Sometimes safety recalls happen because an automaker finds a problem. Sometimes a recall is ordered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which keeps detailed records of consumer automotive complaints. The recalls might be major safety concerns -- like exploding tires or self-accelerating gas pedals. Others might seem superficial in comparison -- peeling clear coat on your wheels isn't pretty, but it won't lead to your imminent demise.
Major recalls usually make the news. Your car's manufacturer or the dealership will probably try to contact you by mail. You can also look online, or call your dealership -- which is especially useful if you bought a used car because the dealership can run your car's VIN to see if there are any other outstanding recalls on that make and model year. And if you ever have to pay for the dealership to fix a safety issue that isn't already part of a recall, save your paperwork -- if your car is recalled in the future for related issues, you might be eligible for reimbursement. Occasionally, someone else is willing to take responsibility for your car -- don't squander such a rare opportunity.
Author's Note: 10 Serious Mistakes in Car Maintenance
There are so many dumb, dangerous, irresponsible and ridiculous things you can do to a car that it was hard to narrow this list down to just 10. I saw quite a few examples when I traveled a few hundred miles at a time to attend regional and national shows with my car club. Once, a few of the guys made an emergency transmission repair in a hotel parking lot with the car balanced on four jack stands -- the cheap, flimsy ones -- the morning after a long drive followed by an all-night bender, surrounded by people showing off and doing burnouts. Car shows are sometimes a circus of desperate, ill-thought-out or seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time repairs.
So I didn't fill this article with stuff like that. The kind of stuff I don't think I have to tell you not to do, because I can't imagine a situation in which anyone else would ever have to do it.
- AA1Car.com. "Troubleshoot Car Electrical Problem." (April 2, 2013) http://www.aa1car.com/library/tselec.htm
- Allen, Mike. "Changing Your Oil and Filter." Popular Mechanics. March 29, 2006. (March 27, 2013) http://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/how-to/maintenance/1272546
- Allen, Mike. "Torque Wrench 101: How to Get Just the Right Amount of Force." Popular Mechanics. April 25, 2011. (March 27, 2013) http://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/how-to/repair/torque-wrench-101-how-to-get-the-right-amount-of-force-2
- Cars.com. "Vehicle Safety Recalls." (April 2, 2013) http://www.cars.com/go/recalls/index.jsp
- DeMarco, Peter. "Take care when jump-starting your battery, or pay the price." The Boston Globe. Nov. 24, 2011. (March 27, 2013) http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2011/11/24/take_care_when_jump_starting_battery_or_risk_frying_cars_computers/
- Liberty Mutual Insurance. "Jump Start a Car Battery." (March 27, 2013) http://mobile.libertymutual.com/mobile-auto-how-to-list/mobile-jump-start-a-car-battery
- Montoya, Ronald. "How Old -- And Dangerous -- Are Your Tires?" Edmunds. Nov. 18, 2011. (April 2, 2013) http://www.edmunds.com/car-care/how-old-and-dangerous-are-your-tires.html
Think you need to have your oil changed every 3,000 miles? Think again. HowStuffWorks looks at how often your car really needs its oil changed.