Automakers have recalled more than 40 million cars and trucks in the U.S. so far this year, shattering the full-year record set in 2004, and many were for serious safety issues.
But often the first recall notices go out before parts are made, leaving car owners in a quandary: their cars have issues serious enough to cause a recall, yet they can't be fixed for months or even a year. The notices tell people to wait for another notice telling them parts are ready.
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Here's what to do if you're among the millions caught in the recall madness:
— Check to see if there are any recalls pending on your car. Go to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's recall site at https://vinrcl.safercar.gov/vin/ . Key in your vehicle identification number found on the driver's side dashboard near the windshield. This will tell you if the remedy (which generally means parts) is available.
— Click on any recall numbers listed on the site. They start with "14V." Look for associated documents and check the Defect Notice. This often tells you what the symptoms of the problem are and whether there have been any crashes or injuries caused by it.
— If your car is experiencing symptoms, contact your dealer. They often have parts available before the companies tell everyone.
— If your car isn't experiencing symptoms but the problem has caused crashes or injuries, call your dealer. There are no guarantees, but if you're worried about driving it, the service department may work with you to fix the problem faster. Also, the dealership may give you a loaner car if you ask.
Sources: Edmunds.com, General Motors and Associated Press research