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What is the best way to learn of car recalls?

Tara Baukus Mello
Tara Baukus Mello

Dear Driving for Dollars,
The car recalls in the news lately have me spooked. In fact, I didn't realize that one of the news reports affected one of our family cars, and it was weeks before I got a letter in the mail.

Being aware of the problem from the start would have certainly meant that I was better prepared to respond accordingly if there was an issue. Fortunately, there wasn't. What I'm wondering, is there an easy way to get notified of car recalls right away?
-- Ashley

Dear Ashley,
Yes. To be notified of car recalls very quickly after they are announced, you'll want to sign up for alerts from the feds or the automaker who manufactures your car or cars.

To receive car recall alerts from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, go to SaferCar.gov, click on the "vehicle owners" section and then scroll down to the "stay informed" section. There, you will find a link to sign up for alerts via email or mobile app. You have the ability to register only the cars you drive, so you'll only receive alerts of car recalls that affect you personally, versus every car recall that occurs. If you have young children, you also can sign up for recalls for any car seats you have.

Most automakers offer car recall alerts by email or mobile text for their owners, but it's not automatic, even if the automaker emails you for other reasons already.

To sign up, go to the owners section of the car manufacturer's website and look for a link to sign up for recalls.

Keep in mind that even though you will get notified of recalls sooner than waiting for a letter in the mail, chances are that doesn't mean the problem will be fixed any sooner. Many times, automakers must wait for a supplier to produce a replacement part before they can begin the free repairs. As you pointed out, having knowledge of the issue, including any temporary measures that the automaker recommends, can be very helpful and perhaps even lifesaving.

Car recalls by the numbers | Assembly line: copyright lyeyee/Shutterstock.com, Markers: copyright Petr Vaclavek/Shutterstock.com, Illustration guy: copyright Tomnamon/Shutterstock.com

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If you have a car question, email it to us at Driving for Dollars. Read more Driving for Dollars columns and Bankrate auto stories. Follow her on Facebook here or on Twitter @SheDrives.

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