VIN – Vehicle Identification Number and Recalls



The VIN is a 17 digit number standardised in the USA for identifying vehicles, being motor cars, motorcycles and towed vehicles. The VIN cannot include I (i), O (o), or Q (q) to confuse the reader with a 1 or 0. The VIN is useful to find batches of vehicles made which may come up with problems, often initiating a recall of vehicles that fall within a specific range of numbers.  To find out more about vehicle VIN you can read up in Wiki here. The scope of this article is more about vehicle recalls and where to find information.

Cadillac de Ville – Image by Reinfried Marass

First of all, what is painfully apparent is that many vehicles although falling outside a VIN range do exhibit problems related to a recall but owners are not notified – the owner should then take their vehicle in for a check and let the dealer check the problem or related problem or at least have them put in writing that the vehicle you have purchased was not a lemon. The internet is full of stories related to premature engine failures where the manufacturer could have done something but preferred to remain quiet on the issue. In the electronics industry Sony stands out as being extremely proactive when it comes to recalls – yes, sometimes a little late but sometimes when millions of dollars are at stake any company would be foolish to highlight their woes until after a full investigation.

In the motor industry Toyota must have lost billions over the last decade due to recalls but one must not forget that Toyota now stands out as a shining example of how to do things right – in fact their accelerator pedal recall would have boosted their company image. Everybody was aware that a class action lawsuit was imminent but Toyota did not just take a defensive stand to protect their image, they went all out to correct the problem and uphold the quality of their brand – amidst many an underhanded approach from motorists to lodge dodgy claims against the company Toyota did right and if anything it boosted their image.  The question that remains then is how many motor companies do remain totally defensive and reactive to problems which they felt was not life threatening?

Although Chinese imports have proven to be an answer to many a young driver or biker’s transport problems there remains a high chance of safety issues emanating without recall notices – I state this because I am aware of one motorcycle dealer that repeatedly ignores the safety standards of the welds used in the framework of the motorcycle – searches on the internet will bring up such articles as well related to cracked frames etc and not just from one manufacturer. I certainly haven’t seen this with BMW, Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki or Honda. Hard riding should not be used as an excuse – I have seen off road bikes break in half after they had gone through incredible stress, this is understandable, but not during normal road use and after having hit a small pothole. Are we in for a similar ride with cheap motor car imports?

Should we understand that because a motor vehicle is cheap it invariably may break up on the highway at 60 m.p.h. (100Km/Hr). Definitely not. An article in a family magazine covered tests on five ‘very affordable’ family vehicles of which one stood out, Tata. The test drivers possibly didn’t feel comfortable with the other vehicles – they certainly did with the Tata. So Tata do make affordable vehciles with higher safety standards for a specific price range. All vehicle manufacturers should. Now for the big question: Just like an aircraft manufacturer releases thousands of service related documents within the lifetime of an aircraft should all manufacturers not be doing the same?  You see the aircraft manufacturer does this to ensure not only that the aircraft stays in the air safely but the company buying their aircraft get maximum air miles, in safety, out of their aircraft. I feel that motor manufacturers do not release this information because they want you to buy another car. I do not see modern vehicles becoming more rleiable as time marches by only because as the level of sophistication goes up, more things can go wrong. If I buy a car to tow a caravan I would have done some homework – a 1300cc car is not designed for towing anything but a light trailer, maybe 200-300Kg max, but think of the many vehicle owners driving 2L or 3L cars being told that their clutch had burnt out because of inexpert driving – should the manufacturer not have some safety mechanism built in which warns the driver that they are driving like a klutz, come on – with modern electronics this is an easy task. When you buy your car is there an indicator showing you when your car is developing maximum torque or horsepower or should only racing driver’s know this. Premature clutch failure may not be caused by stupid driving but maybe inferior clutch parts. Likewise when buying a vehicle for 4×4 trails the manufactuer should understand the implications – 4×4 driving needs heavier clutches.

Read about certain vehicles that have premature engine failure due to flaky catalytic converters. There’s not one of them, there’s quite a few. So if a part is fitted that cannot withstand maximum torque of an engine over a prolonged period or the engine becomes damaged through a ‘possible failure of a component’ should this not be recalled. We have all the safety equipment like airbags, ABS, all the electronic equipment to get the perfect fuel air mixture but no electronics to detect probable engine, or drive chain failure then I think we are in for a bumpy ride. A colleague had a high end German vehicle. The transmission burnt out. U$6 000 later he had the car for exactly one month before it failed again. To tell me that the transmission failed because of suspect driving is not going to cut because it was quite apparent that the transmission was not flown out from Germany and because the transmission had the same failure type (hoards of smoke and no traction).  I would state that the transmission was not fixed properly in the first place. This could NOT have been a new gearbox as claimed – this was a cheap repair. The first repair took one month to fail again, the second 3 days – there was no charges on the second repair because the gearbox had carried a warranty. Since the car cost 100 000U$ why was there no safety mechanism built in to tell the driver he was overloading the transmission. I smell a rat. When doing research on the internet this is a known problem – just out of warranty and bingo!

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