While the number of vehicles recalled but not yet repaired in the United States has dropped in recent years, about 52 million remain on the road.

Problems described in car recall letters are serious—and depending on the safety issue, driving an unrepaired vehicle can be dangerous. Take these steps to ensure your vehicle is recall-free, plus find out what to do if it isn’t:

Check online for your car’s recall history

Visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) online and enter your vehicle identification number (VIN) to see if your car has had any recalls. You can also search recalls on car seats, tires and other vehicle equipment (such as air bags). To get notified of future recalls that impact you, sign up for email alerts.

The NHTSA recall site is also helpful if you’re buying a used car—it’s important to check the car’s recall history to be sure that all the problems have been addressed.

Fix the problem—for free

If you get a car recall notice or discover that you have an unresolved recall, follow any interim safety guidance provided by the manufacturer and contact the dealer immediately. The car manufacturer has three options for correcting the problem: They can repair parts, replace them or give you a refund if you fixed the issue before the car was recalled. The recall should never cost you any money—unless your vehicle is more than 15 years old.

Sometimes, your problem may not be fixed right away. If the repair is part of a major recall and parts are in high demand, for example, the dealership will notify you when the parts are in stock and they can fix your car.

One more thing to keep in mind: To obtain free replacement or repair of a recalled tire, you must bring the tire to the dealer within 180 days of receiving the recall notification letter.

Voice your safety concerns

Usually, manufacturers initiate car recalls. But consumer complaints to NHTSA lead to recalls, too. If you think your car has a defect, file a complaint with the manufacturer and NHTSA. You’ll need your vehicle make, model, year, VIN and a description of the problem.

Do You Need Car Repairs?

AAA Members receive a free vehicle maintenance inspection, 24-month/24,000-mile guarantee on repairs and 10% off labor (up to $50) with AAA Approved Auto Repair.

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