Tips for dealing with vehicle recalls

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General Motors has recalled millions of small cars, including the 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt, for faulty ignition switches. The ignition switch can slip out of the “run” position and into the “accessory” or “off” position. (AP Photo/Molly Riley, File)
General Motors has recalled millions of small cars, including the 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt, for faulty ignition switches. The ignition switch can slip out of the “run” position and into the “accessory” or “off” position. (AP Photo/Molly Riley, File)

Every car owner has spent time and money at a local mechanic for minor to serious maintenance issues. However, the repairs could be the fault of the vehicle’s manufacturer, as well as its responsibility to fix.

In the event of a vehicle recall, service repairs are made at no cost to the vehicle’s owner.

“I like to remind people to check for car recalls on any mechanical issues we might be repairing,” said Josh Cazier, a manager at Draper’s Jiffy Lube. “Even if there isn’t an active recall, people can send in a complaint to the automaker and ask for an investigation.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) official website, when a variety of related safety complaints about a specific vehicle and repair are received, investigators will begin the process of administering a potential recall.

“Recalls are more common than people generally assume,“ Cazier said. “You can find out if your vehicle is under any type of recall by having a technician run the vehicle’s VIN number.”

A recent recall, announced in June, involves GM’s faulty ignition switches. These recalls are on mainly older mid-size cars and bring GM’s total recalls in North America to 29 million this year, surpassing the 22 million recalled by all automakers last year.

GM links 13 deaths to defective ignition switches in cars such as the Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion. But trial lawyers and lawmakers say hundreds of others could file claims of wrongful death and injury.

“GM has basically said whatever it costs to pay any eligible claims under the protocol, they will pay it. There is no ceiling,” said Kenneth Feinberg, one of the country’s top compensation experts, at a news conference in Washington.

Yet, it is expected that less than 40 percent of those vehicle owners will follow the necessary steps to address and repair the problem through their manufacturer, according to statisticbrain.com, costing many drivers hundreds, potentially thousands, of dollars.

“I didn’t realize that the repair I was paying for on my car was under recall,” said Lane Schroeder, a Sandy resident whose 2008 Nissan Altima was recalled for its faulty ignition switch. “But when I found out there was already a recall, I didn’t receive any reimbursement from Nissan because I used my own mechanic.”

General Motors’ safety crisis worsened on Monday, June 30, 2014, when the automaker added 8.2 million vehicles to its huge list of cars recalled over faulty ignition switches. The latest recalls cover seven vehicles, including the Chevrolet Malibu from 1997 to 2005 and the Pontiac Grand Prix from 2004 to 2008. The recalls also cover a newer model, the 2003-2014 Cadillac CTS. GM said the recalls are for “unintended ignition key rotation.” (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)
General Motors’ safety crisis worsened on Monday, June 30, 2014, when the automaker added 8.2 million vehicles to its huge list of cars recalled over faulty ignition switches. The latest recalls cover seven vehicles, including the Chevrolet Malibu from 1997 to 2005 and the Pontiac Grand Prix from 2004 to 2008. The recalls also cover a newer model, the 2003-2014 Cadillac CTS. GM said the recalls are for “unintended ignition key rotation.” (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

When a manufacturer issues a recall, vehicle owners must use designated service stations to repair the problem. Otherwise, they will be responsible for the cost of the repair.

“They don’t make it very convenient,” Schroeder said.

If a repair was made before a recall was officially issued, the vehicle owner may file for reimbursement through the vehicle’s automaker, according to the NHTSA.

Operating a vehicle that hasn’t received the necessary repairs made available by a vehicle recall can lead to higher maintenance costs, safety risks and increased insurance rates.

“Car insurance rates can be affected if a vehicle involved in an accident isn’t fully functioning properly and the issue was made aware to its owner,” said Aaron Cox, a personal insurance agent at Farmer’s Insurance. “Ultimately, responsibility will lie with the owner of the vehicle.”

Whether drivers need a repair or are purchasing a vehicle, they should remember to ask their technician if the vehicle or any parts are under recall.

“With just a little investigation you can save yourself a lot of money and time,” Cox said.

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