In a perfect world, when an auto manufacturer issues a recall, it first notifies the National Highway & Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and then arranges with its car dealers and customers to inform you of the problem and advise on further steps to correct it.

But sometimes we don't get the message. Maybe we moved. Or maybe we aren't the original owner of the vehicle. And sometimes the car companies don't have up-to-date information. It can happen especially if you buy a car and then go elsewhere for maintenance and repair. Things fall through the cracks.

That's why NHTSA is implementing a program that lets consumers check cars, trucks and motorcycles for uncompleted recalls. NHTSA issued a rule earlier this week that will require all major automakers and motorcycle manufacturers to provide consumers with online access to recall information on vehicles searchable by VIN. This information must be updated at least weekly.

All you need is the VIN number if you have any doubts or if you ever need more info on recalls issued for any vehicle.

"Safety is our highest priority, and an informed consumer is one of our strongest allies in that effort," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "Owners and potential buyers alike will soon be able to identify whether a safety recall for their specific vehicle is incomplete, using our free online search at"

Consumers will be able to instantly determine whether action is required to address an uncompleted safety recall that affects their personal vehicle, as identified by their unique VIN. While several automakers already offer this feature, those who do not, will have until next year (8/14/14) to comply with the final rule.

This new search feature will also be available on the nation's only official automotive safety website: Currently, consumers are limited to general searches by vehicle make and model year on the NHTSA website. With the new VIN search feature, consumers will be able to tell whether a specific vehicle is subject to a recall and whether the vehicle has received the remedy. And, it's free.

"Every day NHTSA is working for the American consumer to ensure that automakers and motorcycle manufacturers address safety defects and non-compliances, and that they also recall affected vehicles in a timely manner," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. "By making individual VIN searches readily available, we're providing another service to car, light truck and motorcycle owners and potential owners – the peace of mind knowing that the vehicle they own, or that they are thinking of buying, is safe."

With the new rule, auto manufacturers also will be required to provide vehicle owners with direct notice of recalls within 60 days of notifying NHTSA that a recall is occurring.

Kudos, NHTSA, on a great move for all consumers!