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Is Your Car Defective?

The recent rash of automobile recalls has likely caused more drivers to think about the workings and safety of their own vehicles. Motorists who have experienced motor vehicle accidents or problems with their cars and think a defect may be to blame should be aware of some important steps they can take.

  1. Check for current recalls: Consumers can review recalls underway at
  2. Contact your vehicle’s manufacturer: Notify them of the suspected problem.
  3. Contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA): Make a report to the agency about the problem. They can be reached online or by the auto safety hotline at 1-888-327-4236. Technical experts at the NHTSA review every report and the agency uses these reports to identify trends in defects.

The NHTSA has the power to set auto safety standards and force the recall of vehicles that don’t meet those standards or have defects related to safety. Since 1966 when the agency was formed, over 390 million motorized vehicles have been recalled. Manufacturers often voluntarily initiate a recall, but the NHTSA also has the authority to order investigations and recalls.

Concerned motorists who want to know if others have had similar car problems can search the government recall website by vehicle type, model and year. Every complaint the NHTSA receives is searchable, so consumers can compare their car problems with any complaints others have lodged.

Ideally car manufacturers and not consumers should be the ones to discover any safety defect. If auto makers do detect safety problems with a vehicle the law requires them to notify the NHTSA in five business days and conduct a timely safety recall. The NHTSA continues to monitor recalls for over a year.