8 Most Embarrassing Automotive Recalls

Car Culture / Comments

From a Ferrari frunk release to a Honda model badge glued in the wrong place.

A recall notice can be issued for many reasons on a car. It might have a major fault regarding safety, like when Ford recalled Pinto models in the 1970s because they could go up in flames in a rear-end collision. Sometimes, it's because of a compliance issue that isn't as obviously dangerous, like when Ford had to recall the 1978 Granada because the turn signals were the wrong shade of amber. Either way, voluntarily or enforced by the NHTSA, a recall is expensive. So, when the reason for the recall is on the silly side, things can get embarrassing. Those are our favorite kinds of recalls, because eventually we get to have some fun and compile them into a list like this.


Mazda's Unchangeable Radio Station

A recent 2022 Mazda-only recall was curiously specific in location. It only affected vehicles built between 2014 and 2017 in the Seattle area of Washington state. Owners suddenly found themselves unable to change from 94.9 FM on the radio once they had tuned in or saw their infotainment screens enter an endless rebooting cycle. The problem was traced back to the NPR affiliate's radio station, sending out an image file with no extension. The system should have ignored a file with no extension to identify the file type but instead tried to open it, sending the system into a loop.

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Lamborghini's Headlight Screw

At the beginning of 2021, Lamborghini had a silly recall on its hands when 4,796 Huracans were sold without blanking caps over their headlight adjustment screws. Lamborghini realized that an error had been made and that the horizontal adjustment screw wasn't in compliance with a Federal Safety Standard. The brand notified the NHTSA and applied for a petition for "Inconsequential Noncompliance" because, well, it's inconsequential. That was in March of 2021, and in February of 2022, the NHTSA refused the petition and forced the recall. Apparently, customers being able to adjust their own headlamps was so consequential it took two years to call Lamborghini to take action.

2020-2021 Lamborghini Huracan Evo Front Angle View Lamborghini
2020-2021 Lamborghini Huracan Evo Front View Driving Lamborghini
2020-2021 Lamborghini Huracan Evo Side View Driving Lamborghini
2020-2021 Lamborghini Huracan Evo Rear View Driving Lamborghini

Ferrari 458's Stuck Frunk Lid

In the US, there are regulations that demand there be a trunk release on every car sold, and as of 2022, they have to have glow-in-the-dark handles. There's a good enough reason for that, and it's not stupidity. They have helped people escape kidnappings. However, to fit someone into the Ferrari 458's trunk, they would need to be tiny enough that you wouldn't need to lock them in a trunk. Unfortunately for Ferrari in 2014, and despite the 8.1-cubic-foot front trunk capacity, it had to recall around 3,000 cars sold in the US as the escape latch "may not release when the vehicle is stationary."

2010-2015 Ferrari 458 Italia Front View Ferrari
Ferrari Of Central New Jersey
2010-2015 Ferrari 458 Italia Rear View Ferrari
2010-2015 Ferrari 458 Italia Side View Ferrari

Ford's Detaching Windscreen Wipers

At this point in the evolution of the motorized vehicle, not only do we take windscreen wipers for granted, but due to their simplicity, they rarely go wrong. Mechanically, they're simple and don't have to work hard, so they should outlast the car itself. However, a manufacturing issue from a part supplier to Ford led to a recall in April of 2022 that affected over 600,000 trucks and SUVs. According to the recall, "Worn wiper arm spline tooling core inserts at the supplier resulted in insufficient spline tooth height, which can cause the arm attachment to strip when used with certain wiper motors with higher torque." Ford said the wipers could fail without breaking off altogether, but that would make for a sucky subheading.

2021-2022 Ford F-150 Front Angle View Ford
Front View Driving Ford
Front View Driving Lincoln

Tesla's Rolling Stop Fiasco

This list is in no particular order, but this is the dumbest recall of the lot. Tesla, in its arrogance, rolled out an update that allowed cars with its not full self-driving Fully Self Driving feature to perform what's colloquially known as a "rolling stop" at stop signs and what the cops call "a good reason to give you a ticket." Yes, Tesla added a feature that performs an illegal maneuver on the road and then had to recall almost 54,000 cars to remove it again. How nobody realized it's not a good idea for a car to come to a complete stop when it's supposed to is baffling. After all, this isn't rocket science. The rolling stop feature was, and please excuse us for this, rolled back on all Tesla models with the beta FSD installed.

2020-2022 Tesla Model Y Driving Front Angle Tesla
Driving Front Angle Tesla
2017-2022 Tesla Model 3 Driving Front Angle Tesla

Ford EcoSport's Euro-Spec Brake Reservoir Cap And Owner's Manual

When it comes to rule compliance, some of the differences between European and North American cars are tiny. For example, the brake reservoir caps, while being identical in form and function, have to have a "specific brake fluid warning statement." When cars come from the same factory to go to different continents, mistakes can be made. In this case, 273 Ford EcoSport models made it to the US with the wrong caps. According to the NHTSA, "Without the required warning, owners may be confused by the European pictogram cap and may either mistakenly refill the brake fluid with the incorrect replacement brake fluid, not know how to clean the cap, or not fill from a sealed container. Any of these errors could affect brake performance, increasing the risk of a crash." At least some of the cars also shipped with Euro-centric owner's manual.

2018-2021 Ford EcoSport Front View Driving Ford
2018-2021 Ford EcoSport In Motion Ford
2018-2021 Ford EcoSport Rear View Driving Ford

Honda Odyssey's Badge

The NHTSA doesn't force all recalls; some are voluntary to head off issues or just because a brand cares about its customers and long-term reputation. In this case, some Honda Odyssey models left the factory with the model badge glued to the wrong side of the tailgate. Honda sent out a bulletin to dealerships for the fix and a letter to customers in 2013, saying: "The placement of the emblem may indicate that the vehicle has had repairs performed that are consistent with it being in a crash. This could affect the resale value of the vehicle." Honda remedied the issue, which is at first glance comical, but in reality, is a nice piece of customer service on an issue few customers would have noticed until later, if at all.


Chevrolet Sonic's Missing Brake Pads

"General Motors is recalling 4,296 Chevrolet Sonic subcompact models to inspect for missing brake pads." That's one of our favorite opening lines to a recall article, and via Autoweek in 2011. General Motors recalling vehicles is not unusual, but the "inspect for missing brake pads" part is pure gold. It suggests that owners of 2021 Sonics might not have noticed that their brakes weren't working as they should. "Dealers will inspect the front brakes for missing inner or outer pads," a statement confirmed, and the issue was discovered when a rental fleet Sonic was brought in for a service.

The brake pads could have been missing because they weren't fixed to a subassembly of components properly. The pads were falling off in the shipping container and going unnoticed when unloaded.


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