PHOENIX - Could the car you're driving or about to buy have a dangerous safety recall issue that hasn't been repaired?
The ABC15 Investigators have identified dozens of cars for sale on Valley used car lots that have been recalled, but not repaired.
ONE VALLEY FAMILY'S STORY
That's believed to be the reason why a 2001 Ford Expedition spontaneously caught fire recently. It was sitting in a San Tan Valley driveway. Katie, her husband and five kids were inside the house. By the time firefighters put out the blaze, the car had been totaled. Katie believes the fire started from the speed control mechanism in the engine.
She said she never knew there had been a major safety recall involving that part. She also didn't know what the ABC15 Investigators later found. We went undercover and found the same model Expedition as Katie's, sitting for sale on Valley car lots.
We also found those cars had the same unrepaired issue believed to be the cause of Katie's fire.
WHAT'S THE LAW ON RECALLS?
By law, recalls on new cars have to be repaired before the car can be sold. But there's no such law when it comes to used cars.
Because of that, dealers can put used cars with unrepaired safety issues right on the lot and they don't have to tell you about them.
Clarence Ditlow with the Center for Auto Safety in Washington, D.C. says the law must change.
"The last thing in your mind is there's a recall on the car you just bought," he said.
Ditlow said that while 10 million cars are recalled each year, 2 million aren't repaired. Because of that, many end up on used car lots.
Carfax has released a study of how many cars with unrepaired safety issues are for sale in Arizona.
In 2009, they found there were 30,000 used cars with potentially dangerous safety recall issues for sale in the state.
Last year, a federal bill would have forced dealers to make repairs on used cars before selling them. The bill failed.
WHAT ABC15 FOUND AROUND THE VALLEY
We went undercover to many Valley car lots and found other cars with unrepaired safety recalls too.
In Scottsdale, we found a Dodge Ram Truck for sale despite having an unrepaired wheel separation recall that could cause a "vehicle crash."
In Phoenix, we spotted a Ford Mustang for sale with an unrepaired air bag issue that could cause "potential neck injuries."
In Glendale, we knew a Dodge Caravan for sale had an overheating seat element safety recall that had not been repaired.
HOW YOU CAN CHECK FOR CAR RECALLS
So how do you know if your car or the car on the sales lot has an unrepaired issue?
Go to the government's motor vehicle recall site and enter your car's information.
You will see a list of recalls for your car's year and model.
Then go to the free Carfax site and enter your Vehicle Identification Number or VIN, found on the dash, near the windshield on the driver's side and/or on the side of the driver's door.
If your car has an open, unrepaired recall reported to Carfax, it is listed there.
If you see no recall, or you're encouraged to call the manufacturer, then there are no open unrepaired recalls being reported on your car.
That information is free. A full Carfax report does involve a fee.
The Center for Auto Reliability and Safety i s pushing for new laws requiring rental car companies to repair safety recall issues.
Copyright 2011 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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