By on July 10, 2015

Escape to which mountain?

Another day, another recall. Or, at least, this seems to be the growing trend lately in the automotive industry.

Years ago, I remember recalls being a rarity. My mom owns a Ford Escape that she bought new in 2003, and I distinctly remember her thinking about getting something else because she was worried about all the recalls. It had, at the most, three. This is what used to pass for a high-recall vehicle.

No longer.

In today’s climate, cars are getting recalled all the time. Left and right. Cats and dogs. Every single day there’s a new automotive recall. I just got a recall for my 10-year-old SUV of which I’m the third owner. Nobody is safe.

The funny thing is, the sheer number of recent recalls has sort of desensitized everyone to the recall problem. It used to be when you got a recall notice, you were seriously concerned about safety and worried about your vehicle’s ability to drive down the street without something happening like the vehicle launching you into space because the supplier had unintentionally built 2,400 units with an ejector seat.

But in today’s world, we’ve seen it all. Toyota recalling millions of cars for floor mats and pedal issues. Chevrolet recalling tens of millions of cars for ignition switch problems. Honda recalling every car it has ever manufactured for faulty airbags, including a wide range of cars that didn’t have airbags, because Takata was putting explosive charges in the speedometer.

I think the result is that people just don’t care about recalls anymore.

I noticed this because I’ve started running a lot of Carfax reports over the last few months. I’ve paid for a subscription and I’ve started running reports on a wide range of cars, including vehicles on sale, vehicles I see on the street, vehicles I see on Craigslist. Anything, really. And what I’ve learned: an enormous number of them have open recalls.

What I think happens is people are starting to disregard recall notices more and more because they’re just coming so often. If you have any modern, popular vehicle, you might have four or five recalls currently outstanding, all of which will have parts reach dealers at a different time. That door lock recall? Oh, we’ll have parts in August. The brake spindle bladder? Parts won’t come in until October. But by then, we’ll be out of parts for the door lock recall. Better come in twice.

The interesting thing about this is, the latest climate of recalls has made it so oft-recalled cars are almost entirely unnoticeable. It used to be that if you were thinking about buying a car, and you learned it had been recalled a few times, you wondered if maybe you should consider something else. Somewhere else. Some other brand that isn’t making the kind of death trap that gets recalled a few times.

But now, you see a car that’s been recalled a few times, and you sort of expect it. What hasn’t been recalled, you think. And then you buy it, and you forget all about the recall, because God knows you’re going to get ten more notices in the mail until it’s time to dump it on the next poor sap.

And so I ask: does anyone care about recalls? Do you?

Me, I worry a bit about recalls. When I got my recall notice, I grew a little concerned, because I know this is a safety thing. No, it might not be affecting me right now, but if we’ve moved to the point where they’re doing a recall, it might affect me soon. So I’m a little cautious with these things.

But should I even be worried? Are cars actually made worse than they once were, and that’s why there are so many recalls? Or are automakers just scared of liability issues, so they’re being more cautious?

The public certainly seems to think it’s the second option, based on just how many recalls they aren’t going in for. Me, I’m not so sure. I made sure to ask about my recall the last time my car was at the dealer.

Their response? “Oh, those parts haven’t come in yet.”

Ahh, recalls. Maybe I’ll just forget about it.

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41 Comments on “QOTD: Does Anyone Care About Recalls?...”

  • avatar

    It does seem like today’s recalls are becoming like yesterday’s Check Engine light.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    Three answers:

    1. “What’s a recall?” Seems common.

    2. “Is what’s being recalled dangerous?” Seems even more common.

    3. “It’s leased. What do I care?” Probably way more common than not.

    • 0 avatar

      Having never leased a car, do leasing contracts ever stipulate that the lessee must have recall work performed within a certain period?

      • 0 avatar

        No. I have returned two cars with open recalls. One had a check valve for the fuel filler neck, and I can;t remember what the other one was.

        I personally don’t get why it’s a big deal when buying a used car. If it’s something you’re worried about, as soon as you buy the car, run have the local dealer run the VIN and tell you if the car has any open recalls. I’d be much more worried about things breaking that aren’t covered by a recall. Those things you have to pay for yourself. Recalls are always free.

  • avatar

    Damn kid’s back in the yard. Whatever happened to summer camps?

  • avatar

    Depends on the recall, but I feel like most of them are overblown anyway. Oh ten out of 100,000 cars MIGHT have some problem that COULD possibly maybe kill me?


    I have lived with cars that seemed actually malevolently out to kill me. So there.

  • avatar

    Only had one on the particular model of CX9 I own. Had two service bulletins. I think there should have been probably two more but Mazda has yet to recognize the issues as wide spread. Such as faulty front dif and a poorly made air intake that allows debris to collect in them and flood your floor. My CX9 has been pretty trouble free from those but others have not.After 8 years and 144k miles with only one issue (expensive) it has been like a rock.

  • avatar

    People in general only care if they have a failure that affects them related to the recall. It’s a bit of annoyance to have to bring the car to the dealer, but most customer will wait until it needs maintenance and have the recall done at the same time. Manufacturers err on the side of safety, so recalls are pretty common place today on most makes.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    As an engineer, I take recalls seriously, since I know mfrs hate to issue them.

    The most difficult ones for all parties are the time-based problems such as corrosion or the Takata airbag humidity issue.

    More concerning to me is the used car market. ALWAYS check to see if the warranty work has been performed on your prospective car. Two years ago my son bought a used Sonata from a Hyundai dealer, and they hadn’t addressed 4 outstanding recall campaigns on the vehicle. Since that dealer was so distant, we just took it to the local dealer for the service work.

    • 0 avatar

      “The most difficult ones for all parties are the time-based problems such as corrosion”

      These get me too. Underbody components on 13 year old Windstars corroding and breaking on vehicles in salt belt states?

      You don’t say!

    • 0 avatar

      What kind of used car check did that car have, if any, that open recalls weren’t addressed at the selling dealership? Also seriously calls into question the quality of the dealership as a whole.

      • 0 avatar

        Depending on what it is you simply can’t get parts. For some we keep them (I have 4 Mustangs I won’t sell for airbags), others get deemed less important and the hold gets lifted (I honestly don’t know who makes that call). When you tell a customer that you won’t give them top dollar for their trade because you know it has an open recall and parts are going to be around for months, they think you’re the bad guy. Dealerships are really the ones hurt by recalls as we get stuck holding inventory we have no control over for issues we didn’t cause waiting for parts we aren’t making. All the while we pay for storage, floor-plan, and general age depreciation. Customers who keep their cars think we are holding out on them too.

    • 0 avatar

      They hate to issue them because it costs a ton of money. They’ll usually issue a TSB first and if the feds get involved, they then issue the recall.

  • avatar

    The government in its almighty rush be be the everything to everybody has forced the hands of automakers.

    Auto manufacturing, like everything else, has become the opportunity land for lawyers. NOTHING is safe.
    Anything and everything is considered a risk and is sent out in a recall.

    Your lawyers are telling you…settle. recall. It all ends up being a legal hold-up, a very big opportunity for robbing the businesses of today.

    There are a great many, some very famous, law firms that specialize in finding people to form attacks on companies. The one big one I can think of right now is the one going after toothpaste companies for a ridiculous and safe ingredient in the paste.

    Company lawyers know this and settle .

    The lawyers win. The consumer loses.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve started to imagine a system we could put into place to deal with this over-wrought liability issue. Give mfrs the option to submit products and their instructions to FTC authorized independent agencies like UL or Consumer Reports. Once approved by the agency, any lawsuit for damage resulting from use of the product is absolutely limited to cases where the product can be shown to be out of spec as tested by the agency. Morons who fail to use the product as directed are explicitly prohibited from seeking compensation. We’ll still see warnings like “Do not use this electrical appliance in the shower”, but mfrs can stop settling those cases out of expediency.

  • avatar

    RUSHING PRODUCTS TO MARKET before they are fully tested.

    • 0 avatar

      How do you really test “eventually failing due to corrosion in really damp environments, but even then not consistently”?

      I mean, that’s kind of a toughie.

      (I checked – for fun – my F250; there are three recalls out for my MY.

      One of which is for 400 units of an aftermarket 3″ lift, big deal.

      The other two appear to be the same light switch that has a slider that might fail … in something like 40,000 units out of the entire Ford line that uses that switch, which merely happens to include the SuperDuty as well as Ranger, and only ones at one given plant.

      That does not feel like a “rushed to market” failure; it feels like a “defective manufacturing process that day at the switch factory” failure.

      Those seem far more common, honestly, that “rushing to market”.

      Even the GM ignition switch thing wasn’t “rushed”, so much as “bean-counted”.)

      • 0 avatar

        It irks me that some MBA out there is responsible for dozens of deaths and billions of dollars in damages and liability, because he found a way to probably save a dollar per car.

        • 0 avatar

          (can’t edit on phone…)

          I took 3 classes in Systems Engineering before I decided I didn’t really need my masters, but I learned a lot in that time frame of the importance of SE to prevent a lot of product recalls.

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin Kluttz

      i.e., General Motors.

  • avatar

    Recalls don’t bother me as long as they’re addressed quickly. I’ve had one recall performed on my ’04 Mazda3. No big deal. They just had to check if a sensor housing was cracked and it wasn’t.

    This reminds me that I should be more vigilant in checking recalls for vehicles my friends and family purchase. They’re not spending all that money on the recall for nothing.

  • avatar

    GM is seeing record sales right now so apparently people don’t care about recalls.

  • avatar

    If you’re going to use an ’03 Escape as your example, you should probably use a picture of an ’03 Escape.

  • avatar

    I blame the NHTSA. They changed the rules a while back so that the manufacturers have to notify the customer when they decide to recall the car, rather than when the parts are available. Sometimes it can be months before a recall can be engineered and produced in quantities sufficient for the recall. Meanwhile the customer forgets about the letter he received six months ago.

  • avatar

    Funny someone put up a Ford Escape, when I have owned a mercury Mariner for 5 years now with only 2 or 3 recalls. By the way over 120,000 miles and no major issues. It would have been more appropriate to put a toyota product up in a picture. Aren’t they the most recalled vehicles in thr past 4 years .

  • avatar

    My old man had a recall that I’ll call “great”. His older Toyota pickup (b4 “Tacoma” existed) was recalled because the frame could rust and break. He got a lot more $$$ for that truck than he would have done by selling it.

    One thing for certain, I’ve never read a recall news piece on any car website, unless I own the vehicle. Just not interested.

    • 0 avatar

      No that was infact for the ’95-04 first gen Tacomas with DANA Corp. frames. Buybacks were 150% of the trucks’ book value, in other cases they went ahead and replaced frames.

  • avatar

    QOTD: Does anyone care about the Doug-bot?

    • 0 avatar

      QOTD: Is Doug the robot or are WE the robots?

      Everyone certainly acts the part “Oh look a random question, let me type out a long in depth response that no one will read but I’ll at least look like I know what I’m talking about”.

    • 0 avatar

      Doug-bot need food. Doug-bot survive on not funny jokes. Doug-bot like jalopnik better because readers less informed. Doug-bot asks “Are computers still relevant?”

      What happens on the 29th day? :D

  • avatar

    The latest recalls seem to be over more serious issues than what was addressed when the recall system began. Who remembers the recall that “fixed” the Ford transmissions [that might or might not go into Park] by issuing stickers to the owners to be applied to the dashboard? “WARNING: This car might or might not go into Park so make sure you use the parking brake.”

    I also recall recalls issued over emissions, advising people to bring their cars in so the shop could steal back a little more power and driveability in order to satisfy the EPA. Oh, yeah, where does the line form?

    When a recall to remedy an issue such as a possible shrapnel-spewing airbag comes out of the same system that advises you to have the bottom of your gas pedal lopped off because you might have stacked multiple floor mats, it’s easy to dismiss the system as Chicken Little Central. Especially when there appears that there’s no particular sense of urgency for getting the fix into the customer’s car.

    • 0 avatar

      My favorite recall of all time was from Saab. They recalled all the early 9-5s because the airbag warning sticker on the sunvisor was too easy to peel off (some probably fell off). Needless to say, given I peeled it off roughly 30 seconds after I bought the car, I did NOT have that recall performed.

      Recalls do not bother me at all. If one of my cars is recalled for whatever, I just get it done. The BMW has had one, they replaced the main battery cable from the trunk mounted battery to the glovbox mounted fuse panel. Fun job, I suspect…

  • avatar

    I’ve been waiting for my Acura to get recalled for Takata airbags.

    • 0 avatar

      I had been waiting for notification on the passenger airbag for my 05 WRX, too. Subaru was pretty good about notifying me about a potential rust problem a few years ago so I was surprised to see it’s taking so long to get notification for the airbag. However, since I took the car in for one of those cheap oil change offers, the dealership scheduled me for the recall and should call me when the replacement part comes in.

  • avatar
    Glenn Mercer

    If anyone is interested in some consumer survey data on this, go here:

    Broadly speaking, yes, customers have experienced “recall fatigue” and so any given recall seems to have only modest impact on brand perception. FWIIW.

  • avatar

    My sensitivity to a recall depends on its severity. Do I have a claymore in my steering wheel? Yea it’ll get fixed. Might my radio not store stations properly? Whatever, it can wait.

    I mentioned before that the CPO Kia Koup I got back in 2013, even though having undergone the “vigorous 160-point inspection,” was still sold to me with an open recall on the brake light switch. Which absolutely was defective. I got that fixed promptly.

    But you know what? I’ll take recalls any day over TSB’s. Those are a cop out because no matter how serious the problem is, the owner will have to pay if the car’s out of warranty. And there are some BAD issues out there that somehow are just TSB’s instead of recalls. I see engine failure notices and transmission failure notices that somehow become the owner’s burden, even though it’s obvious there are enough instances to show that the fault is with the manufacturer.

  • avatar

    We had a recall issued on our Sienna regarding the spare tire winch cable. It initially stated some didn’t have the proper coating and would need inspection and a rust sealer applied. We went in and ours was supposed to be one of the “okay’ ones. A few years latter we get a recall saying that all of those cables are going to be replaced. We go to the dealer expecting a fix and all they did was put the tire in the “stow and go” pocket and put a cargo strap on it. Now we are waiting for a new part.
    That sort of thing does desensitize one to recalls. Same with the unintended acceleration thing. I checked the mats in her van and they were good. They had anchor hooks to keep them from sliding. (As an aside – so does my 2010 F150). Her van was not one of the recalled ones. I did review with her what to do IF the gas pedal did get stuck – put the thing in neutral. Living in the land of Bob and Doug McKenzie frozen throttles happen even without manufacturer help.

  • avatar
    El Hombre

    2005 Vibe, get a recall for the ECU. It’s had a 6 year test drive by that point, I figure I got a good one and have a higher chance of getting a turd with the new one. So it’s still running the original one. And the danger of a bad ECU; the engine quits. Just like when you run out of gas, or the fuel pump fails, or one of vital sensors goes tits up.

    That GM ignition switch recall….you probably shouldn’t be driving if you can’t handle a car after the engine dies.

  • avatar

    Not in my case.
    I have been fighting that asinine ignition switch on my 05 ION for 10 years. 4 replacement switches including the most recent “recall” replacement and two PassLock sensors in the console at the parking pawl and the key still gets stuck in the ignition switch.

    Power steering recall: the light has come on twice in 10 years. And since the replacement ignition still keeps the key, there’s a secondary recall to fix that recall.

    Screw it. I’ll just keep diddling the little button underneath the steering wheel and get the key out.

    Saturn and GM’s Saturn Authorized Service Providers have never been able to correct this. Why would I let them mess with my perfectly functional steering system ?

    I might get around to it this summer. Or not.

    Nice to be vindicated about that POS ignition switch, though.

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