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Why you need to check with VOSA for recalls

After the electrics of Kevin Dunnill's 2004 Vauxhall Corsa failed he discovered there had been a recall in 2006 for remedial work to stop this happening. The work had never been carried out and so Kevin was landed with a Β£560 repair bill.

Words ByAlex Newby

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For 14 months, Kevin Dunnill had no issues with the 2004 Vauxhall Corsa he’d bought from his local independent dealer. Then trouble struck one day when he returned to his parked car after work. β€˜I heard the boot lock engaging and disengaging, and the central locking wasn’t working,’ remembers Kevin. β€˜On opening the door, I found the electrics were dead and there was a smell of burning.’

Fortunately for Kevin, a work colleague knew how to disconnect the battery to make the car safe. Kevin then called the AA and had the Corsa taken to a local auto electrical specialist to get it repaired quickly.

Back home, however, Kevin remembered the AA repairman had mentioned recalls. Searching online, Kevin discovered that there had been a safety recall for the 2004 Vauxhall Corsa: moisture getting into the ABS wiring could cause a malfunction, resulting in possible overheating and, in extreme cases, a fire. The recall had been issued in 2006, but a call to Vauxhall Customer Services, quoting the car’s registration number, confirmed that Kevin’s car had never had the recall problem fixed.

When Kevin received the repair bill of Β£560, he asked Vauxhall if they would contribute to the cost, but they refused. β€˜This was due to the fact that the vehicle was not initially taken to a Vauxhall dealership to determine the exact cause of the burning,’ explained Kevin, who now turned to Helpdesk for advice. Given that both the problem with his car and the safety recall involved possible faulty electrics / wiring, Kevin felt that Vauxhall was avoiding any responsibility.

Unfortunately, even if Kevin had had proof that the recall was to blame, the law may still not have been on his side. Once Vauxhall had taken all the necessary procedures to advise owners of 2004 Corsas of the safety recalls as required by regulations in 2006, it was no longer liable. Worryingly, though, nor was anyone else – and the situation remains unchanged.

Instead, while the Government’s Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) strongly recommends that the responsibility for checking outstanding safety recalls should stand with the seller of a used car, current legislation doesn’t make this clear. The onus falls to the buyer of any used car to check for outstanding safety recalls before they buy a car.

Nonetheless, Helpdesk approached the dealer where Kevin bought his car, Maddren Brothers in Billingham. Perhaps they would agree to contribute to Kevin’s costs, given that they sold him a car that later displayed problems similar to the safety recall?

Maddren Brothers explained that checking for recalls was impractical: staff didn’t have the time to do this for every car that went through their books, they told Helpdesk.

Without proof as to the real cause of the damage of his car, and with current legislation allowing cars to continue to circulate in the used car market with unchecked recalls, Kevin has been left out of pocket and angry. β€˜I think there should be changes in the motor industry to ensure every outstanding recall is carried out,’ says Kevin.

What if this happens to you?

  • Check the VOSA Recalls website before you buy any used car. Ask the manufacturer to confirm whether remedial work was undertaken.
  • If you suspect an issue is caused by a recall, contact the manufacturer before you get the car repaired.

We've prepared lots of useful advice, including a full guide on warranties that could help you with either a new or used car.

If you need our help, email us at helpdesk@whatcar.com with a few details and we'll be in touch.