Consumer Reports Talks What to Do When There’s No Fix for Your Car’s Recall 

If you’ve ever received a car recall notice in the mail or via email, you know that the news it contains can be unsettling. It’s frustrating to learn that the car you’ve invested your money in has a manufacturer’s defect that needs repair. The good news is that the repair won’t cost you anything other than the inconvenience of taking your car to the dealership. Unfortunately, the bad news is that sometimes a fix isn’t immediately available for your car’s recall. 

What happens when your car is under recall?

There are a few reasons you may receive a car recall, including voluntary recalls when the automaker wants to fix an issue and mandatory recalls involving emissions and safety concerns. Most car recalls require you to call your dealership to set up a time for resolution. If the required parts are available, the appointment occurs a few days later, and you’ll be without your car for only a few hours. But sometimes mandatory recall notices, especially those recalls for safety issues, reach car owners before the automaker can determine a fix.

Car recalls for safety concerns with long waiting periods for a solution

According to Consumer Reports, there are several car safety recalls still awaiting resolution. The first involves over 322,000 Nissan Pathfinders with model years between 2013 and 2016 that may experience failure of the safety hood latch due to an accumulation of dirt around the mechanism. If the hood isn’t shut completely or the primary hood latch fails to keep the hood closed, the faulty secondary safety could allow the hood to open and obstruct the driver’s view while driving. 

Some Kia and Hyundai SUVs ranging from 2016 to 2022 with trailer tow packages risk catching fire due to faulty tow hitch wiring provided or installed by the manufacturer. While there is currently no fix for this issue, the automaker suggests parking the recalled vehicles outside and away from structures. 

Additionally, almost 20,000 Chrysler Pacifica Plug-in Hybrid owners received a similar suggestion and a warning to avoid charging the vehicle’s hybrid battery system and only use the gasoline engine to operate it. It took Chrylser eight months to engineer a resolution.

What should you do when a safety recall resolution isn’t immediately available?

Service technician Frank Russo prepares to work on repairing an accelerator pedal on a recalled 2007 Toyota Avalon at Elmhurst Toyota in Elmhurst, Illinois, U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2010. Toyota Motor Corp., the world's largest carmaker, forecast a return to annual profit and a 51 percent surge in North American sales this quarter amid the company's worst recall crisis.
Car Recall Work Being Done | Tim Boyle/Bloomberg News

Do Dealers Make Money Repairing Recalls?

A car safety recall could reach you months before the automaker determines a cause and develops a solution. Therefore, it’s essential to pay attention to the information provided in the car recall notice and follow any instructions it gives. 

If the recall notice recommends not using your vehicle or alters the way you use it and there isn’t an immediate fix, it’s a good idea to call your area car dealership and voice your concerns. In some cases, car dealerships receive automaker approval to issue loaner cars to customers with unsafe vehicles. 

Call or email the automaker if your conversation with the dealership proves unsatisfactory. You can typically find your automaker’s contact information included on the recall notice itself, in your car’s owner’s manual, or on its website. Consumer Reports says that fewer than 4,000 of the 20,000 affected Pacifica owners under recall contacted the automaker and that Chrysler made accommodations on a “case-by-case basis.”

Can you return a car because of a recall?

If the issue drags on for months without resolution, it’s possible to ask the dealership to buy back your recalled vehicle. Of course, dealerships don’t have to buy back your recalled vehicle, but many will agree to avoid legal issues and preserve your trust in hopes of future business. This period is also an excellent time to file a complaint with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the government agency that oversees safety recalls. 

Legal action, or at least the threat of it, is often necessary. An attorney will walk you through your options and provide guidance on legal avenues such as Lemon Laws and breach of contract if you purchased the vehicle new and still have a manufacturer’s warranty. These laws vary from state to state, so legal advice is a good idea, but be aware that even lawyers with “no up-front fees” could end up costing you money upon the resolution of your case.