Before You Hit the Road, Check for Recalls

Lonny Haschel

The last two years have been difficult for everyone, but with life returning to some semblance of normal, more people are traveling. It’s time for your summer road trip!

You work through a checklist to make sure you are ready. All the essentials are packed, and then you remember, “I need to check the car.” You look at the tires to be sure they are properly inflated, check the fluid levels, fill the tank and maybe even have a mechanic look the vehicle over.

However, one important safety item often is overlooked: Is your vehicle one of the nearly 53 million in the U.S. with an open safety recall? In Texas, over 22% of all vehicles have a recall. 

A manufacturer or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issues a recall if a vehicle or vehicle equipment creates an unreasonable safety risk or fails to meet minimum safety standards.

Each recall is different. In some cases, the safety concern is moderate, while others are very serious. For example, the Takata airbag recall is the largest recall in U.S. history. Defective Takata airbags were installed in nearly every automaker’s vehicles during a 10-year period. When a faulty airbag deploys in a crash, the airbag’s inflator can break apart, sending shrapnel through the vehicle. The risk of rupture is higher after long-term exposure to high heat and humid climates. It only takes one summer in Texas to understand why the airbag recall should be a top priority for Texans.

The good news is getting a recall repaired is free of charge to the vehicle owner as long as an authorized dealer completes the repair.

First, you’ll need to find out if your vehicle has a safety recall. Check to Protect is a national initiative that reminds drivers of the importance of checking for open safety recalls and getting them repaired. To find out if you have an open recall, visit and enter your license plate number or 17-character vehicle identification number.

Even with the free repair, vehicle owners often express concerns about how a safety recall repair affects them:

  • They are concerned about the value of the vehicle decreasing, but actually, having a safety recall repaired for resale can be a positive upgrade.
  • There also are concerns about the vehicle being outside the warranty period, but with a safety recall it does not need to be under warranty to be repaired free.
  • Another concern is the time it takes for repair. It’s best to call the closest authorized dealer and ask if parts are in stock and when you can come in to get a free recall repair. Don’t hesitate to ask about loaner cars or drop-off services.

More than 53 million vehicles – one in five on the road today – have open safety recalls. Automakers don’t always have the right contact information for owners of older and used vehicles. The best action is to add checking for vehicle safety recalls to your regular vehicle maintenance schedule. Using is quick, easy and can give you peace of mind before heading out on that summer adventure.

– Lonny Haschel is program manager with the National Safety Council