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The Most Dangerous Auto Safety Recalls Ever

Two cars in the mechanic's shop area of a dealership.

When it comes to the design and manufacture of automobiles, perhaps the most important consideration above all others is safety. That's why new vehicles are tested over and over again before they make their way to dealership lots. But despite the best efforts of automakers, there are many instances where serious flaws were not detected until later on and that is when a safety recall must be issued.

In Canada, manufacturers must submit a Notice of Defect or Notice of Non-Compliance with the government when a safety defect is discovered. The safety recall notice will include a description of the issue, the risks involved and instructions for correcting the issue. If a manufacturer of a vehicle has your contact information and you own a vehicle that has been recalled, they are required to notify you. Otherwise, you'll need to search the government database of safety recalls to see if your vehicle has been recalled.

It is your responsibility to have the manufacturer complete repairs on your recalled vehicle, which are generally done free of charge. To illustrate the importance of complying with safety recall orders, these are the most dangerous auto safety recalls of all time:

Toyota Sticky Accelerator Pedal

Beginning in 2009, after about a decade of complaints, Toyota recalled millions of vehicles around the world due to an issue with spontaneous acceleration. The automaker blamed faulty floor mats and sticky floor pedals as the culprit. The acceleration issue made it impossible for affected drivers to stop or slow down, resulting in thousands of complaints and accidents, and as many as 89 deaths. In total, Toyota recalled 9.3 million vehicles globally, making it one of the largest recalls undertaken by an automaker. In 2010, Toyota recalled about 270,000 vehicles in Canada and temporarily halted sales.

Ford Steering Column Fires

In 1996, Ford Motor Company issued the largest voluntary safety recall of the time with more than 8.7 million vehicles affected. The issue? A faulty ignition switch was blamed for spontaneous steering column fires, which could occur even when the vehicle was not in operation. The automaker was spurred to action in part by Transport Canada, who ordered a recall of 248,000 Ford vehicles over the issue in 1995. Eventually, Transport Canada would order the recall of 834,368 vehicles over the issue including Mustangs, Broncos, Thunderbirds, F-Series and Mercury Cougars.

Firestone Separating Tires

In 2000, Bridgestone-Firestone Inc. issued a recall of 6.5 million tires in North America after years of complaints, lawsuits and investigations. Certain tire models installed on the Ford Explorer and other vehicles were prone to an extremely dangerous hazard. The treads of affected tires would separate at high speeds, leading to a potentially catastrophic tire blowout on the highway. The issue was linked to 271 deaths in the United States and more around the world. Transport Canada reported no fatalities or accidents linked with the flawed tires, but Ford ordered a recall just to be on the safe side.

With safety being the number one priority for drivers, it is important to participate in any recalls that affect a vehicle you own. Failure to have a recalled vehicle repaired can cause accidents, or increase the risk of injury in an accident.

It’s a good practice to schedule a recall check at least once a year. Maybe do a “paperwork” check every time you renew your licence, including a search of current recalls and a comparison of the best insurance rates for your car.