AUSTIN (KXAN) — With a record-breaking year for car recalls, chances are either your car or the one driving next to you has a part under a safety recall that needs to be fixed.
The car research group CarFax says more than 300,000 cars for sale last year in Texas had an unfixed recall, so it has created a free app, myCARFAX, that does the work for you — just by entering the license plate.
Taking the app for a test drive in in the parking lot of the Texas Department of Public Safety Driver’s License Megacenter in Pflugerville, the results surprised a few drivers.
“It is a record-breaking year,” said CarFax spokesman Chris Basso. “The more alarming thing about recalls is how many recalled cars don’t get fixed. Here in Austin, we’re talking about 1 out of every 7 cars that’s on the road with an unfixed recall.”
Anabel Zamora, 20, drives her father’s car and didn’t know it had a couple of recalls on it: one recall on the brake switch, the other dealing with rear bearing.
“You would think that that’s something they would, like, tell you,” said Zamora, surprised to find out about the outstanding recalls.
But the timing of notifications may put a kink in just how fast you get that recall fixed.
“You have to wait for the manufacturer to send you a letter,” said driver Nancy Schmidt, who we caught up with outside the Megacenter. “That’s how I’ve gotten all my other notices, but it’s at their discretion.”
Schmidt has been driving her Saturn SUV since 2009.
“This car has had so many [recalls]. The latest one, I guess, is airbags,” said Schmidt. “Other ones have been like coolant, things like that — which may not be like safety, but you could break down.”
And while Schmidt thought she had all her ducks in a row as far as taking care of her recalls were concerned – the latest being just a month or so ago – a quick check with the myCARFAX app found she had one more recall to fix.
“There is still one outstanding for the front safety belt anchor … which would likely cause the safety belt to not work properly,” said Basso, who passed along the recall information on her 2009 Saturn Outlook after scanning her license plate.
“Oh my gosh,” said Schmidt. “And I haven’t gotten a letter yet, so you have a gap in there that this would fill.”
So let’s say you know about your car’s recall but haven’t taken any action yet, what’s the next step?
“Call your local franchise dealer, tell them you have an unfixed recall on your car, and make an appointment to get it fixed,” said Basso. “In almost every case, it’s going to be free.”
If you decide your recall can wait or ignore it altogether, you may be running a safety hazard.
“Fires, increased risk of crash, airbag deployments — lots of other safety issues that could put you and your passengers, as well as lots of other people on the road, at serious risk,” said Basso.
In just one hour, KXAN and Basso found dozens of cars in that DPS parking lot with open recalls. They did that using the free myCARFAX app.
The app not only alerts drivers to new recalls as they come up – including recalls drivers may have already taken care of but may need to revisit if the recall’s been extended — but also tracks your car maintenance. It gets information from more than 86,000 dealerships and service shops, like Jiffy Lube.
Advantage of using myCARFAX vs. government websites
While government websites are great at amassing general information about the recall — including the details or consequences surrounding a recall — they don’t list out the specific cars involved in the recall.
Because myCARFAX uses your license plate to search for recalls, it is specific to you and your car — rather than every other model like yours on the road. In seconds, you can answer, “Do I have a recall on my car?” and “How does it affect me, personally?”
Basso says using myCARFAX means “it’s free to find and free to fix” a recall, without trekking through an endless maze of general information on the millions of recalls out there.
myCARFAX also provides daily updates for your car automatically.
Still, because myCARFAX uses license plate numbers to research recalls specific to you, that means it is tied to that car’s VIN. Ultimately, those temporary, paper plates will not work using the app until a license plate number is issued that is tied to a VIN.
Reasons to take your car to franchised dealer
- They will fix the recall for free.
- After fixing, the dealer reports that the issue has been fixed to the manufacturer and to myCARFAX app