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10 Automotive Recalls That Shook the Automotive World

Which manufacturer’s car recall tops the list?

Published October 27, 2018

It doesn’t matter what make or model of vehicle you drive, you aren’t immune to car recalls. Of course, some cars have lower recall rates than others. For example, Investopedia estimated that the least recalled car from 2013 to 2017 was the Hyundai Accent. Other vehicles with a lower recall rate included Chevrolet Equinox, Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, and the Honda CR-V. The most recalled vehicles during this time included the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, GMC Sierra, BMW 3 & 4 Series, Dodge Durango, plus the Nissan Pathfinder.

If you had one of these, you were less likely to experience a car recall. That isn’t what happened for owners of our next ten vehicles. These are the 10 car recalls that shook the automotive world.

10. 2018 Ford F-150 and Expedition SUVs (350,000 recalled)

2018 Ford F-150 - transmission recallHow would you like to be sitting in your 2018 Ford while it’s parked and have it start rolling backward? Doesn’t sound like fun, does it? The transmission is the problem in this situation. About 350,000 2018 Ford F-150 trucks plus 2018 Expedition SUVs were recalled in North America. That equaled about 290,000 vehicles from the United States, 51,000 from Canada, and the rest from Mexico.

Most of the affected vehicles had a ten-speed automatic transmission. The trouble came from the clip which locks the shifter cable into the transmission. Ford didn’t firmly secure the clip in place which resulted in the transmission shifting into a gear that the driver didn’t choose.

Of course, there weren’t many instances of that happening because Ford took action right away, but it’s a scary thought.

9. 1971–1976 Ford Pinto (1.5 million recalled)

1976 Ford Pinto - gas tank recallIf you know anything about cars, you surely know about the Pinto and its troubles. In fact, the Pinto has become the epitome of troubled vehicles. While many people were happy about the 1.6-liter Kent engine, there were some other undesirable features.

One of the biggest design flaws of this car included the fuel-tank placement. There was a lack of structural reinforcement between the rear bolts and the fuel tank. This led the fuel tank to get punctured by the bolts and catch on fire. In fact, some even exploded.

Independent tests revealed that the Pinto could go up in flames when another car hit the back bumper at speeds of 20 mph. That small fender-bender could create an explosion, and it happened numerous times. A quick search online brings estimates of up to 180 deaths as a result.

Thankfully, Ford accepted the situation and recalled 1.5 million Mercury Bobcats and Ford Pintos as a result.

8. 2005–2014 Toyota RAV4 (3 million recalled)

2014 Toyota RAV4 - rear seat recallA few years ago, we faced a huge RAV4 recall. This massive car recall meant pulling in three million vehicles worldwide. The problem went back to the overall design of their metal rear seat-cushion frames. When the SUV was involved in head-on collisions, it was possible for the structures to slice through the rear seatbelts. That’s what prompted one of the biggest car recalls in history.

What’s admirable about Toyota in this matter was that it only took two crashes before they issued the voluntary recall. One occurred in Canada and the other in the United States. To fix the RAV4, Toyota added resin covers to the cushion frames. It took them about an hour per vehicle.

The Toyota RAV4 continues to be one of the best-selling SUVs on the market. That’s because it’s a great Japanese vehicle and normally quite reliable. With that said, a few years ago, there were three million cars recalled. The affected years included 2005 through 2014 in North America. In Japan, models through 2016 were included.

Half of these car recalls came from North America, which is Toyota’s largest automotive market. The rest of the vehicles came from China, Europe, and Japan.

7. Airbag Sensor Issues (more than 3 million recalled)

2017 Nissan Maxima - airbag sensor recallSince 2013, Nissan faced several recalls that involved faulty airbag sensors. In total, over three million vehicles were involved. They included the 2016–2017 Nissan Maxima, 2014–2017 Rogue, 2014–2016 Infiniti QX60 and Q50, 2015–2016 Murano and Chevrolet City Express, 2013–2016 Altima, 2013–2017 Pathfinder, 2013-2016 NV200, 2013 Infiniti JX35 plus the 2013-2016 Sentra and Leaf.

In affected vehicles, the sensor wouldn’t determine if an adult or child was sitting in the passenger seat. This causes the airbag to cease deployment for an adult or accidentally deploy on a child. It took three recalls for Nissan to reach all the affected vehicles.

At first, Nissan blamed the issue on unusual seating posture or engine vibration. To initially resolve the car recalls, dealers attempted to upgrade the sensor, but that didn’t work. Once the NHTSA got involved, Nissan was forced to reprogram the software or replace the sensor all together.

6. 2009-2006 VW Models (4.5 million recalled)

vw clean diesel recallYou may think this is one of the biggest car recalls ever to happen, but that’s only because of the media attention it has received. In fact, most people, car enthusiasts or not, will know about this recall if you ask them.

Numerous VW vehicles were involved as well plus several from Audi and the Porsche Cayenne. Basically, VW installed software to cheat the EPA standards for emissions. Pollution levels were found to be 40 times more than the legal standard, which is simply unacceptable.

Putting this software in was only one way that VW went wrong; then they falsely advertised their cars. The claimed it was “Clean Diesel.” If that wasn’t enough, they charged customers a premium price for this exceptional system. Everyone concerned with the environment ran out to purchase a car that actually added more pollution to the environment.

While there were 11 million vehicles equipped with the software, the number above reflects the car recalls from the United States, Germany, and the UK. Overall, VW might not have the largest car recall in history, but they paid a hefty amount for their actions. Total damages for this scandal totaled over $30 billion and are still occurring.

5. Chevrolet Malibu (6 million recalled)

1981 Chevrolet Malibu - steering column recallThis mid-size car has been around for many years but ceased production from 1984 through 1996. While the sales were always pretty good, there were some serious issues with models from the 1970s and 1980s.

In total, they pulled six million vehicles back in making this one of the largest car recalls ever. The problem stemmed from a suspension bolt that got looser over time. In the end, the steering column became disabled and the driver would no longer be able to control their vehicle. It sure is something to think about if you want to invest in an old Malibu.

4. 1965-70 Chevrolets (6.7 million recalled)

1969 Chevrolet C10 - engine mount recallThink back to 1971 when GM decided to recall 6.7 million cars and trucks. It was a scary time for consumers, but not for GM who was used to making major mistakes. Affected models included 1965-69 full-size Chevy trucks, 1965-69 Novas, 1965-69 Chevy IIs, 1967-69 Camaros, plus 1965-70 Chevy/GMC light-duty trucks. All of these models came with a V8 engine.

On these vehicles, engine mount breakage led to a chain of events which put drivers and passengers in harm’s way. When the left side of the engine mount broke, the torque led to the lifting of the engine. This pulled open the accelerator linkage which naturally led to continued upward movement. This process continued until the engine hit the closed hood. In the process, it also pulled on the brake booster vacuum hose which made it harder to stop the vehicle. If that wasn’t enough, this situation forced the shifter over from D to L so there was no longer a Park position and it could be started up in Reverse.

This is one of those car recalls where the manufacturer didn’t want to admit there was a problem. In fact, they announced that everything being released into the media was a misunderstanding or misinformation. They blew it off like it wasn’t a serious concern.

The President of GM even made statements relating the defect to a flat tire. Somehow we don’t think that an engine becoming loose which pull free on your throttle is the same thing as getting a flat tire. We believe the numerous accidents and injuries prove otherwise as well. The sad thing is they didn’t replace the motor mount ($50 fix) but instead added a bracket assembly ($1 fix) in case the engine did come loose.

3. Toyota Lies about Floor Mats (9 million recalled)

2008 Toyota Camry - gas pedal recallNow, we’re back to Toyota again. Back in 2009, Toyota deceived the world when it claimed that stuck rubber floor mats caused an accident that killed four people. They were found in ES 350 sedans and Camry models. At the time, the NHTSA agreed that the unsecured all-weather floor mats could move forward and cause the accelerator pedal to get stuck.

What everyone later found out through this recall was that wasn’t the entire story, and Toyota knew it. Even though people had new floor mats installed, there were still issues with the accelerator getting stuck.

This is one of the car recalls that began making national news as Toyota scrambled to continue the cover up that something was wrong with the sticky accelerator. The total recall included over five million vehicles for the floor mats and another 2.3 million for the accelerator. There were an additional 1.8 million vehicles recalled for both issues which brought their total to more than nine million.

When all was said and done, the U.S. Attorney’s Office fined them $1.2 billion for lying about the incidents.

2. 1995-2003 Ford Vehicles (almost 15 million recalled)

2000 Ford Explorer - cruise control recallMany of you know the name Texas Instruments from the calculators used in schools. What they should be recognized for is one of the largest car recalls in history. They created the cruise control switches in various recalled Ford models from 1995 through 2003.

These switches could overheat which could lead to a fire hazard, even after the vehicle was off. Initial symptoms of a problem included malfunctioning cruise control, difficulty shifting from park, plus malfunctioning brakes and the brake lights.

There were numerous models involved including the 1995-2002 Mercury Mountaineer and Ford Explorer, 1995-2003 Ford Windstar van, 2000-2003 diesel-engine Ford Excursion, 1995-1997 and 2001-2003 Ford Ranger, 1992-2003 Econoline vans, 1999-2003 F-Series diesel Super Duty pickup trucks, and the 1993-1997 F35 motorhomes.

Because several vehicles caused fire eruption spontaneously and some house fires, Ford let consumers know not to park their car near the house or in a garage until repaired. That’s interesting! Where exactly were they supposed to park them; next to someone else’s home? After two deaths, 14.9 of the Ford vehicles were recalled.

1. Takata Airbag Recall (More than 42 million recalled)

Takata Airbag Recall - car recallsIf you don’t know about this airbag recall, you must be living under a rock. It was the largest in the automotive industry and affected 19 automakers. Of all the car recalls, this shows that no one is immune to vehicle issues.

The first concerns surfaced in 2013, but its problems go back a decade. The propellant inside the airbag was applied without its drying agent. When exposed to moisture or high temperatures, the airbag might inflate improperly. The scary part is that during deployment it could send shrapnel into the car’s cabin. 15 deaths occurred as a result and Takata filed for bankruptcy.

The cars involved were mainly from the years 2002 through 2015. This recall continues to evolve over time since it’s been impossible to repair all the vehicles promptly. The biggest concern has been for people living in warm, humid environments like Florida.

Takata did plead guilty to deceiving automakers over the airbag safety. In return, automakers are now disputing charges that they installed the defective airbags knowingly and some have filed their own class action lawsuits against the company.

How to Find the Car Recalls on Your Vehicle

If this list scared you, then you’ll want to check for car recalls on your vehicle. Whether you’re the only owner, or you purchased your car used, you have the right to be informed. Here are the steps you need to take.

1 – Find your VIN located either on your car’s dash or the side doorjamb.

2 – Enter the information at SaferCar.gov.

3- They will list any active recalls for your vehicle and how to take action. In addition, you may receive a letter in the mail from your automaker as a new recall becomes available.

4 – Call the dealer for free repair, if needed.

If your car is older, you might not be able to find the information you need through this method. Instead, you’ll want to contact your local dealership to see if your vehicle has recalls and if they’ve been repaired. It is always a wise choice when purchasing a used car as well.

Final Thoughts

It doesn’t matter what vehicle you drive; there’s no way to protect yourself from car recalls. The best thing you can do is stay on top of the news related to recent car recalls and take action immediately. If you notice anything unusual with your vehicle, recall or not, you should contact your local dealer for inspection. As vehicles continue to have newer, more innovative technology, it seems inevitable that the car recalls will continue to rise.

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Brian Jones
About Brian Jones

I am an ASE Certified Master Tech, but spend more time with my awesome family now than I do on cars. In my spare time, you'll still find me playing with tools, cars and many other "manly" gadgets.

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