Every year, car manufacturers recall around a million vehicles for safety checks or repairs, under the vehicle safety recall scheme. One in 13 cars on UK roads right now has had a safety recall issued but has not had the issue resolved.

In an interview with motoring magazine Auto Express, The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) who, together with car manufacturers and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) oversee the recall scheme on behalf of the government, said they now want the MOT test to include a check for recalls, to encourage owners to act on recall notices sent out by manufacturers and make sure that owners are not driving vehicles with dangerous issues they don’t know about, unaware.

Total recall

There were significant changes made to the MOT last year; with stricter emissions checks and new defect categories. Over one million UK cars have failed the revised MOT test because of a fault that categorised as ‘dangerous’ under the new rules introduced in May 2018. These more rigorous assessments judge these vehicles to pose an ‘immediate risk to road safety and/or a serious impact on the environment’. With around 2.39 million cars with outstanding safety recalls in the UK, this latest change could mean even more vehicles failing.

Safety recalls most often involve issues with airbags, brakes, fuel, steering, seatbelts, or an issue which causes the risk of fire. These defects are difficult to find during routine maintenance and can—as defined by the DVSA—involve ‘sudden and catastrophic failure’, with little or no warning to enable the driver to take preventative action.

Many drivers are unaware their car is subject to an outstanding safety recall because the manufacturer wasn’t able to contact them because of a change of registered keeper or because of a non-notification of a change of address. Locating the owners of second-hand vehicles is more difficult because it‘s almost impossible for car manufacturers to find the owners who use independent businesses for the servicing and maintenance of their cars instead of using franchised garages.

By law, dealers must check for outstanding recalls before the car leaves the forecourt, but, because no law exists to force owners to fix dangerous faults, if you buy from a private seller, it’s possible the owner ignored a past recall.

Ironing out the details

When interviewed by Auto Express, Neil Barlow, Head of MOT Policy and the MOT Service Manager at DVSA said the DVSA will work with the Department for Transport to decide how they can adjust the MOT system to cover outstanding future safety recalls.

“It would make logical sense where appropriate for the MOT to be aligned with the safety recalls system,” Mr Barlow said, adding, “work will need to take place to minimise the time between the repair being carried out and a database being updated.”

So, should drivers have concerns over facing possible instant MOT failures? Mr Barlow said owners needed ‘reasonable time’ to get any recall issues fixed and that the DVSA “has to also ensure that motorists have fair warning of newly added recalls,”, and that manufacturers ‘harmonise’ the way they record safety recalls “so that all vehicle types are covered”.

Auto Express also spoke to President of the AA, Edmund King who expressed:

“Generally, the recall system in the UK works quite well.”

“The MOT system should be used to flag up to owners recalls that haven’t been acted on, as advisory notifications,” he said and added that safety recalls “should only lead to an automatic fail if the recall fault is a major safety risk or has already been flagged up at a previous MOT.”

In Germany, recall checks are already part of their equivalent of the roadworthiness assessment and the car only fails the check if the registered keeper has not acted on the recall issue by the time the garage retests the vehicle.

How safe is your car?

If your car’s manufacturer recalls your vehicle for a safety reason, the manufacturer will send you a letter telling you why it’s being recalled and what you need to do next. You shouldn’t have to pay for any repairs or parts.

If you find a serious defect that affects the safety of your vehicle, one of its parts, or an accessory, report it straight away. You must give details of what happened and provide the vehicle registration; the make, model, and year of the vehicle; the current mileage, if the car has a manual or automatic gearbox, and whether engine uses petrol or diesel. Include any photos you have of the defect.

By law, you‘re responsible for making sure you keep your vehicle in a safe condition. If you don‘t get your vehicle inspected and fixed, you not only put yourself and others at serious risk, but you may invalidate any insurance claim you make. For driving a vehicle in a dangerous condition you could get a fine of up to £2,500, three points on your licence, or receive a driving ban.

In February 2018 the DVSA launched a vehicle recall checker where you can check to see if your car needs to go back to the manufacturer to resolve any issue. You only need to know the vehicle’s registration number.

Have you ever received a safety recall notice for your vehicle? Are you in favour of the proposed changes to the MOT? Let us know your views in the comments.

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