Consumers will be able to use the search tool online at www.safercar.gov. It is scheduled to be up and running next August.
Some auto companies and private services already allow consumers to look up uncompleted safety recalls online for free, but the government effort is meant to mandate that consumers can receive the information and collect it in one place.
The online tool will be updated weekly.
"Every day NHTSA is working for the American consumer to ensure that automakers and motorcycle manufacturers address safety defects and non-compliances, and that they also recall affected vehicles in a timely manner," NHTSA Administrator David Strickland added. "By making individual VIN searches readily available, we're providing another service to car, light truck and motorcycle owners and potential owners – the peace of mind knowing that the vehicle they own, or that they are thinking of buying, is safe."
Additionally, the new rule requires car manufacturers to give more information to NHTSA about their crash avoidance and propulsion technologies. That should help the agency spot trends of malfunctions, it hopes.
The new regulation is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on Friday.