Fixing it twice

Five years ago my brake system sprung a leak. I had enough fluid left to drive it to my mechanic, who replaced corroded front brake lines.

For four years I had no trouble, and then the letters started arriving. GM had belatedly ordered a recall and my car is legally a rolling time bomb.

I haven’t had a dealer officially declare my car safe.

One of the perks of being a dealer is getting paid $80 to glue two little plastic bits into my keys. My car used to be a legal death trap because I might strain the ignition lock if I hung a purse or a bowling ball from my key. I don’t do that, but a dealer has to glue plastic into the key just in case.

My key was fine for my use and my brake lines are fine for any use. But federal law says recalls are done by manufacturers, and the manufacturer has not “repaired” my already-repaired car.

In my state the consequence is more junk mail. In some states I couldn’t register the car.

A new law says companies can’t rent the car. Unless the manufacturer isn’t ready to fix this supposedly life-threatening problem. Then it’s OK.

Is it important or not? The font size of “Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear” (FMVSS 111 S5.4.2) is as important as intact brake lines.

We need a distinction between “bring it in whenever it’s convenient” and “all cars with this defect are out of service until it is fixed.”

The FAA makes that distinction. A safety problem can immediately ground the fleet, require corrective action within a specified time (“airworthiness directive“), or lead to an advisory notice to operators.

With so many millions of recalls, and more coming as robots turn simple systems into complicated ones, we need to set priorities.

The opinions expressed in this post belong to the author and do not necessarily represent those of the National Motorists Association or the NMA Foundation. This content is for informational purposes and is not intended as legal advice. No representations are made regarding the accuracy of this post or the included links.

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