R. Scott King, BSME, Principal Automotive / Mechanical Engineer
In 2019 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) administered the recalls of more than 38 million vehicles. Of those recalled vehicles, however, NHTSA estimates that only about 75% were ever fixed. Noticing similar historic uncompleted recall rates, NHTSA has initiated Vehicle Safety Recalls Week. Planned as a twice-yearly event coinciding with spring and fall clock changes, NHTSA hopes that car owners will visit their site and check for vehicle recalls after replacing the batteries in their smoke detectors.
The NHTSA website has a user-friendly search tool that allows owners to enter a vehicle’s 17-digit identification number, often found on a label affixed to the driver’s door jam, and find out whether the vehicle is subject to any uncompleted recall. If it is, the website provides details about the recall and how to get repairs. Moreover, the website database is updated regularly; so, it can be helpful to check regularly. In addition to its primary goal of improving highway safety, this search tool is proven to be a valuable tool in automotive claims and related investigations.
Recently, a claims examiner noticed an unusual coincidence of similar fire loss circumstances in identical vehicles. Although the vehicles were not recalled at the time of their respective losses, recognizing the coincidence, the examiner returned to the NHTSA website and tried again. That search showed that indeed both vehicles were subject to a fire-related recall. One of the vehicles remained available for a forensic exam, which lead to a successful subrogation.
The NHTSA Inaugural Vehicle Safety Recalls Week is underway now. Check your vehicle at www.nhtsa.gov/recalls
R. Scott King, BSME, Principal Automotive / Mechanical Engineer with DJS Associates, Inc., can be reached via email at experts@forensicDJS.com or via phone at 215-659-2010.