Car buyer fumes when she discovers that used Nissan Altima was sold to her with unrepaired recalls

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Christine Teasley had her children in the car when trouble struck.

"All of a sudden my hood just blew up on me," said the KCK mom of two.

Teasley said her car's hood nearly came off of its hinges and was lying flat against her windshield as she drove down Parallel Parkway at 45 miles per hour.

"I could see absolutely nothing but white," she said. "I slammed on my brakes. Thank God there was nobody behind me or in front of me."

It was a scary moment in a car she had bought just three months earlier. That night she went online to try to figure out what had gone wrong with the hood of her Nissan Altima, and what she learned was unnerving.

"All by myself I found the recalls -- two (federally mandated safety) recalls, not just one," Teasley said.

One was for a faulty hood latch. The other was for a bad sensor that could potentially prevent the passenger-side airbag from deploying.

"It's crazy that someone would let a car off their lot that could potentially harm somebody," said Teasley.

Consumer attorney Bernard Brown said it happens every day. He said there are "oceans of (used) cars out there sold -- resold knowingly" with serious safety problems. Brown called it "unprecedented" and frightening for car buyers.

Cars with unrepaired safety recalls can have deadly consequences. Like the recall that a jury determined ultimately caused an accident in California killing two sisters. The car, which the sisters had rented for a short trip, caught fire after the power steering hose leaked. It was a problem a recall notice had warned the rental agency about. Because of that accident, it is now illegal to rent cars with unrepaired recalls.

But you can sell one. There are potentially millions of cars out there with problems, including some of the 60 million cars with those exploding Takata air bags.

Brown said the Federal Trade Commission has determined that car dealers can legally sell the cars as long as they make the car buyer aware that it might have an unrepaired safety recall.

Teasely insisted she was never told about the recalls by Victory Automotive. She said Victory told her it was unaware that the car had an unrepaired recall, but after learning of the problem it offered her a different car, which she declined.

Victory told FOX 4 Problem Solvers that it now requires car buyers to sign a consent form when they buy a car with an unrepaired recall. Other dealers, like CarMax, mention the potential of a possible recall on their websites. CarMax said it prides itself on making sure it's clear and easy for customers to know exactly what they are buying.

Problem Solvers found a Toyota Camry for sale on the CarMax website. It contained a link which showed us the car had two unrepaired recalls. One of the recalls showed the accelerator pedal might get stuck on high speed. The other recall was for an electrical problem that could result in a fire.

Brown is outraged that cars like that can even be resold without first having the safety problem fixed. Although some recalls are easy to fix, there are other recalls where a remedy for the problem hasn't even been determined yet or you might have to wait months for a repair. Teasely was able have her car's problems fixed quickly by a Nissan dealership.

So how can you protect yourself? Never buy a used car without first typing the VIN into http://www.safercar.gov. If the car has an unrepaired recall, the site tells you whether a remedy exists. If you still want the car, you should first contact a manufacture's dealer and see how quickly it can be repaired. That's something Teasely wishes she had been able to do before she ever got behind the wheel.

This month consumer safety organizations filed a case asking the courts to overrule the Federal Trade Commission and stop car dealers from advertising cars as safe or "certified" when federally mandated safety recalls have not been repaired.