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You can also report a vehicle safety issue to NHTSA online at our vehicle safety Web site: www.safercar.gov. Select “File a Complaint” within the Defects and Recalls section of the home page. The information you submit via the Web site is recorded in VOQ format, entered into our consumer complaint database, and provided to our technical staff for evaluation.

When you fill out a VOQ online, you will be given the option of checking a box to authorize or not authorize the release of your personal identifiers to the manufacturer of the alleged defective product you own. Again, while you are not required to provide such authorization, doing so can sometimes help facilitate the recall process.

U.S. Mail
To report a safety complaint to NHTSA by mail, send your letter to:
U.S. Department of Transportation
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Office of Defects Investigation (NVS-210)
1200 New Jersey Avenue SE
Washington, DC 20590

How will my report be used?

Information you provide on the questionnaire is entered into the NHTSA consumer complaint automated database, and catalogued according to vehicle make, model, model year, manufacturer, and the affected part, assembly, or system. Citizen and consumer reports help NHTSA and manufacturers to determine if a safety recall is warranted, and also provide motorists with valuable information about potential safety problems currently under review.

Will I be contacted?

In some cases, an investigator from the Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) may call to clarify or verify information from your report. Unfortunately, the large volume of reports received by the agency does not permit a return call for each report filed. Questions about whether your concern involves an investigation or recall are best answered by contacting the DOT Vehicle Safety Hotline or by viewing our Web site.

NHTSA technical staff conducts a continuous analysis of these reports to determine whether an unusual number of complaints of potential safety-related problems have been received on any specific line of vehicles, tires, or equipment (e.g., child safety seats, jacks, trailer hitches, etc.). The number of reported complaints and the severity of the consequences are carefully reviewed by technical staff and measured against the number of vehicles (or items of equipment) manufactured, and how many years the vehicles or equipment have been in service.

This ongoing evaluation process allows NHTSA technical staff to determine whether complaints represent isolated reports or a trend. If a trend is suspected and a problem has a potential for causing a risk to safety, the agency will open an investigation for more detailed analysis of the problem.

How many reports must be filed before NHTSA investigates an issue?

There is no established number. Agency technical experts review each and every call, letter, and online report of an alleged safety problem filed with NHTSA. Although NHTSA has no jurisdiction over defects that are not safety-related, it does review each report that suggests a potential safety defect involving groups of motor vehicles or vehicle equipment.

How does NHTSA conduct an investigation?

The agency's Office of Defects Investigation investigative process consists of four parts:

  1. Screening -- A preliminary review of consumer complaints and other information related to alleged defects to decide whether to open an investigation
  2. Petition Analysis -- An analysis of any petitions calling for defect investigations and/or reviews of safety-related recalls
  3. Investigation -- The investigation of alleged safety defects
  4. Recall Management -- Investigation of the effectiveness of safety recalls.