Car recalls: what are they and what to do if your car is recalled

Car recalls are in the news regularly, so should you worry if you get a recall notice for your car?...

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Thousands of cars are recalled in the UK each year for all sorts of safety issues, ranging from high CO2 emissions to a potential fire risk. What should you do if your car is recalled and should you be alarmed if you get a recall notice? 

What is a vehicle recall? 

A recall takes place when either a car manufacturer or the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) recognises there is a potential safety issue with a particular component on a vehicle. Many of the most recent, high-volume recalls have been for faulty airbags, but recalls are issued for all sorts of safety-related reasons, from minor technical issues such as faulty windscreen wipers to electrical problems that could result in the car catching fire. 

Recent recalls that have hit the headlines include the Ford Puma airbag fault, Vauxhall Corsa fire recall and the Volvo engine fire recall

What to do if you get a recall notice

When a problem is identified, the car maker will issue a recall notice in the form of a written letter to the registered keepers of all affected vehicles. The letter should explain what work needs to be done and how long it will take. 

If you get a recall notice, you should contact your local main dealer and book an appointment to get the necessary repair work done. 

Should you be worried about your car being recalled? 

There is generally no reason to be concerned if your car is recalled. In fact, it’s usually a sign that the car maker is proactively fixing a potential safety issue before anything goes wrong with your car. 

However, there have been instances, such as the Vauxhall Zafira B dashboard fire recall, where owners are given cause for concern. The recall notice should state whether there is any danger to you when using the car, and on the rare occasions that this is the case, it will tell you not to drive the car until the work has been carried out.  

Vauxhall Zafira B fires - MPs call Vauxhall "reckless" over fires

What if you think your car is affected but you don’t get a recall notice? 

As well as notifying as many owners of affected vehicles as possible by post, car makers will also inform the media about car recalls to increase awareness of the issue. They should include contact information for concerned owners in any reports. 

If you read about a recall and believe your car is affected, but you don’t get a recall notice, you can call the recall hotline set up by the car maker or contact their customer services department to check if your car needs remedial work. They might ask for your car’s vehicle identification number (VIN), which you’ll find on your car’s logbook and on a plate under the car’s bonnet or on the windscreen.  

Do I have to pay for recall work? 

No. Recall repairs are carried out by franchised dealerships on behalf of car makers and the cost of all work should be covered by the car company. You’ll only have to pay for work if the service department discovers another issue with your car while it’s with them, and they should discuss this with you before going ahead with any work. 

Car in a garage

How do I find out if my car needs a recall? 

There are a number of ways to find out if your car has been recalled. Car makers will issue recall notice letters to owners of vehicles involved in a recall. You can also contact the customer services department for your car brand or your local dealer to ask if there are any outstanding recalls for your car. 

And since 2017, any outstanding recalls are shown on the online MOT history of all used cars, so you can check if a car you’re considering buying needs some remedial work at

Is there a time limit on getting recall work done? 

Although it’s advisable to get recall work carried out as soon as possible, there is no time limit on getting it done. So if you buy a secondhand car and subsequently find out that it needs recall work done, you should book it in with a main dealer, even if the recall was issued some years ago.  

Will a recall affect the value of my car? 

Many cars are recalled every week in the UK, so it’s not unusual to buy a car that’s had a recall and it should rarely have any effect on the car’s value. That said, bad publicity about a particular model, such as the Vauxhall Zafira, as a result of accidents or other incidents associated with a recall issue could affect the model’s value.  

However, in most instances, the only way a recall could affect a car’s value is if it has an outstanding recall that hasn’t been carried out. 

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