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How Automotive Recalls Work


Starting U.S. Automotive Recalls: Contacting the NHTSA
A 2000 Toyota 4Runner lifts its passenger-side wheels while taking part in a dynamic rollover test conducted by the NHTSA at the Transportation Research Center in East Liberty, Ohio.
A 2000 Toyota 4Runner lifts its passenger-side wheels while taking part in a dynamic rollover test conducted by the NHTSA at the Transportation Research Center in East Liberty, Ohio.
AP Photo/Will Shilling

Some auto manufacturers make the first move when discovering potential faults or hazards in their cars or trucks, willingly starting the recall process on their own. Other companies need a little push from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), or even the courts, to start the recall process. The NHTSA recall process often starts when people discover flaws in vehicles they own or work on. If you find a potential hazard in your car or truck, you can get in touch with the NHTSA and report your safety concerns.

There are three methods you can use to contact the NHTSA if you suspect a safety-related defect in your vehicle. You can take any (or all) of the following actions:

  • Call the U.S. Department of Transportation's Vehicle Safety Hotline: (888) 327-4236 or (800) 424-9153, toll free from anywhere in the United States, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands
  • Report the issue online at the NHTSA's vehicle safety Web site: http://www.safercar.gov/
  • Send a letter via U.S. Mail: U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Office of Defects Investigation (NVS-210) 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE Washington, DC 20590

[source: ODI]

If you file a complaint, there's a chance you may be contacted by an investigator from the Office of Defects Investigation (ODI). The ODI, an office within the NHTSA, conducts defect investigations to support the NHTSA's efforts. But that's not all it does. ODI investigators keep a close watch on manufacturers' recall operations, too.

If enough consumers file a report about the same issue with the same make, model and year of vehicle, the NHTSA may decide to open an investigation. We'll look at what happens during the investigation next.


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