The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Adminstration (NHTSA) has unveiled a new, free, online search tool for consumers to determine if a vehicle is directly impacted by a recall.

The new tool is available at https://vinrcl.safercar.gov/vin/ and provides users with a quick and easy way to identify recalls by entering their Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) into a search field. Instructions for what the search tool covers and what it does not cover are included on the search page.

A VIN is made up of 17 characters, both numbers and letters. Standardized VIN's have been required since 1981 on all major light vehicle and motorcycle brands, and point to the vehicle's manufacturer, manufacturer's location, and its model year.

A VIN also tracks a vehicle's history such as accidents, recalls, and repairs. It is recommended that consumers always check a used vehicle's history using the VIN before purchasing.

How to find the VIN number

Michigan's Secretary of State and the DMV.org website offer tips for locating a VIN number. 

A VIN will show up on a vehicle's title, its registration, and the certificate of insurance, as well as the vehicle's window sticker, purchase records, and warranty information.

The VIN can also appear on the vehicle itself. DMV.org suggests looking in the following places:

  • The lower-left corner of the dashboard, in front of the steering wheel
  • At the front of the engine block
  • At the front of the car's frame, near the container holding the windshield washer fluid
  • In the rear wheel well above the tire
  • Inside the driver's-side door jamb. Look underneath where the side-view mirror would be located if the door were shut
  • At the driver-side doorpost. Open the door and look at the spot where the door latches, near the seatbelt return
  • Under the spare tire
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