Has Your Car Been Recalled? Get It Fixed Free

You've heard plenty about Toyota's recalls this year: 8.5 million vehicles for sudden acceleration problems in early '10 and then another 278,000 Lexus sedans for engine stalls. But you may not have heard of the raft of recalls by other carmakers. Maybe your car was among them.

Honda recalled 600,000 vehicles for potentially defective window switches plus another 473,000 for air bags that inflate too strongly. General Motors recalled 1.5 million vehicles for a potentially faulty system for heating windshield wiper fluid. Chrysler's recall of 600,000 Jeeps and minivans in the U.S. involved brake lining and wiring defects. (The 2010 Jeep Wrangler is pictured here).

Surprisingly, the pace of recalls this year, though up from 2009, is below the average of the last 10 years. Analysts say that rising recalls just mean that manufacturers are being more cautious after Toyota's problems, not that vehicles are more defective. In fact, quality has risen steadily while the fatal accident rate has fallen. "Cars are safer than ever in terms of crashworthiness," says Russ Rader of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Even so, you don't want to be driving a vehicle that's been recalled or one with known defects (see Uncovering Secret Warranties on Cars). If your car was recalled for a specific problem, you're entitled to get it fixed free at a dealership. Theoretically, all owners should be notified by letter, but if you changed addresses or aren't the original owner, you might not have received the mailing.

To see if your car was called back, search the recalls area for the web site of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. If your car's listed and you want the defect fixed, print out the page and take it to a dealership for a free repair.

Here's a rundown of the major non-Toyota recalls this year:

General Motors: heater for washer fluid 2006-'09 Buick Lucerne, Cadillac DTS and Hummer H2
2007-'09 Cadillac Escalade, Chevrolet Avalanche, Chevrolet Silverado, Chevrolet Suburban, Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Acadia, GMC Sierra, GMC Yukon and Saturn Outlook
2008-'09 Buick Enclave and Cadillac CTS
2009 Chevrolet Traverse

Honda: Air bags 2001-'02 Honda Accord, Civic, Odyssey, CR-V
2002 Honda Acura TL

Honda: window switch: 2010 Honda Fit

Chrysler: brake problems: 2006-'10 Jeep Wrangler, 2010 Dodge Nitro, Dodge Ram, Jeep Liberty
Chrysler: wiring in sliding doors: 2008-'09 Dodge Grand Caravan, Chrysler Town and Country

Photo courtesy of the manufacturer

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