Motorists depend on reliable and safe vehicles to get them where they are going, so a recent wave of vehicle recalls may lead to questions about the recall process or the safety of certain automobiles.

The National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration may order recalls of vehicles that have safety-related defects or that fail to meet federal safety standards. In addition, automobile manufacturers may voluntarily initiate recalls when safety defects are discovered. For instance, General Motors has issued recalls for more than 25 million vehicles this year alone, many related to potentially faulty ignition switches.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has issued a consumer alert to provide information to Arkansans about vehicle recalls and how to determine whether vehicles are subject to a recall.

"The vehicle recall process administered by the federal government is designed to protect our safety on the road and ensure that defects are identified and corrected in a timely fashion," McDaniel said. "A recall shouldn’t be a reason for immediate alarm, but it should put consumers on notice that a problem needs to be corrected. Taking the time to have problems fixed can prevent injuries and save lives."

Recalls are issued when a vehicle or item within a vehicle fails to meet minimum federal motor vehicle safety standards. Such standards apply to items like brakes, tires, lighting, air bags, safety belts and child restraints.

When vehicles are recalled, manufacturers must notify by mail all owners of affected vehicles with information about the recall that identifies the problem and evaluates its safety risk. Consumers must be told how the problem can be corrected, how long it will take to correct the issue and where the repairs can be made. In most instances, repairs must be provided free of charge. Lists of registered owners are provided by state motor vehicle offices.

If the recall is related to certain equipment, such as tires or child-safety seats, notification is provided to owners who have registered the products with the manufacturer. NHTSA may also require manufacturers to notify the public of recalls through advertisements or other notices to the public.

To determine whether a vehicle is subject to a recall visit NHTSA’s website,, where consumers can search NHTSA’s database by year, make and model for information about recalls, investigations and complaints. The searchable data base also includes information about recalls of child restraints, tires and other equipment.