A large number of Manitoba vehicles on the road have unfixed safety recalls that may cause crashes, injuries and even death, a CBC news investigation has found. 

CBC investigation into recalls

CBC I-team searched 50 vehicles for unfixed safety recalls and sixteen came back with at least one recall. (Gary Solilak/CBC )

CBC news performed safety recall searches on 50 vehicles found in parking lots and online. Sixteen of the cars had unfixed recalls that included risks of brake lamp problems, airbag malfunctions and ignition key position malfunctions. Some of the owners approached by the CBC I-team said they weren't aware of any recalls on their vehicles.

Free and paid online services will find recall information by punching a car's 17-digit vehicle registration number (VIN), usually found on the left side of a car's windshield. CBC found the information by searching VINS through vehicle history report services, CarProof, CARFAX and manufacturer's websites where available.

​Car has three open recalls

Winnipegger Michelle Vermette only found out about three safety recalls on her 2006 Pontiac G6 GT because the CBC I-team ran a search for her car's VIN in a mall parking lot.

Michelle Vermette

Winnipegger Michelle Vermette reacts to CBC's Katie Nicholson who reveals her car has three unfixed safety recalls. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

"I had no idea there was a recall on it," Vermette said, adding she bought car at an auction. "I was not notified that anything was wrong with my car."

Vermette's recalls include problems with the electric power steering assist, a transmission shift cable fracture and a brake lamp malfunction. Two of the conditions may increase the risk of a crash according to the General Motors recall website.

GM dealerships offer to fix recalls at no charge but Vermette said she didn't even know about the problems.

"If you hadn't approached me I would think everything was fine," she said. "I don't think it's right."

Recent research by vehicle history report company, CarProof suggests Vermette isn't alone. The private company ran 100,000 Manitoba vehicles through their databases and found approximate one in 10 have an unfixed recall. They are offering Manitobans a free report for the next two months.

"What we wanted to do was create some consumer awareness," said Jon Smitten, CarProof regional sales manager for the prairies. He added that Manitoba was a "manageable market" in which to offer the promotion.

CARFAX ran every vehicle in Manitoba for CBC news and found an even higher percentage- more than 1 in 6 cars have an unfixed recall. 

Owners can also check the Transport Canada website for information and some manufacturers will provide searches by VIN  for recalls on their websites.

Once a recall has been ordered, the onus is on the owner to get it fixed, according to an email from Transport Canada

"Canada has a rigorous vehicle safety regime in place," said the email in part. "Transport Canada continues to look at options to improve the recall rate."

George Iny

George Iny, Director of the Automobile Protection Association said governments should address unfixed safety recalls.

George Iny, director of the Automobile Protection Association, called the risk of injury due to a recall "remote" but called on all levels of government to update recall legislation.

"The Transport Canada website, which is very complete when it comes to recalls, was state of the art for 1995 and now it needs a reboot." he said.  "There should be more coordination with the provinces as well."

Manitoba Public Insurance said vehicles can be registered even if there is an unfixed recall and there are no plans to link unfixed recalls to registration.

"MPI is unable to track how many vehicles in the province have open recalls. This is because the manufacturers, when they issue a recall, do not provide specific information to MPI. IE: VIN of the vehicle." spokesperson Brian Smiley said in an email.

"The province is not currently working on changes pertaining to correcting manufacturer's defects for the purposes of registration," stated an email from Minister Gord Mackintosh's office.

"What you have here is a big void." Iny said, adding all levels of government should be working to address the problem.  

Vermette said MPI should track safety recalls and let people know if their vehicle has one, especially when the vehicle changes hands. She said she plans to have the recalls fixed at a dealership.

"If something is wrong with your car and you have no clue and something happens," she said. "Then it could have been avoided, I believe."


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With files from Katie Nicholson