Simple new way to check your car for recalls

Don't Waste Your Money

UPDATED 10/22/14

Has your car been in for all its recall repairs? Are you sure?

Ignition switches, fuel lines, brakes: you name it, it's been recalled by some automaker this year.

Now, 6 million cars are on the recall list for having potentially dangerous airbags, that could hit you with metal shrapnel if they go off.

This latest recall involves Toyotas, Hondas, and GM vehicles, as well as some Chryslers, Mitsubishis, and BMW's.

And a new report in the New York Times claims the airbag recall could become as big of an issue as the GM ignition switch recall.

So how do you know if your airbag is on the recall list, or if your car --- any make -- is missing a recall?

Finding out has always been tough, until now, thanks to a new online tool making repair checking very simple for everyone.

Car Owners Frustrated

Elaine Grever, like a lot of car owners, can't possibly follow all the recall reports in the news these days.

"No there's no way in the world to keep up with it.  As long as they don't say a Nissan model year 2000, I'm fine."

But there's now a simple way to see if your car has been recalled, and if that dangerous item was never repaired.

How to Check Your Car

Jeremy Rice of AAA Bob Sumerel in Newport, Kentucky, took Grever over to a computer, where he looked up her car's VIN number on a new government recall site, "" (

10/22 UPDATE:  The site has been slow and laggy since the airbag recall was announced, due to millions of people trying to access the site.  Keep trying, and revisit at night when demand is down.

In seconds, her car came up with no outstanding recalls. (See below for AAA's full statement on this new online tool)

"I think it's a wonderful idea," she said. "Anything simple is great."

And it is simple. Just take a picture of your car's VIN number with your smartphone.  It's at the bottom of the windshield. 

Or if you don't have a smartphone, jot it down on paper. Then get on your computer.

We Check For Recalls

I entered the VIN number of our news van, and quickly found out it had no un-repaired recalls. Good news.

But then I got on car selling website, and just for kicks looked up a 2007 Chevy Cobalt I found for sale. We've all heard about the faulty ignition switches on those cars.

With the VIN number entered, up popped two outstanding recalls, one of them being that ignition switch issue.

It's nice to know that sort of thing before you buy a used car, and drive it off the lot, as there is no law prohibiting dealers from selling you a used car with outstanding recalls.

One last note: the site works for cars up to 15 years old: Unfortunately it does not have info for cars from the 1990s.

As always, don't waste your money.


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Full AAA Statement

“AAA applauds the launch of the NHTSA vehicle identification database that enables consumers to identify the status of any vehicle recall by Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).

The huge volume of recalls from automobile makers just this year clearly points to the need for better consumer access to data related to the safety of their vehicle

. If accurately maintained by OEMs, the database will provide a single-source tool to help millions of motorists more easily find recall information.

The information will also inform prospective automobile purchasers of unresolved recalls. This will go a long way in helping consumers ensure their vehicle is safe to drive.”



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