How to Find out if Your Car was Recalled

Fourteen people died, and many more were injured, because of an ignition switch defect in some General Motors' cars. The defect was known by GM's engineers and management for years before the public and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), became aware of it. GM intentionally concealed it. Now, it has recalled more than 2.6 million vehicles.

Takata air bags that explode in wrecks, propelling shrapnel-like metal parts into people, killing or injuring them, are the subject of vehicle recalls by various manufacturers that install Takata airbags in their vehicles. Hundreds of thousands of vehicles having those airbags have been recalled. Both manufacturers will be subject to punitive damage awards in suits brought by anyone injured as a result of the defects, and they should be.

But what about you as a consumer? What if your car was recalled but you didn't get the notice? A dangerous condition that you don't know about may exist. Similarly, what if you bought a used car or are about to and the recall notice from the manufacturer went to the original owner? You should know if the car has ever been recalled and if the repair was actually done. Now, you can find out.

A new and free online search tool lets people look up vehicles by vehicle identification number, the VIN. That's a 17 digit number, including letters, that you can find in several places: where the windshield meets the dash in the left corner, on the driver's door post, or in your registration and insurance documents. By going to NHTSA's website, www.safercar.gov, you can see if a recall was instituted by the manufacturer and if your car or the one you are going to buy really had the repair made. The online service is free, and if you determine that a repair still needs to be made, you can take the car to the dealer and have it done for free. Be safe.

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