What are car recalls?

Last updated November 11, 2021

A car recall is when either the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) or car manufacturer finds a potential safety issue with a vehicle or a certain component on the vehicle. Recalls most commonly involve brakes, fuel, airbags, steering, risk of fire or seat belts. If your car is recalled, the severity of the issue will decide the next steps, and these will be communicated by the DVSA or manufacturer.

The car recall will remain open indefinitely, however, it is in both yours and other drivers best interest to get the issue dealt with as quickly as possible to ensure the car is safe to drive.

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What can your car be recalled for?

Your car can be recalled for several reasons, but they are generally due to safety concerns after a car has already begun being sold to motorists. There are different levels of recalls depending on the severity of the problem.

The highest level of recall is “Stop Drive Recall”. This is a situation where any vehicle affected by a manufacturer recall should not be driven under any circumstances. However, this level of recall is extremely uncommon as rigorous safety tests are conducted before the car goes on sale.

The next level is a “Safety Recall”. This is the most common type of recall, where a car would be recalled if the vehicle or a specific component is considered to pose a risk by the DVSA or manufacturer engineers. In the case of a safety recall, you are still able to continue to drive unless advised otherwise whilst waiting for the issue to be fixed.

Do you have to pay for car recall work?

All car recall work will be carried out free of charge by franchised dealerships on behalf of manufacturers. It doesn’t matter how much time has passed since the contact of a recall notice, so ensure you are not asked to pay for any work done because of a recall. You will only be required to pay for any issues with your car the service department may discover whilst working on your car.

How to find out if your car has been recalled

In the first instance, you will be contacted by the DVSA or manufacturer that your car has a recall issue by letter. The letter will inform you of the issue and advise you to contact the dealer you bought your car from or the manufacturer.

If you do not receive a letter, the DVSA and car manufacturers work together to alert the media to ensure all owners affected by the recall are aware of the issue. In all media releases, they will include contact information for you to get in touch with the relevant parties.

An additional way you can check if your car is involved in any safety recalls is via the government website. Since 2017, all recalls were shown on the online MOT history of all used cars. You can find this recall check service here.

Related: How to check if your car has been recalled

Will a safety recall affect the value of my car?

In most instances, a recall is made to proactively resolve any potential safety issues, so it shouldn’t affect the resale value of a car. However, bad publicity about a particular model and accidents occurring due to a recall issue could have a negative impact on the value due to a drop in demand.