It’s a classic good news/bad news kind of situation.
On the plus side, the total number of automotive recalls fell to 30.7 million units last year, which is the fewest models taken back by their makers for safety-related repairs since 2013, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
On the down side, this also means the industry recalled around 74 percent more cars and trucks during 2017 than it delivered to consumers (17.6 million).
Even worse, millions of motorists are putting themselves at risk by continuing to drive cars that have open recall notices. According to the title-search company Carfax, more than 57 million cars and trucks remain on the road with yet-to-be-remedied recalls. That’s one out of every five vehicles in the U.S.
Densely populated states like California, Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania and New York tend to be home to the most vehicles with open recalls according to CarFax data, with southern states like Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, New Mexico, Alabama and Arizona likewise having among the highest percentages of open recall notices.
The biggest chunk is related to the ongoing Takata airbag recall to fix faulty inflators that have been at fault in 15 fatalities and over 200 injuries in the U.S. alone. In even minor collisions these airbags could explode and shoot metal chards or shrapnel at drivers and passengers. Thus far, less than half of those models have yet to be taken in to have the inflators replaced. What’s more, the number of Takata-related recalls is expected to swell to as many as 42 million units through the end of next year.
Whenever a safety-related recall is issued the automaker is required to contact every owner of record for that particular model by mail. However, it can be difficult or downright impossible for a manufacturer to contact second or third owners, which helps explain why older models typically have the highest percentages of uncorrected recalls.
Fortunately, NHTSA maintains a free searchable online database at safercar.gov that allows consumers to determine if cars they currently own — as well as those they’re considering buying in the resale market or are renting (the latter being an issue that’s woefully overlooked) — are at risk because of uncorrected safety-related recalls.
Owners can also register their vehicles with NHTSA and be contacted automatically if a safety issue is discovered via a downloadable app for Apple iOS and Android phones. The app also enables motorists to submit complaints to NHTSA regarding possible safety problems with their vehicles.
Those specifically worried about Takata airbags can alternately log onto AirBagRecall.com to check to see whether their vehicles are part of this massive recall and, especially handy for subsequent owners, the recall status of their cars and trucks. Here, an owner can either search by entering a license plate number or VIN, or by uploading a photo of the plate from their smartphone via a free mobile app.
Whether or not you’ve received an official notice, if you find out that one (or more) of the models in the family’s fleet has been recalled, contact your local dealership immediately to set up a service appointment. Owners shouldn’t be charged for recall-related repairs.
Still, with so many makes and models being recalled, especially those requiring Takata airbag inflators, getting a service appointment to have a specified repair taken care of at a local dealership may take some time.
The best advice is to persevere until the problem, whether major or minor, is resolved.