Fea­ture: how ve­hi­cle re­calls work

WHY RE­CALLS HAP­PEN, HOW COM­MON THEY ARE AND HOW THEY AF­FECT YOU

Car (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - BY: Ni­col Louw Ni­col­l_­car­mag

RE­CALLS tend to make front-page news – par­tic­u­larly when they in­volve cars catch­ing fire – but they are ac­tu­ally more com­mon than most peo­ple re­alise. As an ex­am­ple, over the last five years in the United King­dom (also a right-hand-drive mar­ket), there have been more than 3 000 re­calls af­fect­ing nearly all man­u­fac­tur­ers. And it’s no sur­prise, re­ally; the mod­ern au­to­mo­bile con­sists of thou­sands of sen­sors, com­po­nents and sys­tems, and oc­ca­sion­ally they go wrong. Most of these items are sourced from sup­pli­ers and not man­u­fac­tured by the OEM, mak­ing qual­ity con­trol a ma­jor chal­lenge. That’s still no ex­cuse, of course; the man­u­fac­turer is re­spon­si­ble for all as­pects of the ve­hi­cle and, even if a small per­cent­age of a cer­tain com­po­nent car­ries a de­fect, a re­call must be is­sued be­cause of the po­ten­tial safety risk to oc­cu­pants and by­standers.

WHAT CON­STI­TUTES A RE­CALL?

A re­call is an­nounced when a la­tent de­fect can lead to a safety risk. Usu­ally, this de­fect is found in a group of ve­hi­cles shar­ing the flaw. This level of risk must be at­tended to early and not at set service in­ter­vals, as might be the case with a tech­ni­cal service bul­letin. Gen­er­ally, the fol­low­ing are ex­cluded from re­calls: • Air-con­di­tion­ers and ra­dios. • Or­di­nary wear-and-tear items that have to be in­spected, main­tained and re­placed as part of rou­tine ser­vic­ing. • Non-struc­tural rust. • Paint qual­ity or cos­metic blem­ishes. • Ex­ces­sive oil con­sump­tion.

The fol­low­ing, how­ever, may trig­ger a re­call: • Steer­ing is­sues (or other crit­i­cal fail­ures) re­sult­ing in a loss of ve­hi­cle con­trol. • Prob­lems with fuel-sys­tem com­po­nents that re­sult in leak­age of fuel and which may cause ve­hi­cle fires. • Ac­cel­er­a­tor con­trols that may

break or stick. • Wheels that crack or break, re­sult

ing in loss of ve­hi­cle con­trol. • Wind­shield wipers that fail to

op­er­ate prop­erly. • Seats that fail un­ex­pect­edly dur­ing

normal use. • Wiring-sys­tem prob­lems that re­sult

in a fire or loss of light­ing. • Airbags that de­ploy un­ex­pect­edly or cause se­vere in­jury dur­ing ac­ti­va­tion.

WHO CAN EN­FORCE A RE­CALL?

Be­fore a ve­hi­cle range is sold in South Africa, it needs to pass the Na­tional Reg­u­la­tor for Com­pul­sory Speci­fica- tions (NRCS) ho­molo­ga­tion process, which in­cludes safety crit­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tions. When a man­u­fac­turer be­comes aware of a la­tent de­fect and it was not iden­ti­fied by the NRCS, the for­mer can is­sue a re­call. The Na­tional Con­sumer Com­mis­sion (NCC; it im­ple­ments the Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Act) can is­sue a no­tice to the man­u­fac­turer that it needs to carry out a com­pul­sory re­call if the NCC be­lieves any goods (in­clud­ing ve­hi­cles) are un­safe or pose a po­ten­tial risk to the pub­lic.

WHAT ARE THE LE­GAL TIME­FRAMES OF A RE­CALL?

Re­calls are not bound by the ve­hi­cle’s war­ranty pe­riod and, if it can be proved that the la­tent de­fect was present in the ve­hi­cle when it was sold, a re­call can be ac­tioned many years af­ter the ve­hi­cle was pro­duced.

HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOUR VE­HI­CLE IS AF­FECTED?

Man­u­fac­tur­ers do their best to reach af­fected par­ties, but if you sus­pect a cer­tain re­call ap­plies to your ve­hi­cle and you haven’t been no­ti­fied, it’s best to phone the man­u­fac­turer with the ve­hi­cle VIN num­ber that the OEM can run against its re­call data­base. It is best to have the re­pairs done as soon as pos­si­ble.

The (US) 2004 Honda Ac­cord, shown here af­ter a crash test, is among the cars in­volved in the Takata airbag re­call.

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