You can sometimes save hundreds, even thousands of dollars in car repairs by taking advantage of unadvertised service programs.
Manufacturers often call those programs service actions or customer-satisfaction campaigns, but consumers think of them as “secret” or “hidden” warranties. And lots of cars have them.
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 that the fuel gauge is inaccurate. If you know about the hidden warranty, GM will actually replace the sensor free, or reimburse you if you’ve already paid for the repair.
Owners of 2008-2010 Chrysler minivans who notice premature wear on the front wheel bearings can get dealers to replace them free during the first five years or 90,000 miles.
You should get a letter from the manufacturer if it’s making those types of offers, but if you bought your car used, that might not happen.
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.”
So, how do you know whether your fix should be free?
Reach out to the dealership with the year, make and model, and ask about potential service campaigns available to address your problem.
Consumer Reports has compiled a list of more than 230 models that have hidden warranties. It can be found in Consumer Reports publication, The Reliability Guide for Car Owners & Buyers on newsstands. And for subscribers to ConsumerReports.org, the information on hidden warranties is on the car model pages.
Complete Ratings and recommendations on all kinds of products, including appliances, cars & trucks, and electronic gear, are available on Consumer Reports’ website.