Nobody likes when things don’t work the way they’re supposed to, especially when it’s the two-ton hunk of metal in your driveway. But when a problem becomes a complaint becomes an investigation becomes a recall, automakers try to get your attention so you can get it fixed. It’s not just junk mail — it’s a letter that might save your life.
Thing is, recalls happen all the time. Some are relatively minor; some are, well, the Takata airbag inflator crisis. Each is important no matter the month, but it can be hard to keep up with whether your vehicle is involved.
Not feeling up to speed? We’ve got you. Below are the biggest recalls we covered from March in terms of the number of vehicles affected. For more coverage, check out our Recalls page, and for a comprehensive list of recalls that include all things road-going, check out the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s page here.
As it was in February, March was flush with latent recalls finally making their way to NHTSA and consumers after January’s government shutdown. But the month’s biggest recall had nothing to do with that — in fact, it stemmed from chemical compounds in everyday household products like fabric softener and car polish. Reportedly Subaru’s largest recall since the Takata crisis, the problem came down to exposure of these compounds to the brakelight switch, preventing the lights from illuminating properly. It could also prevent vehicles with keyless ignition from starting and automatic transmissions from shifting out of Park. With such a large number and range of vehicles affected (Foresters, Imprezas, WRXs and STIs, and Crosstreks), the straightforward solution of replacing the brakelight switch should not be delayed. Don’t risk it.
After two comparatively trouble-free months in which it was absent from our top-five countdowns, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles returned to the list with a massive recall for an issue with affected vehicles’ catalytic converters. The problem? Deterioration could adversely affect the vehicles’ emissions, therefore releasing unwanted pollutants. Though not a government-mandated recall like its diesel-emissions scandal, the latest campaign means new catalytic converters and updated software for the powertrain control module on FCA’s dime.
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It’s a steep drop in car count to get to No. 3, but this recall is perhaps more explosive — literally so, at least. In the case of affected Audi models, fuel rails may leak, which in the presence of an ignition source can lead to the kind of driving experience no one but a well-paid stunt driver burns for (and even then, we have doubts). As with the more serious recalls, this repair is straightforward: Dealers will replace the offending fuel rails.
Volkswagen’s non-luxury division took a hit in March, too, with some 56,000-plus Golf SportWagens, Jettas, Golfs and Tiguans recalled for rear coil springs that may prematurely fracture. Anyone who’s ever had a fractured collarbone from the wrong kind of rugby hit — you are legion in this readership, I know — knows that a fracture can lead to much worse outcomes. In this case, it can damage a rear tire and cause a loss of control. To avoid a literal spinning out of your life, get to your dealership for new rear-axle coil springs. As with the other recalls, this one’s on the house.
Appearing on this list for the first time since we started compiling recalls on a monthly basis in May 2018, Volvo issued a recall for its XC60 luxury compact SUVs — yes, the same XC60 that topped our 2018 Luxury Compact SUV Challenge in June. With some 46,000 examples affected, the issue hinges (ahem) on temperatures affecting the tailgate: Under certain conditions and cold temperatures, the tailgate lifting arms may freeze, which can cause the lifting arms to separate. That’s not just bad for owners, it’s bad for anyone following them. Volvo will replace the arms with an improved design, but its specifics depend on the Swedish brand; an initial notification to owners went out at the end of January, but a follow-up letter will go out when parts for the fix become available.
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