Toyota's Avalon, Camry, Sequoi, Corolla, Tacoma, the Prius hybrid...
The recall list goes on and on. Once considered one of the most dependable auto manufacturers, the mighty Toyota has taken a giant fall from its lofty perch in recent weeks.
Now Japan's No. 2 automaker has gotten involved in the recall frenzy, Honda recalled another 438,000 vehicles Sept. 9 to replace an airbag deflator that could rupture and send shards toward the driver in an accident. The move follows a separate recall of 646,000 cars less than two weeks ago for a faulty window switch that engulfed a Jazz subcompact in flames in South Africa, killing a child. Honda previously recalled 510,000 vehicles for the airbag problem in November 2008 and June 2009.
It's a confusing situation for consumers who depended on the Japanese auto makers' reputations for quality and safety. Experts estimate more than 9 million vehicles are impacted, with the numbers continuing to mount.
If your vehicle is on the Toyota recall list or the Honda recall list, the first thing you need to do is call your dealer and request a technician inspect it. Local dealerships will have more information about your specific car. Be prepared when you call to give them the make, model, year and VIN number of your car. With so many vehicles affected, you may have to wait before the dealer can work you into their repair schedule, unless your car is experiencing immediate problems.
The following is an overview of the Toyota recalls and your rights, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
1. Reasons for Recalls
Toyota is recalling cars for four problems.
2. Notification Methods
Toyota is required by law to notify owners of vehicles determined to have a safety defect or noncompliance issue within a "reasonable time period." You should receive notification via first-class mail by mid-February, at the latest. Toyota will cull your name from a state motor vehicle office.
If you don't receive a letter or have moved to another state and haven't yet registered your car, check with your local dealership, check the Toyota official recall list, call the Vehicle SafetyHotline at 1-888-DASH-2-DOT (888-327-4236 or 1-800-424-9393) or visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Web site.
Toyota's letter should explain:
Manufacturers also are required to notify the public of recalls through advertisements, point-of-purchase posters, etc. to ensure as many owners as possible are aware of the recalls.
Once a defect has been determined, the law allows the manufacturer three options for correcting the defect: repair, replacement, or refund. In the case of the Toyota recalls, the manufacturer has opted to repair the problems as follows.
4. Safety Issues Before Repair
If your car is on the recall list and you experience an accelerator pedal that is difficult to depress, slow to return, or isn't smooth during operation, Toyota recommends you immediately drive the vehicle to a safe location, shut off the engine and contact a Toyota dealer for assistance.
According to Toyota, vehicles recalled for ABS issues are safe to drive because pressing hard on the brake pedal will stop the vehicle.
5. Reimbursement for Repairs
If you had a defect repaired at your own expense before the Toyota recalls were announced, the manufacturer is required by law to reimburse you for any costs. You must apply for reimbursement within 10 days after the manufacturer mails the last of the owner notices and you'll need to provide documentation of the repair. Check with your Toyota dealership to make sure any repair work you had done actually remedied the problem as detailed in the recall. If not, bring your car into the dealer for additional repair.
6. Remedy Limitations
To be eligible for free remedy of a recall, impacted vehicles can't be more than 10 years old on the date the defect or non-compliance is determined. Since all of the vehicle models listed in the Toyota recalls were manufactures between 2004 and 2010, this limitation doesn't apply -- yet.
7. Refusal to Repair
Immediately notify the manufacturer if a dealer refuses to repair your vehicle in accordance with the recall letter. In most cases, dealers have contracted with manufacturers to honor any recall and remedy defects at no extra charge to the consumer, regardless of where the vehicle or equipment was originally purchased.
Although you may feel you're not receiving satisfactory resolution of the problem in a timely manner, there is no legal recourse available at this stage. Patience is the only alternative.
8. Injury/Accident Reparations
The law specifically states you may request reparations if you experienced damage to your car or bodily injury related to recall issues. Consult a lawyer, contact your state attorney general or call your local district attorney's office to determine specific state law remedies.
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