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Could your car have a safety issue? Millions of drivers can't get necessary recall repairs

Posted at 9:54 PM, May 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-22 17:27:03-04

Millions of cars on the road right now, face government recalls for potentially dangerous problems, but those fixes have not been made.

It could be that the owner doesn't know about an open recall.

It could also be what Susanne and Bill Levi faced.

The Valley couple got a safety recall notice involving their 2011 Dodge Durango and a potential fuel pump relay failure.

It's a car they bought saying it was one of the safest on the road at the time.

The notice states "a vehicle engine stall while driving can cause a vehicle crash without prior notice."

Susanne says she followed the recall notice instructions immediately.

"I called the number, got put on hold. I was told the part is not available we'll contact you when it is ready," she says.

Susanne says she tried to get the repairs for months and ended up on waiting lists.

"I called multiple dealerships and I'm number 50 on one, number 20 on another. What I was told is they are allowed to order one part per week. That means one vehicle is being fixed per week. So, if I'm number 20 you could see how long that would take," Susanne says.

The Levi's parked the car and wouldn't drive it, concerned about the risk.

Unfortunately, the family knows too much about cars and tragedy.

Ten years ago, they were driving back from a California vacation in a different car, when a tire blew out.

It sent the vehicle rolling over multiple times.

When it was over, the Levi's 8-year-old son Quinn and Susanne's father John had both died.

In a book Susanne wrote about it, "Missing Quinn", she says "it was the day the old me died."

Now, the couple's other son Will is 16 and learning to drive.

"I don't want my son in that car, and I don't feel safe," Susanne says about the unrepaired recall issue.

"This particular defect, a stalling defect is a threat to everybody right? If the car stalls out in traffic at a busy intersection there could be multiple cars involved in a crash," says Rosemary Shahan.

Shahan is the founder of the non-profit Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety (CARS).

She says she is also hearing from owners who get notices but face long delays in getting a repair.

While there is no law that governs deadlines for when automakers must have parts ready, Shahan says there are things you can do if delayed.

"We've always taken the position they should give you a loaner across the board if they are going to delay the repair so at least you have a safe car," she says.

Shahan says depending on the car and seriousness of the recall issue, it could also qualify to be bought back by the automaker under the lemon law.

Another recall issue she sees, involves owners who may have bought used cars with unrepaired recalls, and they don't know it.

Check to see if your car has an unrepaired safety recall issue.

You can use your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) or car's model to check.

We contacted Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) about the Levi's issue.

They say customers were notified of the recall and advised that the remedy was not immediately available. FCA says COVID did slow the remedy process, and that they offered an interim fix and notified owners of a final remedy after it became available in December 2020.

After Susanne filed a complaint with the company and after we contacted FCA, the Levis were able to get that fuel pump relay fix they sought for months and drive their car again.

In a statement about the Levi's repair, FCA US says it is "pleased to have resolved this situation but regrets this customer's experience. The overwhelming majority of FCA recalls are launched with imminent remedy availability. If ever customers experience an issue with their vehicles, we urge them to visit their dealers for diagnostic testing."

But the experience concerns the Levis for anyone else who still may not be able to get a timely repair involving a recall involving any automaker.

The Levis say they hope the repair parts process can change and they believe change can happen in the auto industry.

They point to the tire blowout and tragic crash ten years ago that took the life of two family members.

Susanne and Bill believe their case highlighted the dangers of using old spare tires no matter how new they might look.

"If there's anything good that came out of it, now there's a safety warning about spare tire age in all automobile manufacturer's manuals," Bill says.

The Levis want everyone to know any tire more than 6 years old should be replaced.

To determine your tire's age, look for the DOT number imprinted on the tire.

It could be up to 12 digits long.

The last four digits show the week and year the tire was manufactured.

So, the numbers 3219 would mean the tire was manufactured in the 32nd week of 2019.