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New NHTSA Database Lets Drivers Search For Recalls By VIN

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Have you ever visited the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's website to see if your vehicle has been recalled? On the face of things, the process doesn't seem too cumbersome: just plug in the make, model, and year of your car, and -- poof! -- there's your info.

But recalls are curious things. They don't always line up neatly with makes, models, or model-years. Sometimes, they only affect cars with particular trim levels, transmissions, or engines. Sometimes, they only affect vehicles made between very specific dates.

That's confusing. For drivers, it could lead you to believe that your vehicle is under recall, when in fact it's not -- or vice versa. And shoppers might think that their new ride is in the clear, when it needs a few fixes.

That's why, according to Detroit News, NHTSA is preparing to roll out a new version of its recall database -- one that allows users to search for recalls by a car's vehicle identification number. The service will also include data from dealerships, which will reveal whether a particular vehicle has been fixed or not.

Privacy fans, don't be alarmed just yet: info about your car won't be stored on government computers. The new service is more like a network of linked databases, with NHTSA's interface acting as a portal to connect users with privately stored databases at Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, and other automakers. 

If this sounds familiar, it should: such VIN-based services are already provided on the websites of many major manufacturers. The new database, however, sets standards for all automakers doing business in the U.S. and makes vehicle data available on one, streamlined website.

The new system is expected to roll out one year from now, in August 2014.

[via John Voelcker]

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