WICHITA, Kansas – With a record number of vehicle recalls in 2014, it is becoming harder than ever to keep up with it all. But the federal government is keeping tabs on your car. In fact, the feds have a website used to track recalls and complaints about your car before a recall is even issued. Consumer advocates say the site could help drivers recognize a problem before it’s too late.
In all, more than 52 million cars and trucks have been recalled this year. The record-breaking number is leading to major losses for car companies and major headaches for drivers like Chris Ray, who says his Chevy HHR has problems with its power steering.
“The wife drives the car everyday and it’s hard for her to turn it, feels like she’s in the 50’s again with no power steering, never know from one day or another if she’s gonna call me say hey the car caught on fire because the ignition,” Ray said.
The HHR is on the list of GM cars with a recalled ignition switch. The recalls include 2.6 million GM models with faulty ignition switches. According to General Motors, the defect is now linked to at least 29 deaths. The ignition switch is a problem the car maker admits it has known about for a decade.
The defective switches can suddenly shift from the on position while driving, disabling the power steering and the airbags. It’s a potentially deadly reminder that people should be more aware of what’s going on with their cars.
“This is a serious situation and consumers really need to pay attention and it’s easier to pay attention than it used to be. All you do is go to a website type your car model in and find out what’s going on with it,” said Dorothy Harpool.
Harpool is a Wichita State University marketing instructor. Harpool is talking about safercar.gov. The federal website tracks not only recalls, but any complaints submitted by car owners to the site.
“It’s also encouraging, I think, that you may see other people with the same complaint and so it’s good for you to know that, hey this is something that the dealer should address because there’s enough people speaking up about this issue,” Harpool said.
At the American Automobile Association office in Wichita, Billy Nester stands behind the site.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched the site in 2004 to promote its new car assessment program. The program uses a five-star rating program intended to improve safety and encourage car-makers to voluntarily make their vehicles better.
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Nester says safercar.gov makes it easy to learn about just nearly any vehicle.
“Just see if there’s been any incidents common incidents with the vehicle it’s something you always want to keep in mind when whenever you’re purchasing a vehicle even if you already have a vehicle now,” Nester said.
The site launched in 2004. According to GM, that’s four years after the automaker learned of possible ignition problems with its cars. Ray’s HHR has more than 780 complaints submitted to the site. Some of those complaints are related to the six recalls GM issued on the 2006 HHR. The first complaint about the power steering issue was submitted to the site January 18, 2006.
Today there are hundreds more. It’s a site Ray says he wishes he knew about before the bought the car used a few years ago.
“With you telling me about this website I’m going to check both my cars,” Ray said.
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