NHTSA Safety Recalls for Defective Automobiles

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the agency “issues vehicle safety standards and requires manufacturers to recall vehicles and equipments that have safety-related defects.” The NHTSA says that reporting the problem is the first step in the process.

If you are driving a defective or otherwise unsafe vehicle, the NHTSA wants to hear about it. The agency asks that you file a complaint, which will be added to its public database after it removes your personal identifying information.

If the NHTSA receives similar complaints from a number of other citizens about the same vehicle defect, it could be a sign that there is a safety-related defect that would give rise to an official investigation. Do you have a safety problem? If there’s something wrong with the equipment, the tires or seats, or the vehicle, the NHTSA wants you to report it.

NHTSA Investigations of Complaints

When the NHTSA receives complaints from vehicle owners regarding alleged defects, it reviews the complaints and decides whether it should conduct an investigation. If petitions call for a defect investigation, the NHTSA will conduct an analysis. If the NHTSA denies a petition for an investigation, the reasons for the agency’s denial are published in the Federal Register.

In contrast, if the NHTSA decides to open an investigation into possible safety defects, the investigation will be closed once the following occurs:

  • The NHTSA provides the manufacturer with recall recommendations, or
  • The NHTSA fails to identify a safety-related defect.

If the NHTSA decides that a vehicle, car seat, equipment, or tire presents an unreasonable safety hazard or it does not meet the minimum safety standards, it will issue a recall. However, in most cases the manufacturer voluntarily decides to issue a recall before the NHTSA gets involved.

“Manufacturers are required to fix the problem by repairing it, replacing it, offering a refund, or in rare cases repurchasing the vehicle,” says the NHTSA on its website.

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