In 2014, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) unveiled its free online search tool for finding information on recalled vehicles. An indispensable application that helps safeguard the interest of vehicle owners, buyers and renters, all you need is the VIN number of the automobile to find if there are any serious manufacturing defects in the car/motorcycle that need to be fixed.
The information in the database of the NHTSA is compiled from the websites of manufacturers who are required to post details on all vehicle recalls on their own internet portals. Hence, the data offered by the NHTSA includes details from all automobile makers that sell their products in the United States and it is updated weekly. So, you get the most recent information along with older vehicle recall facts.
Why should you bother using the vehicle recall information tool?
Although auto manufacturers recall several million vehicles each year, the information on this does not reach all buyers, particularly, renters and used car buyers as well as owners who find it hard to get their hands on such details. This means that if they have a car with a hazardous defect in it, they would continue operating it and endangering lives.
Even if you have just bought a fancy new car, information on a manufacturing or component fault in it may only be available one year down the line. Also, car makers don’t exactly issue a public notice in all the dailies across the country notifying vehicle owners to bring a car of certain make and model in for repairs. In the end, the only person that gets into trouble here is the car owner or renter.
Vehicle recalls are not to be taken lightly!
In 2014, an estimated 43 million vehicles were recalled. Typically, the manufacturers will only be willing to spend their money, and lower their profits in the process, to repair your vehicle if the fault in it is serious enough to jeopardize your life or that of your passengers and others on the road.
Only about 75% of the recalled vehicles are brought in for repair by consumers. So, there is a 25% chance that the car you have been driving is dangerous and you don’t even know about it.
In fact, this is the reason why the NHTSA introduced the free recalled vehicle lookup tool. So, that more people can take advantage of manufacturer recalls and drive around in a safe car.
Still not sure about using the NHTSA tool?
In the last decade, these have been some of the reasons for vehicle recall:
- The Takata airbags fitted in several models of vehicles from different manufacturers were prone to blasting on impact and spraying shrapnel on the driver and front passenger, causing grievous head, face and chest injuries. Four fatalities and over 100 injuries were attributed to this defect.
- Ford’s most recent and major recall was of over 11 million Ford Escape SUVs which had to be repaired for engine fire issues. The faulty fuel lines of the automobile were prone to cracking which would lead to gasoline spill directly onto the engine.
- The Toyota Corolla which is considered to be one of the more dependable family sedans also had a problem with its gas pedal which would get stuck while in full throttle acceleration. The defect caused almost 31 deaths which led to the recall of 9 million vehicles.
- The 1996 Ford Ranger is another such car with a serious problem. The glitch in the ignition system of the car would only become apparent after the car would be parked. The vehicle with its ignition switched off would simply go up in flames. This caused several homes to be burned down and one death.
- Finally, the Lincoln Navigator had an issue with the cruise control device which would cause the engine to overheat, leading to fire. More recently, GM also recalled almost 2.6 million of its older cars which were shipped into the market with bad ignition switches that would impact the working of the airbags in case of crash and would make the vehicle stall. The defect was blamed for as many as 40 fatalities and about 60 injuries.
Unfortunately, rental companies and used car dealerships are under no obligation to undertake repairs before selling their vehicles. This means that the car you are driving right now could pose a serious threat to you and your loved ones.
The VIN can be found and used easily!
The Vehicle Identification Number is a unique 17 digit code assigned to a vehicle. You can find it by looking at the dashboard on the driver’s side. You will also find it on the driver’s side door near the latch. You will need to open the door to see the VIN on the door jamb.
Using the NHTSA tool to find vehicle recall information.
Once you have the VIN, simply go to the NHTSA website at and enter the 17 digit code and fill out a Captcha to get all the information you need. The results of your inquiry will include details on recall repairs that have not been completed and those that have been conducted in the last 15 calendar years. The service covers vehicles from almost all major automobile companies and even motorcycle manufacturers.
If you are a vehicle buyer or a renter, this tool can tip the odds in your favor by putting essential information about the car you are about to handle at your fingertips. Do not expect commercial establishments like car dealerships and rental companies to take these precautionary measures for you. At the end of the day your safety is your responsibility and it takes effort. Of course, with just a simple online search that takes less than a minute, you may be saving yourself and others from grievous harm.