What is a vehicle recall and should I be worried?

A recall is when the manufacturer of a product, in this case, a motor vehicle or its components, identifies a fault that puts its users or occupants at risk of personal injury or death, or that significantly impacts the performance of the vehicle. Occasionally a manufacturer will recall vehicles when defects in their design or production become evident. These can range from minor problems to major faults that affect a vehicle’s safety and performance. Recalls occur rarely, and they don’t just occur in older vehicles, so how do you know if your call has any recall warnings outstanding?

What are the common reasons for recalls in motor vehicles?

The most common recalls relate to issues with safety devices in your car. This includes brakes, handbrakes, steering issues, seatbelts, issues with the car’s chassis, and airbags. While manufacturers sometimes post recalls for non-safety-related reasons, this is less common as design faults often become apparent earlier in the life of the vehicle, and manufacturers are more likely to be able to contact the initial vehicle owners directly.

Where can I check for a recall?

The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) maintains a database of all safety recalls on its website. Each recall contains the date of issue, details around the reason for the recall, and instructions on what to do in order to get the issue resolved. As these faults are safety-related, the cost of fixing the issue, or replacing the vehicle, rests with the manufacturer, and it’s critically important all affected vehicles are repaired to avoid putting other road users at risk.

Ultimately, the vehicle manufacturer has responsibility for manufacturing vehicles that meet the respective safety standards. With a diverse fleet of imported vehicles throughout NZ, the NZ Government, through Waka Kotahi and the Motor Trade Association (MIA), have also ensured the importer has the responsibility to ensure the vehicles they bring in are safe. 

Example: NZ Safety Recall on the NZTA website

Will someone tell me about a recall?

Once a recall is identified a thorough process of identifying the current vehicle owner begins. This is first done by determining the number of impacted vehicles on NZ roads, through the records of the vehicle manufacturer or importer, combined with the NZTA’s own registration details.

The manufacturer leads the notification process, with the support of the NZTA. This is done through multiple channels, including via official post, with an advisory letter being sent directly to the registered owner of every affected vehicle.

What happens if my car is recalled?

When the manufacturer contacts you about a recall they will arrange a suitable time to repair the fault. The urgency of this booking will reflect the seriousness of the safety risk.

Recalls & Warrant of Fitness (WOF) checks

To ensure unsafe vehicles do not remain on the road and potentially put other drivers and passengers at risk, a “ban flag” can be applied against the vehicle’s registration. This notice informs anyone completing a Warrant of Fitness (WOF) on the vehicle about the fault, and blocking them from issuing a new WOF.