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Are Car Recall Notices Bullshit?

Only if valuing your own life is bullshit (so, maybe?)

I get it, you’re already busy as shit and when some letter arrives in the mail saying your car model has had nationwide issues calibrating its blinker fluid and needs to be recalled, you assume it’s some money-grab that you genuinely do not have time for. Fair enough. But as bullshit-y as car recall notices might seem, they are really worth listening to. 

The first thing to know about car recall notices is that while manufacturers do the actual recalling, they’re mandated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), giving you some legal protections. Recalls are initiated by the NHTSA after consumers issue complaints about a car safety problem and the problem is then investigated by the NHTSA. If they deem it worthy of a recall, then you’re entitled to having that issue repaired free of charge from your dealership or manufacturer. Even if you recently had an issue repaired before there was an actual recall for it, you’re likely still entitled to reimbursement for that work

Recalls are only issued if there’s actually some kind of safety risk involved. Of course, the severity of that risk varies — maybe your windshield wipers aren’t as fast as they should be, or maybe your engine could spontaneously explode. Ultimately, though, both of those issues could find a way to kill you, and it’s important to get them fixed, regardless. 

There have actually been cases where drivers have been charged with homicide for accidents ultimately caused by an unreported car defect, only for those chargers to later be cleared when the manufacturer later issued the recall. In other cases, something that might seem inconsequential, like ill-fitting floor mats, have caused dozens of deaths. 

Considering that you might kill yourself or someone else by ignoring a car recall notice, they are decidedly not bullshit. While it’s not guaranteed, many manufacturers and dealerships will pay for a loaner vehicle while the problem is being fixed. The whole ordeal of bringing your car in for recall repairs might be a huge nuisance, but getting into a serious car accident because you ignored the recall notice is arguably much more of a nuisance.