Do you know if your vehicle’s been recalled? Millions of serious defects are unrepaired

There are millions of vehicles on the road under manufacturer recall that have not been repaired. One of the biggest reasons is how manufacturers notify owners about recalls.

“The recalls have to be delivered by law by First-Class Mail. As you know, that is hardly the way most people communicate these days,” said Patrick Olsen of the Centreville, Virginia-based vehicle history company Carfax. “Secondly, I think when people do see it in the mail, people will overlook them or assume its some kind of marketing or extended warranty scam.”

All recalls are serious, but Carfax reported this month there were more than 2.5 million vehicles being driven with unrepaired and extremely serious defects, categorized as “Do Not Drive” and “Park Outside” recalls.

“The Do Not Drive recall means the automaker and the federal government are telling you to park the car. We will bring a tow truck and come and get it, and take it to the dealership to get it fixed, and bring it back to you,” Olsen said. “For the Park Outside recall, the fire risk is so high that, not only do they not want you to park it in your garage, but they don’t want you to park it next to your garage or any other structure if possible.”

Olsen said “Park Outside” vehicle fire warnings sometimes involve electric vehicles, but they are actually more common with gas combustion engine vehicles. Currently, the Chevy Bolt EV has 19 incidents of reported fire, Olsen said, and a current recall includes Hyundai and Kia vehicles that are gas cars.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has tracked more than 3,000 gas engine fires.

Carfax reports there are about 200 separate models from various automakers over multiple model years for which “Do Not Drive” or “Park Outside” safety recalls have been issued.

Carfax already warns the 30 million members of its free Car Care monitoring program when there is an unfixed recall, and is adding email campaigns to more broadly get the word out about them.

The company is also working with the Alliance for Automotive Innovation to get more states involved with the Vehicle Recall Search Service, which is currently used by just a handful of states including Maryland, to alert residents of recalls. Anyone can check recall status for free on the Carfax site with just a Vehicle Identification Number.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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