Are Recalls On Cars Always Free? (Solved & Explained)

Nobody likes car recalls, for the same reasons nobody likes pills and needles. However, it’s better to get a shot than to stay bedridden.

A car may be recalled because of flaws in its design or structure. Other times, it may involve faulty components or parts likely to get damaged in the future.

Still, we can all agree that a shot would hurt a lot less if it’s free. This article discusses whether all car recalls are free.

Here’s the short answer to whether car recalls are always free:

Car recalls are usually free as required by law. This applies to vehicles that are less than or equal to 15 years of age. This means 15 years from the first time the car hit the road after purchase. If your car meets this condition, recall-related faults on your car should be fixed free.

Do Dealerships Fix Recalls for Free?

All dealerships would fix recalls for free. Whoever charges you to fix a recall is probably not an authorized dealership, instead, an independent auto mechanic. We recommend you visit only allowed dealerships as they’re the only ones able to handle recalls efficiently.

You just have to show up at the dealership. You may only need to provide some type of paperwork, like your car documents and registration. This is to prove your ownership and the age of the car.

After that, everything rests in the hands of the dealership. We expect that they’ll repair or replace the affected parts in a few hours at most. If those options aren’t viable, they may give you a refund for your car.

You should also know that only dealerships can and will fix recalls for free on behalf of the automaker.

Are Car Safety Recalls Also Free?

All recalls are free, including those that relate to safety .

Safety recalls are pretty serious and may cause life-threatening injuries or even loss of life if ignored. They mostly involve brakes, steering wheels, engines, transmissions, and airbags and so on. An example of such recalls is the notorious Takata airbag recall.

You should remember recalls are often issued after drivers have made several complaints. This means similar cars to yours have been affected and more are being affected at the time of the recall.

This implies that you should not postpone your visit to the dealership. Instead, treat recalls that are issued for safety reasons as urgent. We advise not to wait over 24 hours before taking your car to get the recall fixed.

Also, avoid driving the affected vehicle until it’s fixed.

Related: 5 Mercedes Models With The Most Recalls (Check Before Buying!)

Can I Have the Recall Fixed at Any Mechanic for Free?

You cannot. A recall may be fixed at any mechanic, however, they will not do this for free. We recommend taking your car to the authorized dealership in your location only.

A mechanic might be able to fix your car for a sum of money. Still, he/she is also more likely to ruin it than a dealership.

If this happens, the dealership might have reasons to refuse to fix your car. The company may emphasize on the fact that an unauthorized mechanic has tampered with the affected component.

There’s another reason to prefer a dealership to a mechanic. While outside mechanics might opt for repairs, they may require a dealer to replace the part as per the recall. The replacement is done with newly engineered parts, which aren’t likely to develop the same problem in the near future.

What Should I Do If the Dealership Asks Me to Pay for the Recall?

If a dealership asks you to pay for the recall, this is likely for a reason. Perhaps the age of your car makes it ineligible for recall services. This means your car would be treated like any other car being taken to an automobile repair shop.

It could also mean that the problem you have differs from the one being recalled. This might be their way of suggesting that your problem is not because of an error during production.

A dealership might also ask you to pay for a recall if they do not cover the recall in your state. Certain recalls might be peculiar to certain states and may not include yours. For example, weather and other environmental factors might trigger the recall issue earlier in certain regions.

An example is snowy regions, which may cause rust to appear quicker in cars than in tropical ones.

However, you may discover that you’re being cheated at a dealership and your car is actually involved in the recall. Or your car hasn’t passed the age limit for a recall. In that case, contact the manufacturer and make it known to them.

You may decide to file a complaint with the NHTSA as well.

Related: Do Car Recalls Have To Be Done At Dealerships? (Solved)

What Happens If the car Has Issues After the Recall Is Fixed?

On rare occasions, cars develop problems with the recalled component shortly after a dealership fixes them. Such a scenario warrants that the car be taken back to the dealership. They’d have it fixed again.

They would, however, thoroughly inspect your car to know if something else in particular might be wrong with it. Few vehicles might develop issues for a third time.

Sometimes, the problems might be so severe and the procedure so complex. The dealership could probably recommend that the car be sent back to the manufacturer.

If the manufacturer examines the car and the problem is too severe, they could simply buy the car from you. However, the more likely step would be to replace your car with a new one.

Who Issues Recalls? (How Will I Know?)

The automaker usually issues recalls. They do this after discovering that certain parts in their vehicles are defective and may compromise driver safety.

Automakers are often accused of overlooking recurring problems with their vehicles and refusing to issue recalls. This is not surprising, as recalls, although needful, costs them a lot of money, no doubt.

In times like this, if enough complaints surface, the NHTSA will step in and investigate the problem. This investigation helps them determine if the vehicle should be recalled or not.

If the issue is of enough concern decide to recall the vehicle, they’ll compel the automaker to issue a recall. Of course, it is expected of them by law to comply.

When the recall is issued, you’ll get notified by the automaker via mail or phone call. The details of the recall would also be explained.

If you don’t get contacted but feel your vehicle ought to have been included, check the NHTSA website online. They’ll prompt you to input your vehicle identification number.

The “SaferCar” app, launched by the NHTSA, notifies you quickly about recalls. You simply have to download it and input your car details. You’ll be notified whenever there’s a recall on your vehicle.

Related: Do Car Recalls Expire? Here’s What You Should Know!

There’s an Emergency (Can I drive?)

The details of the recall would usually give you a hint on the severity of the problems. Automakers almost never instruct drivers not to drive their cars when there’s an open recall.

However, we’ll advise that you don’t drive if your car is being recalled. Instead, quickly locate the closest dealership for repairs. It is better to take precautions and be safe.

Yet, in emergencies, it is understandable to drive. Just be sure not to make a habit of it and forget to visit a dealership in time.

Final Thoughts

Even though recalls will always be free, you can practice certain habits to get the most out of your car. Ensure that maintenance is always the number 1 priority on your list.

You can check online to see the common problems other drivers frequently complain about. Most times, complaints are available on websites like and This will help you know what components to pay special care to.

Also, service your vehicle as instructed by your manual. Avoid braking too hard and avoid delaying repairs on your vehicle. Handle every component in your car carefully and change your fluids regularly.


Car Recall Guide: Your Questions Answered |

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