DETROIT -

The year 2014 could go down in history as the year of the recall.

General Motors alone has recalled 20 million cars in North America in the aftermath of problems with the ignition switch on numerous models. Other auto makers have launched recalls of their own, and many of those cars will eventually be for sale across the country.

Chris Basso, a public relations manager for CARFAX, explained "there are millions of recalled cars that are on the road right now, and hundreds of thousands of them are for sale here in Michigan." He says that 30 to 35 percent of recalled vehicles do not get repaired.

"Safety recalls that could cause fires, crashed, inadvertent airbag deployments that put the driver and others on the road at risk," said Basso.

Do sellers know about recalls?

Given the huge number of recalls we're seeing this year we wondered if sellers would automatically tell you if the car you're looking to buy is under recall. We sent out our Ruth to the Rescue undercover team to car lots in Detroit and Dearborn Heights.

At LaMarina Auto Sales on Telegraph Road, Ruth to the Rescue producers looked at a 2010 Chevrolet HHR. The car is under recall due to a potential problem with electronic steering.

When asked if the car had any recalls, here's what the salesman told out producer: "This one I don't think has any recalls, because when we own them and they're on our lot, dealers they sometimes send us the letter to take to Chevy dealer or Ford dealer or wherever to do the recalls."

Local 4 Consumer Expert Ruth Spencer then paid a visit to the dealership to ask about what our producers were told about the HHR. The owner of LaMarina Auto Sales, Mike Rami, said his staff did not know that the HHR was under recall.

"Viewers should know that cars are used. We're not the manufacturer, we know a little bit about the cars," said Rami.

He also explained that consumers must do their homework before buying a used car.

At Sky Auto Sales in Detroit, managers said they let customers know about recalls if they know about them.

"Well they just don't tell us and some of the manufactures don't always announce everywhere every recall so sometimes we don't know if there's a recall on a specific model," said manager Joe Bejjani.

Although they did let our undercover team know about that the Saturn Ion recall, they did not know about a recall on a 2004 Toyota Camry Solara.

Managers say its hard for dealers to know exactly which vehicles on their lots are under recall.

"There's not like a website that has all the recalls for every car, sometimes I'm unaware of certain cars that have recalls," said Sky Auto Sales manager Fred Bejjani.

According to Michigan law, a dealer is not required to know about recalls or to prevent the sale of a car that's been recalled. However, dealers should not mislead customers if they know a recall does exist.

That means you need to protect yourself when car shopping. It's up to you as a consumer to find out exactly if the car you're looking at has a recall or not.

"Anybody out there that's buying a used car right now needs to be on the look out for them cause recalled cars are out there everywhere," said Basso.

Protecting yourself

If you're looking for a used car, make sure you do your homework. Ruth to the Rescue has come up with this list of options to help consumers find more information about vehicles you may be interested in buying.

1) If you're thinking about going car shopping, watch the news, read newspapers, and try to be aware of the recalls that are making headlines. Staying informed is part of becoming a smarter consumer.
2) Do research on the internet. Just doing a search for certain makes and models will bring up items about recent recalls.
3) Use a service like CARFAX to check the history of cars you are reviewing. Many dealerships will provide a CARFAX report, or you can follow this link and look for ways to get that information yourself. h
4) Check with the manufacturer of specific vehicles that you are interested in purchasing.
5) Check with government websites like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
6) In general, it's a good idea to take a used car to a mechanic to get the car checked out. The mechanic may also have information on open recalls.
7) You should ask the seller for any information about recalls. Make it part of your safety checklist. Just be sure to verify the answer, as they are not required to know about all open recalls.