Saturday, August 11, 2007

Your vehicle may have been recalled -- so find out

I was going to write today about mine safety in Canada versus the United States but Buckdog beat me to it and pretty much said what I wanted to (thanks!) so I want to talk about one thing that seems to have come up of late at work -- a lot.

It's bound to happen but making vehicles isn't a perfect science. Every so often there is a recall (ordered by the government) or a safety campaign (voluntarily ordered by the manufacturer). There are really no secrets about these, notwithstanding what some auto writers claim. They are well publicized. Nor are there any so-called "secret warranties." There are warranty extensions on occasion, but the companies also go out of their way to let the owners or lessees know.

There's a catch, however. By law, the companies only have to notify the first registered owner of a vehicle; or if the owner has changed, the subsequent owner -- but only if he or she has let the company know that such a change has happened. A company's records will show four things -- the date of the recall, when the letter was issued, the date it was performed and the date it was "closed" by the dealer (that is, the dealer lets the company know the work was done and it can registered as such.) Some consumers do call just for that purpose (a good chuck of the e-mail I handle deals with that one question, whether there are recalls) but some are clueless.

There are no time limits on these recalls. They remain open until every vehicle recalled is either worked on and / or declared "branded" (i.e. totalled or scrapped) by the police. Believe it or not, some vehicles ten years or older were recalled just months after leaving the assembly line, the owner sold the car before then and the subsequent owners -- sometimes quite a few of them -- have no clue, until their suspension cracks or catalytic converter blows up, they get the work done by an independent garage, and months after that finally find out there was a recall after all. Reimbursements are considered but they are on a case by case basis.

Much more recently, at least two vehicle lines for some model years have had a warranty extension against corrosion of the rear suspension -- a quite long one -- and our records show the work to replace the one sold with the vehicle hasn't even been performed yet!

So if you buy a new car and later move, let the car company know -- the call centre phone number is in the owner's manual, or find out the number by calling toll free directory assist. If you're selling the car, let the new owner know how to get in touch. And if you're buying a used car -- whether it's from a dealer, any dealer -- take a few minutes to call the car company and let them know you're the new owner and make sure the FIRST question you ask is, "Are there any recalls?" (Of course, you'll need to have the vehicle identification number, or VIN, handy -- not all vehicles produced during a model year have necessarily been recalled.)

Where I work, the company to whom we're contracted requires us to do the search anyway (by the VIN) but some may not. But as a consumer you have the right to know. Heck, why not give them a call anyway? You'll touch base with a human person, and if there is a recall it will be done with genuine manufacturer parts (not aftermarket like what are sold at some places which will not be mentioned) and it'll be done at no charge.

Hopefully, your car or truck will never be recalled or subject to a service campaign. But if there is, it's one of the few things that will increase the resale value down the road.

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