also check the vehicle's history before or as soon as they buy the car to see if there are any open recalls.

That can be can be done in matter of minutes by going to safercar.gov and typing in the vehicle identification number or VIN, which you can find on the bottom corner of the windshield on the driver's side or on your registration and insurance documents.

"It will indicate whether parts are available or if particular vehicle has been fixed or not," said Lachnit.

Use your common sense a little bit, and if you read the letter you'll be able to understand the level of risk involved.
Carroll Lachnit
consumer advice editor, Edmunds.com

While some owners may try to avoid going to a dealer for car repairs, this is a case where you absolutely should. Manufacturers will never charge you for a recall repair, so this should be a free trip to the dealer. If they try to sell you on another fix or service, just say 'thanks but no thanks,' and walk away.

If you're stuck on a long waiting list for a replacement part, the dealership may also be able to help by providing you a loaner car until yours can be fixed, which is being done for some owners subject to the Takata air bag recall, which affected 22 manufacturers.

"Honda and Acura are really taking the lead on this, and will provide a car to anybody that asks for it," said Lachnit.

Being diligent about addressing any problems should keep your car running smoothly.