In my not too distant past, I used to drive an SUV that was built by a well known American automobile manufacturer. The vehicle had its quirks but it got me and my family where we needed to go in a very reliable fashion. I never really question whether that vehicle was truly safe to drive or not. That was until I opened a letter that was sent by the manufacturer.

Okay, let's be clear, I got the letter about a month or so before I actually opened it. Like you probably do, I get a lot of mail that could be classified as unsolicited attempts to get my money. I figured this was something of that ilk. Boy was I surprised when I opened that letter and found out that my vehicle was subject to "unexpected combustion".

That's legal talk for "your car could burst into flames at any moment".  Needless to say, I read further and found that my car had been recalled for a fuel system issue. I would have never known that if I had not opened that piece of mail that I thought was junk mail.

There has got to be a better way to let consumers know their vehicle or parts of their vehicle could compromise its performance and safety. Here is that better way.

The National Safety Council has launched a website that allows you to type in your VIN. That's your Vehicle Identification Number, it's 17 characters long and you can find it on your registration or in the bottom corner of the windshield on the driver's side.

Just type in you VIN on that Check To Protect website and you will be presented with information on any manufacturers recalls that have been issued. The site also offers guidance on what your next steps need to be to get your vehicle returned to a safe operating status.