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What’s the Process for Reporting a Defective Vehicle or Part?

Posted on September 19, 2022

Automakers have a responsibility to ensure the safety of the vehicles they design and produce. Unfortunately, a rush to get new cars on the market can lead to vehicles that contain defective and dangerous parts. Every year, many car accidents, injuries and deaths are attributed to defective vehicles and auto parts. If your vehicle appears to have a defect, follow these steps to report the problem.

What Are Common Defective Auto Parts?

Motor vehicles are complex machines with thousands of moving pieces. If even one of these pieces malfunctions, it puts the vehicle’s occupants in danger. Some of the most common auto parts involved in complaints and recalls are:

  • Acceleration pedals
  • Airbags
  • Brakes
  • Door latch
  • Electrical components
  • Roof structure
  • Seat belts
  • Seatbacks
  • Tires

If you believe that any part of your vehicle is not operating correctly or that the vehicle itself has a dangerous design flaw, discontinue its use immediately. Then, report the defective vehicle or part through the proper channels.

Contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, is the federal organization responsible for overseeing the safety of traffic, highways and motor vehicles in the U.S. The NHTSA has a special branch known as the Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) that is in charge of receiving and investigating complaints regarding defective vehicles and auto parts.

You can reach them online or call the Vehicle Safety Hotline at (888) 327-4236 to file your defective part complaint. You will need information such as the make, model and year of your vehicle. You will also need to provide your vehicle identification number (VIN), the part of the vehicle that is giving you a problem and the circumstances under which the vehicle part failed. You will be asked how often the failure occurs and if it caused any damage or injuries.

Once you report the defect to the ODI, your complaint will be added to the public database (once your identifying information is removed). If the NHTSA receives similar complaints from other people, this will warrant an investigation into the potentially defective part. The agency may then notify the manufacturer of a recall recommendation if it believes the part has a defect. To find out if your vehicle already has recalled parts, enter its VIN into the NHTSA’s recall search tool.

Follow Recall Instructions or Safety Recommendations

If the Office of Defects Investigation determines that there is a safety problem with the vehicle or auto part, it will contact the manufacturer to initiate a recall. A recall means that the item has been pulled from the shelves and the public must be warned that the car contains a defect and may be dangerous.

As the owner of a vehicle involved in a recall, you should receive a letter in the mail regarding the recall or be contacted another way. If not, get the recall information from the NHTSA’s website. Follow the recommended steps to take as described in the recall notice. Depending on the nature of the defect, the recommended remedy may be a free repair or free vehicle replacement. The manufacturing company may also offer to buy back the vehicle.

If the recall states that it is not safe to continue driving your car before getting it fixed, listen. Don’t drive the defective vehicle for your own safety and the safety of others. If you are aware of a defective part or recall and drive the vehicle anyway, you may be held liable for a related car accident.

Consult With an Auto Defect Lawyer in Birmingham

If a defective vehicle or car part caused or contributed to your car accident, you may be eligible for compensation through a product liability claim against the automaker or distribution company. Contact a Birmingham auto defect lawyer to discuss your options for seeking a financial recovery. With assistance from a lawyer, you may be able to hold the manufacturer responsible for your medical bills, property repairs, lost wages and more.