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How do I know if my car has a manufacturing defect?

You don't have to wait until a car company notifies you of a problem with your vehicle to be informed about auto-related recalls. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a tool on its website that helps you find out information about current and past recalls. The online tool can pinpoint whether a car you own or want to buy was repaired during a recall during the past 15 years.

California maintenance and service records are often missing from used vehicles. You easily could make a purchase, without knowing whether an automobile design defect was ever corrected. Now, you don't have to guess.

Los Angeles consumers can bring up the information applicable to any car, simply by knowing and using the vehicle identification number. The VIN will unlock the recall and defect databases of all major vehicle manufacturers, including motorcycle makers.

The government website also features a section that allows you to see the most recent list of recalls, about two months' worth. Each recall listed features the recall date, the vehicle models affected and a brief summary of the problem. One example was a November 2014 recall for 2011 to 2013 model Volkswagen Jettas and Beetles, with defective trailing arms that could cause drivers to lose control.

Clicking on the date and model information takes you a separate page providing more details.This includes information about possible dangers caused by the design or manufacturing defect and remedies to get your vehicle fixed.

If you'd rather have the latest information come to you, sign up to have the NHTSA send you email recall alerts for up to five vehicles. Notifications, including tire and car seat recalls, will show up in your inbox. Consumers also may download mobile apps to receive safety information by cellphone.

Recall-conscious consumers can help prevent accidents caused by defective autos. However, manufacturers remain responsible for products that cause harm.

Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, "Recalls & Defects" Dec. 24, 201

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