How are cars recalled? NHTSA sets vehicle standards

Vehicle defects can be deadly, and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration is charged with helping make sure dangerous vehicles get needed repairs.

A 1966 law gives the NHTSA authority to set vehicle standards and recall vehicles.

Recalls are necessary when equipment doesn't meet federal standards or when there is a safety defect.

Safety defects may include steering components that break, fuel system problems that can result in leakage and fires, accelerator controls that may break or stick, wheels that crack or break, engine cooling fan blades that can break
and faulty windshield wiper assemblies.

Since 1966, the NHTSA has recalled more than 390 million cars, trucks, buses, recreational vehicles, motorcycles, and mopeds, 46 million tires, 66 million pieces of motor vehicle equipment, 42 million child safety seats to correct safety defects.

If you think your car may have safety defects, report it to NHTSA. Information people provide to the NHTSA is kept in a database.

These consumer reports help the agency to decide whether a vehicle defect needs to be investigated. People can also submit a petition requesting NHTSA to open an investigation.

An investigator from the Office of Defects Investigation verifies information in the reports.

If an investigation is opened, the investigators launch a preliminary investigation.

If investigators determine that more study is needed, they then start an engineering analysis before sending a recall request letter to the manufacturer.

If you think your vehicle has a safety defect, call 1-888-327-4236 or 1-800-424-9393 toll free or visit

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