When we received a recall notice for the 2014 Buick Enclave that we've been testing over the past few months, we did the same thing far too many owners do when facing such a situation: Nothing.

Yes, after receiving word that our long term Enclave SUV was being recalled for an issue with the front seatbelts, our reaction is typical in unless it's an issue you can actually experience with one of your senses, it's easy to dismiss. And that's a Catch-22 of sorts for recalls: An automaker issues a recall to fix a potential problem, one that has not occurred for a majority of the vehicles being recalled. But since the vehicle being recalled isn't experiencing problems, it's easy for owners to put off having it inspected.

Seatbelt issue

Still, we didn't wait until any problems occurred, but instead looked to have it addressed at a regular service interval. In our case, the Buick Enclave was affected by product safety recall N140187. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), this affects 2009-2014 models of the Buick Enclave, Chevy Traverse and GMC Acadia, as well as 2009-2010 Saturn Outlook models. All four of the SUVs are GM siblings and are mechanically related. 

According to the notice, "In the affected vehicles, the flexible steel cable that connects the seatbelt to the front outboard seating positions may fatigue and separate over time." The consequence, according to NHTSA: "If the steel cable becomes fatigued and separates, the seatbelt may not properly restrain the seat occupant increasing the risk of an injury in a crash." 

For the record, there have been no accidents, injuries or fatalities related to the recall, says GM spokesman Nick Richards. "In the vast majority of cases, only an inspection was required," he says. To remedy the issue dealers do just that and, if necessary, repair and replace the lap pretensioner. As with all such recall inspections and repairs, the service is free.

Off to the dealer

Our first step in getting our recall notice resolved was calling the local Buick dealer. And their first step was requesting the Enclave's vehicle identification number (VIN), which can be found on the driver's side of the dashboard near the windshield and/or on the post where the driver's side door closes. As it turned out, the dealership did not have the pretensioner on hand. The woman I spoke with at the dealership explained that many other customers also had vehicles in need of the fix, and that the wait could take weeks. Apologetic , she took my phone number promising to call when the parts came in. 

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Turns out the dealership called just two hours later, and it wasn't because this car is in the hands of Kelley Blue Book; in fact, I intentionally scheduled the service under my name to avoid any appearance of favoritism. The dealership had found the part and could do the repair whenever I was ready. I brought the Buick SUV in the next week. After some initial confusion in finding the right person to help amid the busy service bays, I dropped off the keys and was out the door in about 10 minutes. The service manager said the vehicle would be ready in roughly 3 hours and offered me a lift back to the office a few miles down the road. I already had a ride back from a colleague, but was happy they offered. After all, although recall repairs are free, there's no denying they cost owners time and effort.

Just under 3 hours later, the Enclave was ready for pickup. This time I was in and out of the dealership quickly and smoothly, but was surprised to retrieve the vehicle unwashed. The service attendant said the machine was broke and offered to have it cleaned the next day. We passed and simply did it ourselves later.

An invisible fix

Because the repair was internal, I noticed no difference in the vehicle. The only thing that changed was my peace of mind, knowing that the issue was resolved. All in all, the Buick's recall service was mostly painless. Yes, it took a chunk of the day and a couple of trips to the dealership. But most importantly the service got done, and was done before any problems could arise. 

Is your vehicle affected by a recall? Regardless of make or model, you can check instantly at the U.S. government's safercar.gov website. Simply click the "search for recalls" icon on the right side to see if your vehicle is affected by a recall and, if so, how to get it remedied. As a further help, the site now enables owners to check a particular VIN to see if a vehicle has been repaired or is part of a safety recall campaign going back 15 years. This new tool, found at vinrcl.safercar.gov/vin/, is especially helpful if you are not the original owner of a vehicle and are unsure of its repair history.

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