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How am I supposed to know if my vehicle is subject to recall?

The news has been full of notices about auto recalls due to defective parts lately. The latest and perhaps greatest is the one centered on faulty safety air bags. We've written about them in an effort to bring the issue to the attention of Texas readers. The hope is that by adding our voice to the choir that a lot of lives might be saved.

Then again, it's possible that our efforts might be going unnoticed. In this day and age, where we have an overabundance of ways of communicating messages, it becomes easy for receivers (and by that we mean human beings) to tune things out.

And there can be other problems. With the burgeoning use of email and social media, information sent through the regular postal service may easily get ignored. Of course, that presumes that any letter mailed actually reaches its intended recipient. Letters can go missing and that can prove to be troublesome.

That may have been what happened in one recent case. A 2013 Ford Escape reportedly caught fire while on the road in Wisconsin. It turns out that the vehicle had been under four "voluntary" recalls from Ford, including one for possible engine fires.

The company says it sent seven mailings to the customer during 2014, but the owners say they never got them so never sought the offered free fixes. At the same time, the owners say they brought the vehicle into two Ford dealerships for regular routine maintenance but were never informed about the recalls.

Recall experts say this is a chronic problem that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration may try to address. But no action has been taken as yet. The upshot is that the onus for checking on whether a vehicle runs the risk of accidents due to defects is on the individual consumer. So how can you know?

NHTSA says recalls, whether voluntary or directed, are supposed to be communicated to owners through the mail. But as we've noted, that medium can have shortcomings. To overcome them, regulators urge consumers to get their vehicle identification numbers and check them against the recall database at www.safercar.gov, or call 888-327-4236.

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