Filing a Vehicle Safety Complaint

Use the File a Vehicle Safety Complaint feature for:

Overview

You can use the Vehicle Safety Complaint form to register a safety complaint about your vehicle. Use the longer online form to file a complaint regarding Tires, Equipment, or Child Restraints. Select File a Complaint from the Vehicle Owners section that is available when you access the Web site. The Safety Complaints page appears. You can choose to fill out the complaint online or phone the Hotline. The homepage gives you some information about NHTSA's Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) and why your complaint is important.

All of the complaint information that you provide is transmitted using a secure mechanism and stored in a secure database. The Thawte logo indicates that the secure server is a legitimate secure site. For more information, see Viewing the Thawte Information.

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Creating a Vehicle Safety Complaint

Enter information about your complaint in the fields on the form. Fields marked with a red asterisk are required and your complaint cannot be processed if any of those fields are blank. Error messages will be displayed for those fields having an invalid entry when you try to verify and submit your form.

Should you have the need to clear out all of the entries on the form, select the "Reset Form" button at the bottom of the page. You will be prompted to confirm that you want to erase ALL of the entries on the form. Select "OK" to clear all entries on the form or "Cancel" to return to the form without removing any entries.

Entering Vehicle Information

Start the complaint creation process by entering the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) in the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) field. (NOTE: You can complete the complaint process without entering a valid VIN if you complete the Vehicle information below. However, the VIN can be very helpful to us during our analysis.) The VIN can always be found on the driverís side of the dashboard at the base of the windshield and on your vehicle registration and car insurance card. The VIN and a barcode of it may also be located on the driverís door or door jamb. It consists of a combination of numbers and letters. The entered VIN must contain 17 characters. Please be careful when entering your VIN as additional requirements are applied to the characters entered. For more information about entering the VIN, see VIN Validation.

Next, enter the vehicle's Make, Model, and Model Year, separated by spaces and in any order, in the Vehicle field. This field is required, but also features a sophisticated smart lookup that provides you with a list of vehicles in our database that may match your vehicle after you enter at least three characters. As you enter additional characters for the same or one of the other attributes, the list is refined based on all of the characters entered. If an entry in the list matches your vehicle, select it at any time and the full Make, Model, and Model Year will populate the Vehicle field. This serves to simplify your entry of the vehicle information, as long as the vehicle matches one currently in our database.

If the characters you enter do not produce a match, you must enter the complete Make, Model, and Model Year. If you enter a Make, Model, and Model Year in the Vehicle field without selecting from the lookup list, the system will ask you to select an "If not found" check box when you select the "Verify your entries" button. Selecting this check box will allow the ODI staff to review your vehicle information and, if accepted, it will be added to our database. You will only see the check box if you enter your own vehicle Make, Model, and Model Year and click on the "Verify your entries" button.

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VIN Validation

When you enter complaint information regarding a defective vehicle and you enter a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), the application will try to validate the number when you press the "Test your VIN" button. If you enter an invalid VIN, one or more error messages appear.

A VIN is invalid if it does not meet the following requirements:

NOTE: You can complete the complaint process without entering a valid VIN.

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Entering Incident Information

Enter specific information regarding the incident that prompted your complaint.
  1. Date Handling

    Specify the date that the incident occurred by clicking the calendar icon and selecting the date from the calendar that appears. The Complaint application generates an error message when you enter an "improbable date" in the Incident Date field on the Complaint form. The application does not allow you to verify and submit the complaint form until you correct it.

    The following table describes the business rule for this date field, and includes the error message that appears.

    DATE FIELD ERROR MESSAGE BUSINESS RULE
    Approximate Incident Date Incident Date cannot be future. The incident date that you selected is greater than the current date. It must be either less than or equal to the current date. For example, if the current date is 5/6/2011, and you select an incident date of 6/4/2011, you would see this error message.

  2. Select the Yes radio button in the Was there a Crash? field if the incident involved a vehicle crash. Select the No radio button if it did not.

  3. Select the Yes radio button in the Was there a Fire? field if the incident involved a fire. Select the No radio button if it did not.

  4. Select the Yes radio button in the Was there an Injury or Fatality? field if the incident caused injuries and/or fatalities. Two additional fields will appear.

  5. Enter the vehicle mileage at the time of the incident in the Vehicle mileage at time of incident (miles) field. You can only enter numeric characters in this field.

  6. Enter the speed that the vehicle was going at the time of the incident in the Vehicle speed at time of incident (mph) field. You can only enter numeric characters in this field.

  7. Entering Affected Parts Information

    Select the name of up to three defective/noncompliant vehicle parts from the drop-down list using the arrow at the end of the Affected Parts field. You may also select parts by typing in the part name, in which case matching parts will be listed as you type. You can select a part from this list without having to complete typing the name.

    You can remove a part from your selection by selecting the "X" next to the name. All parts can be removed at one time by selecting the "X" at the end of the field.

    NOTE: Only the parts given in the drop-down list may be used. If you do not find a part that you have a complaint about in the list, select "Unknown or Other" and enter the information in the complaint narrative in the Tell us what happened field.

  8. Enter a description of the incident that prompted the complaint in the Tell us what happened field. The description should include information about any failures, crashes, or injuries associated with the incident. You should include the location of the incident in the description as well as information about any additional accidents, if it is appropriate. This is a required field that takes a maximum of 1,900 characters. The number of available characters remaining is shown above the input box.

    WARNING: This description, exactly as you enter it, may appear in a public NHTSA database. Do not include any personal information (name, street/email address, phone number, social security/driver license number, Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), etc...).

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Entering Personal Information

The Personal Information section entries are used in order to contact you if clarification of the complaint information you entered is necessary. See the We Value Your Privacy box for a brief description of how your information will be used. Please see our Privacy Policy for additional information.

Use the following procedure to enter your information:
  1. Enter your first name in the First Name field. This is a required field.
  2. Enter your last name in the Last Name field. This is a required field.
  3. Enter your email address in the Email field. The email address must be a valid Internet email address. This is a required field. An email acknowledgement of your complaint with a unique complaint/ODI Number will be sent to this email address.
  4. Confirm your email address by re-entering it in the Confirm Email field. This is a required field.
  5. Enter your daytime or business telephone number in the Daytime Phone field. This is a required field.
  6. Enter your evening or home telephone number in the Evening Phone field.
  7. Enter your street address in the Address 1 field. This is a required field.
  8. Enter the second line of your street address (for example, an apartment or suite number) in the Address 2 field.
  9. Enter the name of the city where you live in the City field. This is a required field.
  10. Select the state that you live in from the list box in the State field. This is a required field.
  11. Enter your 5-digit zip code in the Zip Code field. This is a required field for U.S. residents.

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Verifying/Submitting Complaint Information

Once you enter all the complaint information, select the "Verify your entries" button at the bottom of the page. You will then have an opportunity to review the entered information and make any necessary changes before finally submitting the complaint.

Complaint Entry Verification

The page that appears after you finish entering the complaint information is the Verify Your Vehicle Safety Complaint Entries page. This page displays the three parts of the complaint information - Vehicle, Incident and Personal Information sections.

The following table describes the fields that appear on the page:

SECTION NAME DESCRIPTION
Vehicle Information Displays the Vehicle VIN and Make, Model, and Model Year information.
Incident Information Displays the general complaint information that you entered in the Incident Information section. For more information about the fields that appear in the Incident Information section, see Entering Incident Information.
Personal Information Displays the personal information that you entered in the Personal Information section. For information about the fields that appear in the Personal Information section, see Entering Personal Information.

Review the information that appears on the page to make sure that it is correct. If it is not, you may go back to the complaint form to edit your complaint by clicking the "Edit Complaint" button at the bottom of the page. When you are satisfied that the information contained in the complaint is correct, use the "Submit Complaint" button at the bottom of the entry verification page to submit the complaint. Two things happen when you press the "Submit Complaint" button:

  1. All your complaint information get saved into the NHTSA complaints database in a secure way. A system-generated Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) Number is generated for your complaint.
  2. An email acknowledgement gets sent to your email address with the ODI Number and some related information.

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Complaint Confirmation

The confirmation page displays a unique ODI Number that belongs to your vehicle safety complaint. Your complaint will be reviewed by the ODI staff before the complaint information gets published to the SaferCar website. If you entered the Make, Model, and Model Year instead of picking a vehicle from the products list under Vehicle Information, it may take longer for ODI staff to review the complaint.

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Viewing the Thawte Information

The Thawte logo that appears on the File a Vehicle Safety Complaint page indicates that the secure server is a legitimate Thawte secure site.

When you click on the logo, a pop-up window appears that displays the Thawte information for NHTSA's secure server. This information includes:

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End of File