Check For Safety Recalls On Your Vehicle


How do you know whether a safety recall has been issued for your US car/truck/van? You may think the manufacturer will notify you – but that may not happen in a timely fashion, especially if

  • you have moved since purchasing
  • you don’t get your vehicle serviced at a dealer
  • you bought the vehicle used

And even if you are correctly registered in the manufacturer’s database, how long will it take them to actually send you a notice?

Here’s my example of what can happen, and how you can check your own vehicle’s status:


[TL:DR – use this link to look up your vehicle’s VIN for any safety recalls, and specifically request a loaner vehicle if there will be a delay in repair]

I had one recall on my 2007 Subaru Legacy in 2014. The US Subaru office emailed me the official recall notice about the possibility of corroded brake lines, I took the car to my dealer and had it inspected and fixed with a coating.

I get Subaru advertising emails every month from both the national people and my local dealer. So when in mid-December 2015 I heard on the news that the already-massive Takata airbag recall had been extended to my model I expected to receive a similar email. But by early January I had nothing, so I called the dealer to ask.

They told me they were aware of it, but didn’t yet have the parts in stock to do the replacement, so call back in a week or so. I asked whether there was any specific concern about my continuing to drive the car – they said no, it was only really a problem in very high humidity locations like Puerto Rico.

Then I started an email conversation with a New York Times reporter who had tweeted looking for owners having Takata recall repair delays. She told me it was NOT true only certain locations had this problem, was surprised I hadn’t had an official notice yet, and asked whether the dealer had offered me a loaner car to use until the parts arrived. They had not offered, and when she asked if I had considered calling the national office about parts ETA and a loaner I decided to do that.

The Subaru national customer service rep was very pleasant – she had no info on parts availability, but said she would contact my dealer to request that they make a loaner available to me, and would call back to check on my status. The next morning the dealer called and said I could pick up a loaner that evening. I asked (at the reporter’s request) whether it was their policy to offer loaners for recalls – they replied yes, if the owner asked.

So now I’m driving a 2016 Impreza wagon with 1000 miles on it. I have no idea when I will see my Legacy again, as no one can tell me how long the parts back order will take. I’m hoping that by having the loaner out for what could be months the dealer will bump me to the head of the line in order to get their car back!

Oh, and that recall notice? It arrived in the postal mail yesterday, and contained a warning:

Recall warning - Do not drive with passenger in front seat!

Did anyone from the dealer or the national office say “don’t put a passenger in the front seat”? No!

How can you make sure you are not driving a potentially unsafe vehicle? Get the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number), which is listed on your registration (also on a dashboard plate, but that can be hard to read) and use this National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) VIN lookup tool:

And if you find there is a recall and it can’t be immediately fixed, specifically request a loaner car from the dealer, and escalate to the national customer service office if they don’t want to offer you one.

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