What is a vehicle safety recall and how should you deal with it and who will have to pay for it?

DVSA safety recalls occur when an issue with a vehicle is identified that poses a potential risk.

Here’s all you need to know about recalls and to ensure your car hasn’t got an outstanding issue.


Vehicle safety recalls are common in the UK

What are the reasons for a vehicle safety recall?

Safety recalls can range from small technical issues such as faulty windscreen wiper blades or headlights to major safety issues with airbags and brakes.

The code of practice, overseen by the DVSA, says that a safety defect is a failure due to design and/or construction, common to a number of vehicles, which has the potential to affect safe operation and pose a significant risk to the driver, passengers or others.

These defects often can’t be identified by routine maintenance or obvious changes to the car’s normal performance or handling.

How will I know if my vehicle is being recalled?

The DVSA oversees vehicle safety recalls and will work closely with manufacturers issuing a recall.

The manufacturer will issue a national recall for all models affected by a safety defect and will contact the owners using details from the DVSA and DVLA. So if your car does require a recall, you should get a letter or be contacted by phone or email.

You’ll be told what the issue is and how the manufacturer plans to fix it, where to take the vehicle for any checks or work that may need to be carried out.

Do I have reason to be worried about a vehicle safety recall?

Although some recalls can be due to serious safety defects that have the potential to be dangerous, in most cases a recall is in anticipation of a problem that may arise – so the risk is usually very low. In some rare cases where there is a risk of danger, the manufacturer may ask you to not drive the vehicle until it has been checked or fixed, however this is an unlikely scenario.

What do I need to do?

In all cases of a safety recall, the vehicle will need to be checked by the manufacturer, usually at a local dealership.  

You’ll need to make an appointment with your local dealer, who will let you know how long the work is expected to take – which depends on the nature of the safety recall. If it’s estimated to be a long time, you should be offered a courtesy car until the work is completed.  

How much will I have to pay? 

Nothing. Vehicle safety recalls for fixed or checks are carried out free of charge.  

What if the manufacturer does not get in contact?  

If your contact details aren’t up to date the manufacturer may be unable to get in touch with you. However, you can check vehicle safety recalls that may affect your car on the DVSA website.

How do I check if my vehicle is subject to a safety recall?

You can also use the DVSA website here to check for all recalls.

How long do I have to get the work done on a recalled vehicle?

If you discover that your vehicle needs safety recall work, it’s advised that you get it fixed as soon as possible.

What about if my car is secondhand and the original owner didn’t get the ‘fault’ fixed? Will I be left with a bill?

If you purchase a secondhand car, or realise that your vehicle was meant to be recalled several years ago, the manufacturer is still obliged to fix the issue, free of charge – it does not matter how old the vehicle is or when the recall was issued.

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