Amanda Taylor, News 9
OKLAHOMA CITY -- It's not easy for Tabitha Gordon to talk about what happened a few months ago when her Dodge Durango caught fire. Her little boy, two-year-old Caden, was in the backseat.
"The interior lights started flashing off and on," Tabitha Gordon said. "The windshield wipers started going crazy. The locks started going up and down. Really the only way I can explain it was in a twilight zone."
Then all of a sudden smoke and flames started shooting out of the speedometer. She swerved onto the shoulder, jumped out, only to find the backdoor by Caden was locked.
"I thought this isn't happening," Gordon said.
What was happening was the same problem her car manufacturer warned. A recall states faulty wiring could cause the vehicle to overheat and catch fire. But Gordon never knew about the recall.
She never knew because the Oklahoma dealer she bought the SUV from never checked to see if there were any outstanding recalls. And News 9's Consumer Watch Team found out why.
"They're not required to check for it, " Deputy Director of Oklahoma's Used Motor Vehicle Commission Kenneth Whitehead said.
There are no laws on the books to inform consumers about this type of thing.
"To do a check on every vehicle would be almost logistically impossible for them," Whitehead said.
But that's something that concerned the Consumer Watch Team. While checking online, the team quickly found other examples of cars being sold right now with current recalls that haven't been fixed.
In fact, Car Fax, which tracks a vehicles history, did a study and found last year Oklahoma had at least 10,000 cars up for sale with an open recall.
"If it's not mandated to become a law, out of the kindness of their heart or out of the sake that it may be one of their family members, maybe just take the time to make sure on their vehicle, make sure there isn't a major recall where someone could lose their life," Gordon said.
All things considered, Gordon happened to be one of the lucky ones. She was able to go through the front seat and pull little Caden out through the flames to safety.
Levi Stewart's family, out of Idaho, has a different story.
"They pulled us into a room and told us our son was brain dead," Shauna Stewart said.
His truck crashed. Stewart had bought it used and didn't know about a recall for a bad steering rod.
"There are other people this has happened to that has lost loved one, children, mothers, daughters," Gordon said. "This is something so simple to check. So simple to fix. But you can't replace a life."
Does your vehicle have a recall? Are you sure? It's estimated by CarFax that 1/3 of all recalls have never been fixed. It is very simple to check and for now, you're going to have to do it. CarFax allows you to see if a specific car has a recall that still has not been fixed. Safercar.gov is a free website you can go to, plug in your car make and model, and it will tell you instantly if there have been any recalls. Sign up for email alerts about recalls.