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Stay informed about auto recalls

Wednesday, March 26, 2014, 5:46 PM

Things can go wrong even with even the most well maintained vehicles.

The auto industry has been hit with a wave of recalls recently. The two most recent cases have sparked lawsuits and criminal probes in the United States. That probably has you a little worried about how safe your ride is. In most cases, recalls are for fairly benign things like bad wiper motors or a wonky radio, but more serious faults can pose major safety risks to motorists.

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In order for a part to qualify for a safety recall, Transport Canada states the defect must have originated in the design, manufacturing, or assembly stage. Government agencies monitor collisions to see whether incidents were caused by driver error, poor maintenance, or a fault with the vehicle. If a problem is discovered, the repair process begins.

The automaker will first identify the issue, then notify their dealer system. The dealers then send out letters to all known affected owners to bring their vehicles in for repair. If the defect poses a safety hazard, manufacturers are usually obligated to repair it free of charge.

What many motorists don’t know is that there are limitation to what qualifies for a free fix. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that a vehicle can be no more than ten years old on the date the defect is discovered. If a recall is issued in 2014, the manufacturer is only obligated to fix all models dating back to 2004. Anything older is left up to their discretion. This could leave owners of aging vehicles on the hook for costly repairs.

This is something keep in mind if you own or want to purchase a used vehicle. You need to inform yourself of any recalls for that model, and make sure the repairs have been done before you buy. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources available to consumers to help make informed decisions.

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Both Transport Canada and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offer extensive recall databases pretty much any vehicle sold in North America. You can also grab the NHTSA’s SafeCar app for your iPhone or Android device which automatically notifies you of any safety recalls on your vehicle.

Despite keeping yourself informed, problems can still crop up that both government agencies and manufacturers aren’t aware of. This is why proper maintenance is key to helping protect your safety. If your vehicle is doing something that it shouldn’t, make note of it and discuss it with your mechanic. Suspected safety related defects can be reported to Transport Canada by calling 1-800-333-0510.

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