By Jim Donovan

By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – You like the way it looks and even haggle on the price, but that used car that you’re thinking of buying may have a hidden hazard. As 3 On Your Side Consumer Reporter finds, you won’t be able to check by looking under the hood — and no one is required to tell you!

A charred, burnt out shell is all that remains of the used van Bob Knotts bought. He says, “It was just black full of smoke!” The van burst into flames while parked right in his driveway! So what caused the fire? Turns out that Bob’s van was one of 98,000 recalled because of a wiring defect that could cause a fire. Bob says the used car dealer he bought the van from never told him it had an unfixed recall. According to Knotts, “The whole thing was a complete loss for me.”

In fact a study by Carfax found more than 2.7 million used vehicles listed for sale online last year had at least one unfixed safety recall issued by the federal government. Clarence Ditlow of the Center for Auto Safety says, “They’re all serious. They could cost you your life. They could cause a crash.”

Undercover video from used car lots shows vehicles for sale, that according to car manufacturer websites, have unfixed recalls.

One used SUV had an unrepaired defect which could make the engine stall and cause a crash. While another used car had an engine that could shut off while the vehicle is being driven. According to Ditlow, “They don’t want to take them off their lot to get them fixed before they sell them because that customer is ready to buy it today and may in fact go to another used car dealer and buy a different vehicle.”

There’s no federal law requiring that used car dealers, or private sellers to tell buyers about unfixed recalls. So now Bob Knotts now wants to warn others since no one is required to warn you, be sure to check for open recalls yourself! He says, “What happened to me, it could have happened to someone else.”

Auto dealers repair recalls for free. You can always call and give them the car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) number to see if you have any unfixed recalls. There are also websites that allow you to enter the VIN and check for open recalls online, just click below.

Related Links:

Center for Auto Safety:

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website allows you to sign-up for automatic notifications of recalls affecting your vehicles, as well pertinent recalls of tires and child safety seats:

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