By Jim Donovan: Sometimes trying to find out if you have an outstanding recall on your car, truck or SUV is easier said than done. But now the U.S. government is offering a free online service for drivers to find out if their vehicles have been recalled but not repaired.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the service started Wednesday on its website, www.safercar.gov.

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Drivers can key in their vehicle identification number to get the results. The number can be found on the dashboard near the windshield or on the driver’s door post near the latch.

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Also starting Wednesday, automakers must keep the same data on their own websites, and they have to update it at least once per week. The safety agency’s site will show data if there’s an open recall, or it will tell drivers there are none.

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The agency also says used-car buyers can check for unrepaired vehicles before they make a purchase.