How to check if your car needs manufacturer recall repairs

Recall repairs

Vehicle makers’ franchised dealers will carry out recall repairs free of charge (Picture © Mercedes)

A new service has been launched for drivers to check if their car needs to go in for manufacturer recall repairs. This work is called for when specific parts or systems prove faulty on a large number of similar cars. Recently, Vauxhall had to issue a second recall for its Zafira family car’s electrical components causing fires after the first fix proved ineffective. And in 2009, Toyota had to recall around nine million cars world wide, including 180,000 in Britain, because of a problem with unintended acceleration.

To enable drivers to check if their car has been subject to a recall, data company HPI has unveiled a new service to enable drivers to have someone carry out a recall check on their behalf. You simply enter the vehicle registration and HPI does the detective work for you, for £2.99. But it will only save you about 10 minutes and there are cheaper alternatives.

How to check for free if a car has been recalled

Recall repairs

The DVSA site lets drivers check whether their car was subject to a recall

Head to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency’s (DVSA) vehicle recall website. This free resource lets you search for a specific make and model of car. Unfortunately it doesn’t feature a search tool using the car’s registration number.

This means that you will need to know the date of when your car was manufactured, which will be printed in the vehicle logbook. If you can’t find the information, contact the vehicle manufacturer or a franchised dealer. They will be able to confirm when the car was made. You’ll also need to know the Vehicle Identification Number. This is in the car’s logbook and on your V5C registration document.

You can then browse any recalls issued for your make and model of car and check whether or not the build date and VIN of your car are affected. If it is not involved, you needn’t take any further action. If it was recalled, then check with the vehicle manufacturer or one of its franchised dealers that all repairs were correctly carried out.

Another source to use is Motor Codes, which allows drivers to search using the VIN identification code of their car. However, not all car makers participate in this service, so it is not as robust as the DVSA portal.

How are cars recalled?

Responsibility for contacting the hundreds, or in some cases hundreds of thousands of owners of cars that are being recalled for safety repairs lies with the DVSA.

It will be contacted by the car maker, which explains the problem and the impact it could have on the safety of drivers, the vehicles affected and how it proposes to fix the fault. Assuming that the DVSA is satisfied with the suggested repair, it will then assign a recall number to the case.

The DVSA then provides the car maker with access to Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) records. These give up to date ownership details for Britain’s millions of cars, helping the car maker trace and contact drivers who will need to return their car for repair work.

Why check if a used car has been repaired after a recall?

Recall repairs

Safety recalls for cars can relate to both mechanical and electronic components

Approximately 90 per cent of UK vehicles are repaired following a recall campaign – an impressive statistic compared with other countries. However, the used car you might have just bought could have slipped through the net and fallen into that remaining 10 per cent, in which case it could be dangerous to drive.

This typically happens when the car was held as stock by a motor trader at the time of the car maker writing to owners. Alternatively, the car could have been sold to a new owner, and the previous owner may fail to forward the recall notice.

Will I have to pay for recall repairs?

Some good news: when a car maker recalls a car for repair work, it performs the repair for free.

Where will my car be fixed?

Because the recall is conducted by the vehicle manufacturer, your car will have to be fixed by one of the manufacturer’s franchised dealerships. It won’t be possible to take it to your local garage.

Quiz: Can you identify these car dashboard warning lights?

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