Do I have to pay for a recall repair my car’s previous owner ignored?

John Paul, AAA Northeast's Car Doctor, answers a question from a reader dealing with a recall issue.

In this Aug. 5, 2011 file photo, the Lexus logo is displayed on a Lexus sedan in the showroom at Lexus of Kendall in Miami.
–AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File

Q. I just purchased a 2004 Lexus LX 470 and just found out it had a recall notice put out in 2016 that the last owner never followed up on. I read in the article that if a vehicle is over 10 years old the dealership can charge for the repairs, but it also said that if a new owner finds out a recall was never resolved, then the new owner can still have it fixed for free. Since the original recall was issued in 2016, the vehicle was already 12 years old. So, as a new owner of a vehicle that has an outstanding recall should I expect the recall to be done for free? 


A. As a general rule, safety recalls have no expiration date and are performed at no charge to the current owner. The only time this would change is if there are parts that were badly rusted or damaged that needed to be removed to get to the recalled component. In this case, the owner would be responsible for the cost of the associated parts. To find out more about this subject visit AAA’s YouTube page where I had the opportunity to chat with Stephan Ridella of NHTSA.

Q. I drive a 2015 Subaru Legacy with 90,000 miles. The Subaru dealer recommended installing premium engine protection and fuel system cleaner. These sound like gimmicks and not useful services. Are they real things that add value? 

A. This seems to be a dealer suggestion only. Subaru, like most manufacturers, does not recommend the use of an oil additive. According to the Subaru manual, use only the proper grade and viscosity of oil as recommended in the vehicle owner’s manual. Fuel system cleaner would fall into the same category. It would be best for most engines to use TopTier fuel that has additional fuel cleaning additives. For a list of TopTier fuels go to


Q. I live in the North East, and I will be going to Florida for a few months, leaving my car in my garage. What is the proper care for my battery?

A. The best thing you can do for your car’s battery is to use a battery maintainer-type charger. These specialty chargers (Battery Tender is one) will maintain the charge without overcharging the battery. Over time when a car is left idle, the battery will slowly discharge. Typically, when a battery becomes fully discharged it can lose up to 30 percent of its life/performance. 

Q. I need to purchase new rims and tires for my daughter’s 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid. Can you recommend a decent rim and tire? Style is not important. I’m mainly looking for quality and reliability without breaking the bank. Where is the best place to purchase them? 

A. Most major tire retailers should be able to help you out with a reasonably priced tire/wheel combination. In addition, online retailers such as TireRack have wheel and tire packages. What is nice is the tires come mounted and balanced, and with new tire pressure monitors, if needed. The typical life of a tire monitor is seven to 10 years, so buying new monitors now may be the most cost effective. The tires can be shipped directly to a local installer if you don’t want to install them yourself. 

Q. Do open antifreeze, brake fluid, transmission fluid, and fuel stabilizer have shelf lives?

A. It sounds like your garage may look like my storage shed with partially opened bottles of automotive fluids. Engine coolant over a very long time can form something that looks like crystals. Brake fluid attracts moisture and to some extent so does oil/transmission fluid. According to the folks at Sta-Bil, they tell me fuel stabilizer lasts a couple of years. The other issue is that the products you have on your shelf may not be compatible with the car you drive today. As an example, there are at least eight different types of engine coolant today. When I first started in the auto repair business, there was one. If there is any doubt, dispose of the old fluids properly and buy new. 


Q. Three attempts have been made by the dealer to replace the taillight seals on my Chevrolet Impala. Water is leaking on left and right sides. The last attempt was performed utilizing an upgraded/thicker seal. This last attempt reduced but did not eliminate the leak. It leaked the day I picked up the car. My recommendation to the dealer was to butter both sides of the new gaskets with Lexel adhesive sealant, but this was not done. Any suggestions?

A. Since the last repair slowed the leak, it sounds like they are on the right path. Although I wonder if the problem is more of a body seam that is leaking rather than the lights. At this point the dealer should bring in a wind and water specialist to find and permanently repair the leak. 

John Paul is AAA Northeast’s Car Doctor. He has over 40 years of experience in the automotive business and is an ASE-certified master technician. E-mail your car question to [email protected]. Listen to Car Doctor on the radio at 10 a.m. every Saturday on 104.9 FM or online at

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