Defect Investigations

About Defect Investigations

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and its Office of Defect Investigations (ODI) are responsible for investigating potential vehicle safety defects.

The investigation process covers a variety of aspects from an initial collecting and analysis of data to an evaluation, whether a defect presents an unreasonable risk motor vehicle safety or not. This process can be divided into three main phases:

1. Preliminary Evaluation (PE) – to screen the problems quickly,
2. Engineering Analysis (EA) – to determine the character and scope of the defect,
3. Formal Investigation (Case) – the final defect determination.

During each phase, the ODI decides if it is necessary to take further action and upgrade the investigation to the next phase.

As a part of this process, most recalls are initiated voluntary by the manufacturer. In some cases, a recall will be mandated by the NHTSA or the case closed without further action.

General News


Goodyear’s 20-Year Quest To Keep Details Secret Cleveland Scene. March 21, 2018. 

Shutdown Would Force NHTSA To Stop Vehicle Investigations. The Detroit News. September 30, 2013. 

Manufacturer News


GM Deems Steering Issue Unworthy of Recall. The New York Times. April 10, 2015. 


READ MORE in our Investigations Archive. 

READ MORE in our Landmark Documents Archive.