Cool Tools for Auto Recalls
Ever been “punked” by bogus auto recalls? Or maybe you’ve thrown away a real safety recall for your car, because it was too hard to distinguish from the rest of the junk mail that arrived in your box. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is making it easier to get the message out to the drivers that need it.
By Kimberly Phipps
Auto Recalls – it’s all about branding
No matter which make or model of car you drive—old or new, cheap or pricey, domestic or imported—you should always be on the lookout for the auto recalls issued by the NHTSA. In spite of rigorous testing by auto makers and government agencies alike, sometimes there’s a glitch in a car’s design that isn’t going to manifest until a few million of those cars are on the road in the hands of drivers in various conditions. It’s kind of like a software bug. Auto recalls don’t mean the car is cursed, but there may be a seatbelt buckle catch or a flaw in the tires that does need to be replaced before it causes an accident. One problem, though—you’ve got to get the notice before you can take action on it.
“Recalls only work if consumers are aware of them,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.
So the NHTSA has come up with two new solutions to get important information where it needs to go. The first has to do with good old-fashioned snail mail, the way auto recalls are sent out to car owners. The agency has developed a special label, seen here, that is only to be used on safety recall notices sent directly from the government. How will this help? One hinderance that has caused people to miss out on these important auto recall notices is the heaps of junk mail we all receive. Turns out, it was easy to toss out a safety recall notice along with the carpet cleaning coupons and the grocery store circulars. This blue label is the NHTSA’s way of saying, “Hey! Pay attention! This is important!”
Car safety—there’s an app for that
The other function of the label is to help protect consumers from misleading sales and marketing materials. These often mimic, in their wording and presentation, legit auto recalls from manufacturers, and can trick owners into buying costly products and services that have no connection to an actual safety recall.
So that’s all good for mail, but hey, isn’t this 2014? If you check your cell phone about 100 times more frequently than you do your mailbox, the NHTSA has you covered as well. There’s also a new app for Android devices, SaferCar, that will provide users free access to key safety information, including auto recalls and safety performance. This Android app joins the iOS version of SaferCar for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch which was released last year.
Here’s what the app allows you to do:
—Register Your Cars, Tires and Car Seats: Why is this important? Your car manufacturer has to let you know if there’s a safety recall for your car, but there is no way to locate or notify individual owners of car seats or tires if the product is not registered with the manufacturer or NHTSA. If you register, you can receive email notifications when the manufacturer files the recall with the federal government.
—Get Alerts Sent Directly to Your Phone: You can get information on auto recalls sent directly to your phone. It provides information on crash test ratings and child seat installation locations—great info to have at hand when you’re shopping for a new car or installing a new car seat.
—Check for Open Recalls on Used Cars: When you’re considering buying a used car, it’s important to verify with the previous owner or dealer whether or not a used car has been fixed. NHTSA’s premier website, www.safercar.gov provides a general search tool to help consumers identify recalls that may affect their vehicle. Later this year, VIN look-up will be available on the site when a new NHTSA mandate goes into effect making it easier for consumers to access this information.
-Report problems: How do manufacturers become alerted to these problems in the first place? By drivers like you. This app allows you to report issues with your car. If enough drivers report the same safety issue with a car, a recall can be issues. This is safety by crowd-sourcing.