CALL 6: One in four vehicles in Indiana has an unfixed recall, is your family at risk?

Defects could be dangerous if left unfixed
Posted at 6:38 PM, May 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-18 23:46:27-04

INDIANAPOLIS -- There's a one-in-four chance that the vehicle you're driving has a recall on it - and you might not even know it. 

More than 600,000 vehicles on the road in Indianapolis have unfixed recalls on them, according to an analysis from vehicle history website Carfax. That's up from 472,000 in 2016.

Experts say a lot of defects go unnoticed and unfixed, potentially putting you and your family in harms’ way.

“It’s a significant issue for Indiana as well as the rest of the US,” said Dave Sargent, Vice President of Global Automotive for J.D. Power.  “There could be a safety issue as it relates to the brakes, or the engine, or the seatbelts, or the air bags. That can be a significant safety concern for the consumer.”

Call 6 Investigates Kara Kenney went to a busy shopping center to look for vehicles with recalls that hadn't been fixed and was shocked with what she found.

Using the free "MyCarfax" app, Kenney plugged in license plates and found several vehicles with unfixed recalls and potentially dangerous defects.

Including Dana Bernard’s 2007 Honda CRV, which has two open recalls for Takata airbag inflator problems.

“I’ll check into that,” Spencer told Call 6 Investigates. “Thank you.”

Experts say many people don't even know their care has a recall because it’s easy to skip over an email or a postcard in the mail.

“I don’t remember getting anything, but you know, things happen to little pieces of paper,” said Andrea Romine.

Romine’s Dodge Charger had a recall involving the airbag inflator.

Call 6 Investigates also found vehicle owners aware of the recalls, who say they just haven't had the time to get them fixed. 

Sherry Spencer said she knew about the open recall on her Honda CRV involving a problem with her shift lever.

“Honestly, I think I did,” said Spencer. “I probably just didn’t have time to go back and get it done.”

One busy mom said she hadn’t had a chance to get her Honda Odyssey fixed, even though the recall involves the 2nd-row seats potentially unlocking and causing injury.

Many people put off getting their vehicles fixed when they get a recall notice because they think it will take a long time once they take it to the dealership.

Workers at Ed Martin Automotive say that's a common misconception, and for many fixes, it couldn't be farther from the truth. 

Technician Bob Hayes said he fixes standard door panel recalls in under five minutes.

“And then you put the screws back in,” said Hayes. “It’s as simple as that.”

Another misconception is getting your recall fixed will cost you money, but manufacturers have to cover the cost of the fix. 

"It costs you nothing to do that," said Ed Martin General Manager Todd Reiselman. “Usually, they’re pretty quick.”

Ed Martin said he fixes about 50 recalls each day. 

The problem comes when consumers get a recall notice, but the fix is not yet available.

To avoid that hassle, Reiselman recommends calling your dealer before bringing the car in.

"We can look up their VIN and tell them, 'yeah let's schedule it because we can fix it,' or 'it's just a notice it's not available yet,' so they're not wasting their time," said Reiselman.

When Call 6 Investigates asked Michael Soots about his open airbag recall, he knew about it but said he’s waiting on the parts for the fix.

“They’re working on getting the airbags,” said Soots. “Ford actually takes good care of us.  I really do like going to our dealership.”

According to J.D. Power, an estimated 750 recalls are announced every year, impacting 120 million vehicles over the past three years.

Approximately 58% have been fixed, and 42% have not been remedied, according to J.D. Power.

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“Even if contact is made, some of these recalls may not seem particularly important in the eyes of the customer,” said Sargent. “Sometimes they worry the dealer will try to find other problems with the vehicle and it will end up costing them money.”

Sargent said they're seeing more recalls than ever for a reason.

“This is not because vehicles are getting worse in terms of reliability, but manufacturers are getting more cautious in terms of announcing recalls,” said Sargent. “They may recall something now they may not have previously.”

The bottom line: Not every recall is life threatening, but many involve potentially danger defects that need to be addressed. 

“Getting your car fixed is not as painful as you might think,” said Sargent.

Call 6 Investigates handed out cards to consumers with cars we found had open recalls in the hopes of helping drivers hit the road safely.

Does Your Car Have a Recall?

  • Go to the federal government’s website and put in your VIN (or call 1-888-327-4236)
  • Go to the MyCarfax app and put in your license plate number
  • Go to sites like Autocheck and put in your VIN-If a recall pops up, call your dealer or manufacturer to set up an appointment to get your vehicle fixed
  • Bring your recall letter or postcard with you, if you have one
  • Use free tools to stay up to date on recalls such as Carfax, Autocheck and NHTSA:
  • Report a safety problem with your vehicle with NHTSA