Owners of cars on an official recall list have several options moving forward: after receiving a letter of acknowledgment from the car manufacturer, consumers may select a replacement car, choose to have the faulty part repaired or accept a refund for the car. Each year, car manufacturers submit recalls for potential vehicle problems to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA. The NHTSA may impose a legally enforceable recall, or manufacturers submit their own recall requests based on feedback from drivers.
Although cars may experience a range of problems, only issues concerning safety prompt recalls. This includes faulty airbags, along with flawed steering systems, accelerator pedals that stick, seats and seat backs that change position, flaws in child seat safety components and more. When a safety issue arises, the NHTSA or car manufacturer may contact owners of those vehicles, alerting them to the error. Manufacturers may offer consumers a replacement vehicle of the same or virtually identical model. They might also refund customers for the price of their cars, or instruct consumers on getting the affected part repaired. If consumers choose the latter, manufacturers direct consumers to participating auto repair shops, where employees perform repairs free of charge.
Sometimes, consumers realize problems with their cars before manufacturers issue recalls. In that case, owners may initiate contact with the NHTSA or car manufacturer through a phone call or by sending a letter detailing the perceived issue and any damage or loss suffered as a consequence.