Over the past few years, even the most reliable and safe car companies have issued recalls for millions of vehicles. NHTSA counts 34 million recalls in 2021 alone! And chances are, some of you may be affected. Now that EVs are becoming common, NHTSA has even added more urgent notices to its site to address a series of battery-related fires in 2021. If you suspect your car — whether EV or ICE — is under an open recall, please don’t panic. There’s an app for that.
OK. That stupid phrase dates back to 2009 but is still relevant today; at the time we last wrote about recalls, that was mostly in the context of mail recall notices.
In 2022 you don’t have to rely on physical mail like some 20th century yutz because NHTSA developed the SaferCar app — now in its second year.
NHTSA announced the SaferCar app in August of 2020 and builds off what the agency had put in place years ago: the easy-to-use VIN tool that drivers can use for free. It works similarly like the tool on the NHTSA website, where you type in your VIN and get immediate results detailing any pending notices or safety recalls.
The app makes it even easier to check than the website, with a dedicated interface where, again, you punch in your VIN. Or you can also use the SaferCar app feature that turns your phone camera into a scanner. All you do then, is scan your car’s VIN barcode and you’re off to the recall races. Or hopefully not.
I spent way too much time scanning the obvious VIN (you know, the one behind the windshield?) before I realized it’s the barcode on the door jamb that must be scanned! Just make sure you open the driver’s door first, then scan away.
All of our previous advice applies. Don’t panic! Bring your car to your nearest dealer. You may have to schedule a service visit at a dealership, which sucks, but recalls are for your safety. These recalls can be a little mundane, but it’s best to act in a timely fashion. And remember that any service mandated by the recall is free! You don’t have to pay a dime, unless for any reason the recall period has expired.
Sure, the trip to the dealer means someone might pester you about a trade-in, but let them know you’re there because the company has to fix their own snafu, so thanks, but no thanks.
Since mail notices are still in use, you’ll get a letter delivered at some point if your car is indeed under an active recall. But if you want to be ahead of the curve, I recommend downloading the app and inputting your car’s info.
There are two caveats. The first is the concern about your privacy. Only you can judge whether it’s worth inputting your data into the SaferCar app. The second is that the app will refresh in the background and keep up to date only if left open on your smartphone.
If you swipe the app away or kill it in the background, this might delay any recall notifications. Developers with NHTSA say you can get around that by opening the app every once in a while and letting run. If leaving the app open in the background doesn’t sit well with you, however, you can always sign up for email alerts through NHTSA.
Between the SaferCar app, the website, automated e-mail alerts and even snail mail, drivers can stay up to date on potential issues without too much effort.