My Car Is Recalled In A Snowy, Icy State, But Not My Snowy, Icy State. What Do I Do?

Image courtesy of hpaich

While most automobile recalls are national, some recalls are limited to specific regions of the country where particular road and weather conditions increase the risk of a problem. What about those people who live outside the recall region but who are concerned their car needs to be checked out?

Consumerist reader Wendy lives in Utah, where there is both snow and ice, and salt is used to melt said ice. So when she saw that there was a current recall for her car — a 2011 Kia Sedona — linked to salty, icy conditions, she was concerned.

The defect (NHTSA campaign number 13V550000) involves a control arm that could break “due to corrosion resulting from prolonged exposure to salty environments.” If that control arm breaks, it “can result in the loss of control of the vehicle, increasing the risk of a crash.”

But the recall included a list of states for this particular recall, saying it applied to cars sold or registered in states that could get heavy snow and that use salt to melt ice: Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode island, West Virginia or the District of Columbia.

Wait a second… snow and ice — what about states like Alaska, Colorado, Wyoming and her home state, Utah? Wendy wondered. Surely they should be included.

NHTSA has confirmed to Consumerist that car companies are expected to honor recall repairs nationwide, even when the recall is regional. After all, cars are built to take people from place to place, so a car that may have spent years being exposed to snowy, salty conditions may now be sitting in the driveway of a home in the steamy bayou, but that move doesn’t negate the potential for a defect.

Industry sources say that since dealerships have to get reimbursed by manufacturers for recall repairs, they may try to make it difficult or give customers a hard time if they are outside the geographic area of a regional recall.

Which is exactly what Wendy found out.

At first, she Tweeted with Kia’s social media team, who told her to check her manual for salt maintenance. Great, but that did nothing to allay her concerns. She then contacted the Utah Department of Transportation to get the information about salt use in her region, and confirmed that yes, “salt is their major before and during storm tool.”

Wendy then called her dealer to see what could be done — the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had said dealers would inspect the degree of corrosion of the part and would either rustproof or replace them, free of charge — but was told she’d have to pay to get the part looked at because Utah wasn’t on that list of states.

After Consumerist got in touch with Kia about Wendy’s concerns, the company’s Consumer Affairs department worked with her to get her the Sedona inspected at no cost to her.

“They said the part looks fine, no problems,” Wendy told Consumerist afterward. “They also did a service update, and fixed a problem with my driver door. All free.”

As mentioned above, we’ve confirmed with NHTSA that a recall is a recall. So if you live in Alaska but your kid has the car nine months out of the year at college in Miami, you should be able to have the dealership check out the vehicle regardless of which state you’re in.

Expect some push or griping from the dealership if you’re outside the region, but they should eventually agree to do the fix.

If that doesn’t work, drivers can file a complaint with NHTSA using what’s called a Vehicle Owner’s Questionnaire online here. You can also request a PDF form by email at that link, or file a complaint Monday-Friday (8 am to 8 pm ET) by calling: (888) 327-4236 or TTY: (800) 424-9153.

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