Whenever automakers discover that a vehicle has a defect or does not comply with U.S. laws, they must notify the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and mail a notice to each customer who owns or leases the affected vehicles. Automakers must also recall those cars, trucks or SUVs–which means they have to fix the defect across the entire fleet.
People with recalled vehicles usually have to schedule a visit to an authorized dealership, where a mechanic repairs the car.
But vehicles are increasingly high-tech contraptions. Although most recalls still require the replacement or repair of auto parts, such as air bags or brakes, a growing number of issues are resolved without any help from a mechanic.