Does your car have a secret warranty?

Monday, October 20, 2014
Does your car have a hidden warranty?
Consumer Reports says you might be able to get your car fixed for free, if you know the secret.

HOUSTON -- Nothing's more frustrating to a car owner than discovering peeling paint or a leaking sunroof on a car that's not so old. Having to make expensive, post-warranty repairs can leave you feeling ripped off. But Consumer Reports says you might be able to get your car fixed for free, if you know the secret.

Getting your your car repainted can cost several thousand dollars. But if the paint cracks on some cars, the manufacturer may repaint it free, even if the car is out of warranty.

In fact, you can sometimes save hundreds, even thousands of dollars in repair bills by taking advantage of unadvertised service programs.

"Manufacturers often call these programs service actions or customer-satisfaction campaigns, but consumers think of them as secret or hidden warranties. And lots of cars have them," said Margot Gilman with Consumer Reports.

For example, with 2006-2011 Honda Civics, if the paint is cracking, Honda has extended the paint warranty to seven years, with no mileage limit.

In the GMC Envoy and many 2005-2007 General Motors SUVs, a faulty sensor can mean the fuel gauge is inaccurate.

"If you know about the hidden warranty, G.M. will actually replace the sensor for free, or reimburse you if you've already paid for the repair," said Gillman.

Owners of 2008-2010 Chrysler minivans noticing premature wear on the front wheel bearings can get dealers to replace them for free during the first five years or 90,000 miles.

"You should get a letter from the manufacturer if it's making these offers, but if you bought your car used, that might not happen," Gilman said.

So how do you know if your fix should be free? Reach out to a dealership with the year, make, and model, and ask about potential service campaigns available to address your problem.

Consumer Reports says it's easy to understand why carmakers aren't in a hurry to broadcast the existence of a free fix. Usually, only a fraction of the cars will exhibit the problem, and carmakers don't want tens of thousands of customers showing up at dealerships demanding the free repair "just in case."

But if you run into a problem, be sure to check if your car has a hidden warranty. Consumer Reports has compiled a list of more than 230 models that have them. For more info, click here.