5 terrifying reasons for car recalls

scary car recalls

Getting an automobile recall notice can be highly unnerving, since it calls into question the safety of your vehicle.

If you get a recall notice, you should schedule repairs with an auto dealership right away, says Dan Young, a spokesman for the CARSTAR network of collision repair shops.

"You need to act immediately in case your vehicle has a problem that would put you or any of the occupants in jeopardy," he says.

Michael Barry, spokesman for the nonprofit Insurance Information Institute, says some drivers delay making recall repairs because they don't realize the manufacturer must pay for them.

Does insurance cover the costs of a car recall?

Getting a recall notice won't directly affect the cost of your car insurance, says Karl Newman, president of the nonprofit NW Insurance Council trade group in Seattle. However, insurers may raise your premium if they determine the model you drive is prone to accidents.

If you have comprehensive and collision auto insurance, any claims for damages or accidents that were caused by a defective part that was recalled typically would be paid by your carrier, says Carole Walker, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association.

scary car recalls After paying your claim, your insurer might seek compensation from the auto manufacturer in a process known as subrogation, she explains.

Recalls happen for a wide variety of reasons, but here are five of the most frightening.

1. Doors that fly open.

Having a door suddenly open while you're driving is a terrifying experience. On May 1, Ford Motor Co. expanded a recall for doors that may fly open, which affects Fiestas, Fusions and Lincoln MKZs.

According to a May 1 Associated Press report, Ford has reported only two minor injuries from this defect. The injuries involved faulty doors bouncing back into people as they tried to close them from the outside.

The recall now includes nearly 546,000 cars, according to the Associated Press report.

Automotive News reported on May 1 that since mid-2014, Ford has issued four recalls for door-latch problems, covering more than 1.5 million vehicles.

2. Cars that don't steer properly.

Having a car that doesn't steer properly can put your life in jeopardy. You can lose control of your car and could strike another vehicle or a stationary object.

On March 31, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC (MBUSA) was planning to recall certain model-year 2014-2015 Smart Fortwo coupes and convertibles, and 2014 Fortwo gasoline and electric models.

The recall-affected cars have steering-gear mounting bolts that may break, increasing the risk of a crash.

On May 6, Green Car Reports reported that cars with the malfunction may experience unusual noises, a tilted steering-wheel position, and activation of the stability-control dashboard warning light.

3. Brakes that don't function.

Imagine the terror you'd feel if a stoplight turned red and you weren't able to stop your car before you entered the intersection.  

USA Today reported on May 14 that General Motors (GM) had recalled 140,067 model-year 2014 Chevrolet Malibu midsize sedans because of brakes that may fail to work properly. If this happens, the driver may need to apply additional force to the brakes to stop the car.

GM reported to the NHTSA that affected cars have the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and automatic stop-start systems.

4. Driver's side doors that catch fire.

scary car recalls

Here’s a scary reason for a recall – your car could, out of nowhere, catch on fire.

Toyota announced in October 2012 it was recalling 7.4 million vehicles worldwide, including 2.5 million in the U.S., to repair power-window switches that potentially posed fire risks.

Eight months earlier, the NHTSA had started investigating reports of smoke and fire coming from driver's side doors on some Toyota models, according to a report in The New York Times.

The NHTSA collected reports of 161 fires. Nine involved injuries, but no deaths or crashes were reported. Toyota said it had traced the hazard to a master switch in the driver's door.

5. Air bags that explode.

Millions of drivers recently had the unpleasant experience of learning their cars may have air bags that can explode when they deploy, sending metal parts flying like shrapnel.   

According to a May 19 report in The New York Times, six deaths and more than 100 injuries have been linked to exploding air bags worldwide.

Japanese manufacturer Takata declared air bags in 33.8 million U.S. vehicles defective, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation announced on May 19.  

The recall includes frontal air bags on both the driver's and passenger's side in vehicles manufactured by BMW, Chrysler, Daimler Trucks, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru and Toyota, the NHTSA announced.

To find out if your car is affected, visit the SaferCar.gov website. You'll need your vehicle identification number (VIN). You can find your VIN on your car's dashboard, near the lower driver-side corner of your car's windshield. Your VIN also should be listed on your vehicle registration documents. 

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