Just this year, millions of cars and trucks have been recalled for defects ranging from the annoying to the deadly, but many of those recalls will go unnoticed, or be ignored.

Chevy, Jeep, Honda, Cadillac, Buick, GMC, Fiat, Dodge, Toyota, Chrysler, Pontiac, Nissan, Saturn, Mitsubishi, Lexus and Kia all announced recalls - and that's just the list since Feb. 10.

If you're the original owner of a vehicle, you'll probably find out your vehicle has been recalled through a notice in the mail, or maybe your email.

But if your vehicle was purchased used, particularly if it was in a private sale, the odds increase that you may not be directly notified. Some of the recalled vehicles are more than 10 years old.

Maybe that's one reason why more than a quarter of recalls, and sometimes close to a third, are ignored by product owners according to federal estimates.

The good news is, it's easy to check and see if your vehicle has been recalled. A recall essentially means a problem has been found, and the manufacturer is going to take some action at no cost to you to address it.

For example, some years ago I bought a used Honda CR-V, and soon found that it would mysteriously shut off in traffic for no apparent reason. It turned out, there had been a recall a few years earlier that the original owner apparently ignored involving a problem with the ignition switch.

I took the car in for a free repair at a Honda dealership, and the problem was solved.

So, how do you find out if there's been a recall for your vehicle? All you need to do is go online to recalls.gov and check, using the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's search tool. It's quick and easy.

Recalls.gov pulls together a half-dozen federal agencies and makes it easy to search them all. So, after you check out your vehicle, you can see if your food, medicine, car seat or whatever has been recalled.

Seriously, though, do check if you have a car seat for a baby or small child. Those seem to get recalled frequently.

You also can see if your boat's been recalled, or the pesticide you use on your lawn.

If you do find a recall notice for your vehicle, or anything else, you should be able to get a clear idea of what the problem is, how serious it might be, and what they plan to do about it.

Then, it's up to you to take action, which in the case of a vehicle usually means taking the vehicle to a dealership.

In my CR-V example, the notice explained why the ignition switches in certain models were failing, and said the problem "COULD CAUSE THE ENGINE TO STALL WITHOUT WARNING" - recall information tends to be written in all capital letters. The notice went on to explain that the dealers would replace the ignition switch.

Now, I figure most people might check the recall list once, but aren't going to regularly go online just to see if maybe their vehicle has been recalled. One thing that's easy to do, however, is to simply ask when your vehicle is in for service, if it's been the subject of any recalls.

Problems like the issue I had with my CR-V, a bad ignition switch, can be more than an irritation, as was clear from an apology issued last week by the CEO of General Motors. The apology was issued after GM belatedly recalled 1.6 million cars, manufactured as long ago as 2003, for an ignition switch problem.

"I am very sorry for the loss of life that occurred," GM CEO Mary Barra's apology began.

Reach David Slade at 937-5552