Millions of cars have already been recalled in 2014. The General Motors ignition switch recall started an avalanche of safety recalls over the past few months. The federal government estimates about 25 percent will not be fixed. Carfax says it may be closer to 35 percent. That means millions of cars could be on the road with safety issues -- "that could cause fires, crashes, inadvertent airbag deployments, that put the driver and others on the road at risk," said Carfax spokesman Chris Basso.

Now, the federal government is offering a free online tool to help you protect yourself and your family.

Ruth to the Rescue Hidden Camera Investigation

The new safety upgrade comes two months after a Ruth to the Rescue hidden camera investigation discovered some dealers fail to tell report that some cars had been recalled, but not yet repaired.

The owner at La Marina Auto Sales on Telegraph said his staff didn't know that car was under recall but it was. Consumer Expert Ruth Spencer asked him about the discrepancy. He said it was just about impossible for used car dealers to track all the recalls, and customers needed to do their own homework to make sure they knew about possible recalls.

Another owner, Fred Bejjani of Sky Auto Sales in Detroit told Ruth to the Rescue, he agreed it was very difficult for used car dealers to track open recalls.

"There's not like a website that has all the recalls for every car," Bejjani said in June.

New Tool Now Available

Now, that's no longer a problem. The U.S. DOT unveiled their new tool that allows anyone to check for open recalls using a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). Fred Bejjani says its about time.

"There needed to be a new way for both car shoppers and for dealers together to be more aware of which cars have recalls," he said.

Bejjani said the new tool will change the way his dealership does business. He promises his team will check each VIN number so they know if a car on
their lot is subject to an open recall.

Once they know, he said they can take steps to have the problem corrected, or they can let the customer know about the potential safety issue. He's not sure all dealers will do the same, and warns customers they should still do their own research.

How to Search For Open Recalls

It's a very simple process to check a VIN. Just go to safercar.gov, find the recall tool, type in the VIN number, type in a code to prove that you're human, and hit submit.

The tool will tell you if there are open recalls, it will describe the problem, and then what remedy is available, if any. If there are no open recalls, it indicate that vehicle is in the clear.

Ruth to the Rescue found consumers are excited about the idea.

"I've been a victim of buying a lemon before myself. I think it's really a great idea," said Traci Romo of Melvindale.

"Absolutely I would use it. I found the last car I bought, I actually found myself doing some research online," said Deanna Alderman, also from Melvindale.

Also, you can still check a vehicle's history at CarFax. This resource will also include information about previous accidents and other items about the vehicle's history.