The first place to start when attempting to determine any ongoing problems is the National Transportation Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) web site. They keep one of the most comprehensive lists of ongoing vehicle problems as "Technical Service Bulletins" (TSBs). NHTSA is also the organization that is responsible for making sure that automakers repair serious safety defects in vehicles, and is one of the resources used by mechanics to diagnose problems with cars
during a general "check-up" on a car. This database is accessible to everyone and can be found online at http://www.safercar.gov/. You can check this periodically to see if new problems with your vehicle are arising, in order to repair problems before they become significant. TSB database search results are often lengthy, with many duplicates (mechanics reporting a similar problem described in different ways…)
The most complete recalls database is located at http://www.safercar.gov/ and should be checked from time to time, even if you are not experiencing problems. NHTSA demands recalls to save the consumer unnecessary repetitious repairs, and, more importantly, to protect everyone from dangerous design flaws.
Recalls are a legal demand by the Federal Government that an automaker provide specific repairs to a particular make and model of vehicle and require the manufacturer to contact all owners. Recalls don't expire, so the manufacturer is always responsible to repair, replace or repurchase the defective vehicle, even if the car was bought pre-owned. That way, owners who don't receive a notice (typically, when a car bought second hand) are still protected.
One exception to the automaker's responsibility is that they are not required to repair defects for free if they are first discovered more than 8 years after manufacture. This protects manufacturers from having to repair old cars for which the safety technology did not exist at the time it was built. But once there is a recall, it stays in effect forever. Even after a vehicle's warranty has lapsed.
Search online for the year, make and model of your vehicle. Only the cost of only the recall-related repairs will be covered. Sometimes recalls are manufacturing-plant dependent, so only a specific set of the vehicles is being recalled. It is possible that although you own a recalled vehicle, your individual car may not have the problem the recall covers and thus will not be repaired. Dealers generally like to do the recall work, because they are paid for by the automaker.
For information about safety-related defects and how you can report problems, go to the Transport Canada On-Line Vehicle Recalls Database.