Vehicle recalls happen often. Defective auto products affect cars, motorcycles, heavy trucks, RVs and other types of vehicles. They may involve auto products such as airbags, tires, seat belts, cab guards and more. It is the manufacturer’s duty to send notices to consumers by mail, email or even by phone. But these notifications can go unnoticed. So, it is important for consumers to be proactive about the safety of their vehicle and check regularly to be sure their car, truck or van isn’t under a recall. The process is surprisingly easy.

First, find your vehicle identification number, or VIN. Each car’s 17-digit VIN is located on the left side of the dashboard, where the dash meet the car windshield. It may also be found inside the driver’s side door, on the vehicle’s registration card and, in some cases, may be printed on the insurance card.

Several VIN research tools area available online, including one from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The tool can identify any safety recall on a vehicle within the past 15 years from major light auto makers, motorcycle manufacturers and some medium/heavy truck manufacturers.

While useful, research tools will not show some things. For instance, it will not show any safety recalls that have been repaired. The tool also will not show manufacturer consumer service or other non-safety recall campaigns. Unlike recalls, these campaigns do not involve a safety issue but a quality control one. And while recalls will always be honored for free, campaigns generally expire within a couple years from the campaign initiation.

The tool also doesn’t identify recalls on international vehicles, such as those purchased outside the United States, or recalls conducted by small vehicle manufacturers, such as those involving ultra-luxury brands. Finally, the tool does not identify recalls more than 15 years old unless a manufacturer offers more coverage.

Users should also be mindful that there may be a delay in inputting newly announced recalls, and check back often as VINs are added continuously to the search tool database. For peace of mind, consumers may wish to sign up for NHTSA email alerts at

When investigating a crash resulting in catastrophic injury or death, especially if the severity of the crash doesn’t seem to equate with the injuries, they often find a defective auto product is to blame. Lawyers investigate these types of claims with an eye toward a third-party liability claim. For more information, contact Rob Register in our Atlanta office or LaBarron Boone in Montgomery.

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