Is My Car Safe? The dreadful Recalls – Part II

This is the second and final part of my article about Safety & Recalls. You can find the first part here:

In Part I we provided some figures and stories about the recalls problem, on top of explainingDriving Recalls Attendant_05.20.15 in detail how recall notices originate.

It is evident that recalls are the consequence of errors in design, manufacturing defects, and faulty parts, but is there really a way to fully prevent them? Short answer is probably no. Several factors make us follow this line of thought: the human touch is still present in every facet of creating a car: conception, design, engineering, manufacturing, and testing. As vehicles become more complex, the possibilities of something negative happening, and I mean human error, during any of the facets above increase. Moreover, it is practically impossible to determine how all the parts in a vehicle are going to function after certain period of time – aging – and after facing diverse environmental conditions – exposure to the elements.

If we start with the premise that vehicles will somehow fail during their useful life, then we need to be proactive gathering information about potential risks, granted we are disciplined about maintenance and care. And this is where having access to recall notices in real time could be the difference between life and death.

When I say we need to be proactive, I mean it. There are several documented cases of people being involved in tragic accidents AFTER recall notices where already issued, or at least multiple complaints were on file with the NHTSA. Fatalities that could have been prevented if the information dissemination would have been more effective AND drivers were more preoccupied about being informed.

The NHTSA has a website dedicated to vehicle safety: There you can do a manual search for recalls and find consumer-friendly information about what you need to do in specific cases. However, the searches area usually discrete, meaning that there is no mechanism to remain informed at all at times through some type of notification. In other words, you would have to check the website periodically. A task that is simply elusive.

Now it is evident that we need a reliable and convenient way to access all this recall information on demand. Moreover, the information needs to be accessible and remained updated if new recalls are issued by the NHTSA. Not happy so far, we also must be notified timely that a new notice is out.

Assuming we are well informed: what to do if we find that a recall notice have been issued for the vehicle we are driving? The action plan follows:

  1. Read the recall notice in full and understand what is wrong with your car and whether the scenarios described on the notice are plausible in your case.
  2. If you consider that the problem is serious and that you are at risk, contact your car dealer immediately.
  3. If the problem is minor and your assessment concludes that there is no imminent risk, consult with your car dealer or mechanic the next time you take your vehicle for service.

And now you know what to do.

Before ending this post, I would like to briefly mention the connection between recalls and buying a pre-owned or used vehicle. This could be the subject of a future post but, at least, I would like to recommend that you include two additional tasks in your checklist: finding out about outstanding recall notices and verifying that corrective actions were taken for previous recalls. Do not forget also to have the vehicle thoroughly inspected by a certified mechanic.

Drive safe!

Post by Eduardo Sanchez (Darden ’03). Eduardo is RELEVANT’s CEO and Co-Founder, a developer of mobile solutions for the auto service industry. RELEVANT is powering ATTENDANT, the first mobile application of its kind that gives you access to your vehicle’s safety, service, and knowledge information. Try it at You can contact him directly at

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