If you think back, you probably remember the recall of Firestone tires in 2000. But it didn’t happen until after a critical mass of anecdotes and hard news regarding serious accidents was built. Long story short, as a result Congress required manufacturers to provide information on safety complaints about their products that they were receiving from consumers, and that information is now available to the public at Safercar.gov.
In addition to safe driving information and links to resources such as crash test reports and the EPA’s Green Vehicle Guide, the site allows users to search for recalls, technical service bulletins and monthly defect investigation reports. The heart of the site, though, is the ability to file a complaint or search the complaint database by car make, model and year. The site uses a “drill down” search feature which is a little clunky and requires a lot of mouse clicks to get what you’re looking for, but the results can be worth the trouble. The site even has information to help you select a safer car if you’re researching a new car purchase.
As the auto and component parts manufacturers stress, though, you need to take what you find in the complaints database with a grain of salt. Since anyone can submit an online complaint about anything that goes wrong with their car, or any part of it, it may take some time to determine whether the database will ultimately give the early warning of serious defects it was designed to provide.