/ Motoring

Are car recalls good news or bad news for drivers?

A lot of parked cars

When a car manufacturer recalls large numbers of vehicles, it doesn’t look great. But how do you feel about the manufacturers who decide not to recall cars when problems arise?

Car recalls have been big news stories lately, with successive safety issues persuading a number of companies to issue massive recalls involving millions of cars.

Generally speaking, this is viewed as Bad News for the car company involved.

You can see why some people might view recalls as bad PR. For example, when Toyota had to recall eight million cars with faulty accelerator pedals, the president of the company apologised publicly. Toyota hadn’t delivered the quality expected of the brand, which took an estimated £1.2bn loss in repair costs and dented sales as a result.

Is a recall really bad news?

But let’s turn it on its head. What if Toyota had failed to act on information it uncovered, and decided not to recall its cars? That would have been much worse, potentially putting people’s lives at risk.

In the UK, the car recalls system effectively lets manufacturers decide if and when to recall cars. If a car maker deems that a fault with one its models should not warrant a recall, that’s effectively the end of the matter.

I’m certainly not alone in applauding companies who recall cars on safety grounds. And I think much more should be done to highlight companies who don’t recall cars, even when there seems to us a compelling case to do so.

Which? investigates car faults

For instance, we have been following the case of several Peugeot 307 CCs whose seatbelt pre-tensioners have exploded. In at least one case this happened without any prior warning, and in some instances personal injuries were suffered.

Despite investigating, the body tasked with enforcing recalls in the UK, VOSA, decided that it wasn’t a safety matter and no recall has been issued.

And we’ve recently highlighted an issue with the Volkswagen Passat electronic parking brake, which is prone to failure. On one forum, over 80 such cases have been reported.

I think the system needs to change, and Which? wants to hear from you. If you’ve suffered a safety-related fault with your car – like a problem with the brakes, steering, suspension or safety systems – we’d like you to report the fault to us.

Do you think car recalls are good news or bad news for drivers?


I am very encouraged by manufacturers that issue recalls promptly. It demonstrates responsibility and no car manufacturer manages to consistently make vehicles without problems, even if some do better than others.

Toyota behaved responsibly but I remember when Volvo disputed that some of its automatic cars could accelerate in reverse under certain conditions. If I’m not mistaken Which? was one of the organisations fighting for a recall.

If some manufacturers are still being tardy about issuing recalls, this should be handed over to an independent organisation funded by the manufacturers, which can take and collate reports of suspected problems.

Toyota should be commended for their responsible attitude to recalls and after-sales service. I think we have had 3 minor recalls on our RAV4 now, mainly safety checks. It is good to know that Toyota regard this as more important than the cost of the recalls and attempts by ill-judged press articles to rubbish their reputation.

We’ve had new front discs and callipers due to problems with corrosion. On the last recall – a window switch, I think – the Toyota dealer also happened to notice the engine head gasket was failing. Even though the vehicle has been out of warranty for over 2 years, Toyota agreed with the garage to replace the entire engine with a new unit, completely free of cost and no quibble.

These recalls are actually reducing the cost of ownership by changing parts like brakes we might otherwise be paying to replace due to normal wear, and it even saved me the cost of an oil change and filter when the engine was replaced.

teapot says:
27 May 2015

I had my car recalled twice by toyota. First because of accelerator problems and then a windscreen fault. Then on a service they noticed an egr valve was blocked and tried to charge me more than 200 pounds for it. What I now realise is that they should have checked to see if the engine was faulty now I found it overheated due to a faulty gasket. when approached the toyota garage they said it would cost me £65 to check and then a £1000 to sort out. I then approached another garage who could do it cheaper but they told me to check on line first. It was only when I found on the net that they had sorted others for free and found the bulletin and then rang customer services did they agree to sort it out. I have all the upto date service history.

I have usually bought toyota but after this appalling treatment I will not be buying a toyota again.

I agree that Toyota should be commended for their stance not just on recalls, but also for their stance with other problems.
For example they had issues with head gasket failure on some of their D4D diesel engines produced up to 2009 – the warranty was extended on these engines to 7 years/180,000km. Of the three new Toyotas I’ve owned since 2006, only one has been affected by a recall (for the accelerator pedal), and not only did Toyota undertake corrective work on the car, but they, as a gesture of goodwill, also provided some recompense (a new set of car mats from the dealer).

I am a bit surprised though that Which? seem to have opened the exercise of reporting car faults out to non-members.

For example the Honest John website gives a direct link to the webpage where people can report faults to Which?, and there doesn’t seem to be a requirement to be a Which? member.

Pie Eater says:
19 July 2015

At what stage does a fault become so serious it becomes a recall issue?
My VW Golf TDI DSG automatic has broken down twice in 3 days with the same fault. Complete loss of power, which could have been far worse had I been in lane 3 or 4 of Thelwell Viaduct. RAC attended and diagnosed “the pressure monitor switch in the automatic transmission fluid.” Looking online it seems a common problem, yet no recall are they waiting for a fatality?
Honest John article says there’s a recall on DSG but dealer and VOSA don’t say so.
Only covered 24500 miles so not happy and not impressed. Next car won’t be a VW.