Everything you need to know about car recalls

23 May, 2013 5:52pm

Should you be worried when a car maker issues a recall notice?

Toyota recalls, Nissan recalls, Honda recalls – it seems recalls are a part of motoring life these days. Here’s our guide to all you need to know about them.

Thousands of new cars have been recalled in the past few months alone, with everyone from Porsche to Peugeot involved. But when a recall notice lands on your doormat, what should you do and should you worry? Why are cars recalled? If a particular model has a manufacturing defect that may cause a safety issue, it will be recalled.

Should I be worried?

No. In the vast majority of recall cases, they’re ‘just in case’ recalls. The chance of your car suffering a catastrophic failure is usually very, very slim. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take a recall seriously, though – you must get the remedial work done on your car. Apart from the safety issue, you might find it difficult to sell your car if it hasn’t had recall work carried out on it.

How are cars recalled?

Recalls are governed by the Vehicle and Operator Service Agency (VOSA) and are only issued when there is a genuine safety concern. When a manufacturer wants to recall a car, it contacts VOSA, which issues a recall number. It then accesses ownership data from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency so that current owners of vehicles involved in the recall can be contacted.

Much as the car makers like to keep in touch with owners, as cars get sold on the manufacturers lose touch with owners – that’s why the DVLA has to be involved.

Some problems with cars can be covered off by manufacturers issuing service bulletins, so dealers can carry out remedial work when a car is in for service work. However, when the problem is safety-related, nothing can be left to chance and a full recall is the only way to ensure all owners are contacted and offered the free fix.

A letter is sent to the registered owner to advise on the recall and the best cause of action. It’s usually sent out within weeks of the recall notice being issued.

What should I do if I think my car has been recalled?

If you hear about a recall that you think might affect your car, contact your local dealer, check the manufacturer website or give them a call. If your car is affected, you’ll receive a letter – normally within a few weeks of the recall notice being issued.

You can check on the VOSA website to see if your car has been subject to a recall notice (or if one you’re thinking of buying has).

Where do I take my car to get recall work done?

You simply have to make an arrangement to take your car to a convenient franchised dealer of the make of the car you own to get the work completed. It has to be a franchised dealer – independent garages can’t carry out recall work.

Do I have to pay for recall work?

Absolutely not – it should be carried out free of charge. If a dealership tries to charge you for any recall work, refuse and contact Trading Standards. Some dealers may well try to get you to undertake other work on your car when it’s in for recall work – they’ll see it as good salesmanship. Be on your guard and only agree and pay for work you are happy to be carried out and that you think your car needs.

Can I get compensation for recall work?

You can always ask, but don’t expect any. A manufacturer is not obliged to compensate you for your inconvenience – that’s just down to dealer goodwill.

Will a recall affect the value of my car?

As long as you have the work done, no. Only cars with outstanding recall work might have their values affected.

What do I do if I’m unhappy with any aspect of the recall process?

Recalls are covered by a code of practice. If you’re unhappy with the process you should complain to VOSA, your local Trading Standards, Motor Codes or you can contact our Watchdog team.

Do dealers and manufacturers mind recalls?

You’d think the car makers would be running scared of recalls, wouldn’t you? Well recalls don’t seem to have harmed Toyota, a company that has had its fair show in recent years. Our annual Driver Power satisfaction survey shows Toyota customers are a happy bunch, in spite of the recalls. That’s because, dealt with well (as Toyota has done) a recall is an opportunity for a manufacturer and dealer to leave customers with a positive impression.

There is another benefit for dealers and manufacturers. As one industry insider told us: “With extended servicing periods we don’t see as much of our customers as we would like. So getting them into the showroom, even if it’s because of a recall, is a great opportunity for us to try and sell them the very latest model.” You have been warned!

Disqus - noscript

Recalls do damage Car manufacturer reputations only when there is a major cover-up for which Japanese companies a particularly prone.

Mitsubishi were thoroughly keel hauled for their massive cover up of dangerous faults in a number of the products.

I would be less inclined to select a Toyota because of their tardy response to multiple faults,

I had a BMW 1 series convertible that kept breaking down and needing new air bags on a monthly basis - I was getting peeved,one day to check the SRS light, another day to have the new baggs fitted , I complained to the dealer principle . When he advised me that they were not required to continually repair my car (under the BMW warranty) and advised me to go to another dealer I was forced to sell the car back to them at a considerable loss to me - I now find a recall for this car, am I in any way due an apology or some sort of compensation?

amazing, I think Japanese manufacturers are a lot better at issuing recalls when necessary.
was it only last month that Nissan issued a recall on 9/10 year old cars airbags

Personal experience. Nearly new DS3; recalled for something to do with earthing strap which seemed rather minor. Garage told me that the majority of owners never responded to recalls! A friend of mine who has an elderly Honda Jazz gets the occasional recall.
It appears that manufacturers have got the message but owners haven't!


Why is it that we only hear about the Japanese, home-produce at the moment: Toyota, Honda and now national press on Nissan?

Why is it that one of the biggest recalls went unnoticed in 2011, 2012 and continues this year?

VW Group cars (VW, Audi, Seat & Skoda) have suffered one of the biggest and certainly the most wide-spread recal in it's history and not a single newspaper column-inch!?

The DSG gearbox has had numerous recalls culminating in no less than, 500,000 cars being recalled in China alone. Other affected countries are too numerous to mention but include USA, Japan, Sweden & Singapore etc, etc. Worldwide cars have had software upgrades to rectify a problem whereupon the gearbox would shift to nuetral for no apparent reason, where in Europe, owners have reported 'Odd noises when shifting gears at low speeds'. Curiously tho, in most of Europe, VW have managed to avoid an 'Official Recall', they have side-stepped the issue by offering a 'software upgrade'. Most likely only to those who have complained.

It does make you wonder exactly who makes the phonecalls to the press announcing another Japanese recall!

Perhaps Toyota GB should give 'The Guardian' an anonymous phonecall detailing these VW issues. I wonder if it would get column inches!

Probably not!

just go into the showroom and ask, it'll cost nothing If work is required so don't worry
PS I would ensure as it's a fairly new car to keep the service history up to date

I completely agree. I feel the press here are keen to stick the knife in when it comes to Japanese car recalls because Honda, Toyota etc are known for reliability and good ownership experience. BMW had a big recall over the same airbag issue that affected the Japanese marks. This failed to make a story though. Interestingly, other makers that are known to use those same airbags such as Ford have so far not recalled their cars. I feel the owners of those affected cars will be waiting a long time!

hah! 2 years ago? i have a 2004 320d i bought in april 2014, I received a recall letter in december 2014 for its airbag. i can't get it in for the recall till at least march because theres a 'manufacturers delay'