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Keeping your car clean and safe are the top priorities for most people. With the multiple wash packages at Fast Freddy’s, your car will be shining all summer. Along with the appearance of your automobile, it’s important to keep it in safe condition. If you own an automobile, chances are you've received an auto recall notice at one time or another--or you will in the future. It's just a fact of life for motorists. But there's no need to be alarmed. Auto recalls happen for a variety of reasons, and there's rarely a reason to worry.

Some auto recalls have created quite a sensation because they involved a best-selling vehicle that you wouldn't expect to have problems. But despite quality control and strict pre-production testing, things do go wrong.

Since 1966, when the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act was implemented, manufacturers have recalled millions of vehicles to fix safety defects. And there have been many additional recalls to correct items unrelated to safe operation--cosmetic repairs or emissions control systems, for example.

The important thing to know is that just because you receive a recall notice, that doesn't mean your car is about explode, break down or kill you. In fact, you might never experience a problem at all.

But you do want to act and follow the instructions outlined in the notice, which should arrive by mail from the manufacturer. This involves making an appointment with the dealership and having the part replaced or repaired, free of charge. By law, any authorized car dealership selling that model car is required to do the repair for free. If your dealer refuses or you encounter any difficulties, call the number provided on the official notice.

There are a couple of exceptions to this rule. If your car is more than 10 years old, they're not obligated to make the repair for free. And if you had the car fixed before the recall was issued, the manufacturer isn't obligated to reimburse you.

If you read or hear that there's been a recall, but you haven't been notified, it's because the manufacturer can't find you. Call the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration hotline at (888) 327-4236 and ask about your situation. On that note, it's important that your state motor-vehicle records are updated because that's how manufacturers find the registered owner.

Visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's website (nhtsa.gov) for more information and a list of recalls, defects and complaints.