Secret Warranties – Shh!

Secret Warranties Lemon Law

Secret warranties are a sad fact of life. Manufacturers know that their product has issues, so they offer what is known as “after warranty assistance”, or "goodwill adjustments" as some have dubbed it.

These warranties are offered to customers who ask for help in paying for repairs once the standard factory warranty has lapsed. Just like any other warranty, there are restrictions on the length of time or the mileage. And often only the original owner is eligible for the extra work, not the poor unfortunate soul that purchased the car later on down the road.

Before any dealer is going to pay for repairs based on these warranties, they'll want to see your maintenance records. They want to make sure you’ve done your job first before they do theirs. Often, this means that they want to see if you are their loyal customer, not someone else’s. They’re really looking for records that show you brought your car into the dealer regularly, and not to some competitor. By offering to fix the problem, they’re hoping you will continue to be a good customer and remember who helped you, even though your car was out of warranty.

After warranty assistance (AWA) is offered to customers who pursue help in paying for repairs that are past the standard factory warranty period. AWA cannot be used if the customer has an extended warranty available that covers the repair. Time and/or mileage restrictions exist with AWA just like any other auto warranty and if you are outside of the parameters, you are not eligible for assistance. For some programs, only original owners are eligible. It's no surprise that not every customer is going to be entitled to coverage. Not all of the manufacturers offer this type of program either.

Of course, this doesn’t sound fair. Secret warranties aren’t meant to be. It’s a loyalty reward, not an entitlement. Vehicle maintenance brings big bucks into the dealer, so throwing the owner a bone with this repair is just smart business. Plus, they can’t guarantee the quality of other parts added to your car that aren’t factory issued.

So, let’s say you jumped through all the hoops and you’re eligible for the warranty. Sometimes, the dealer and manufacturer will foot the bill for work performed. More often, you will contribute as well.

If you're thinking that these warranties are a blessing in disguise, you’re right. But the disguise may be masking the fact that the manufacturer knows the part in question has a high failure rate. So they’re willing to offer secret warranties to keep the purchasing public happy and avoid a more expensive recall.

Now, here’s the bad part. The dealer or the manufacturer isn’t going to tell you there are secret warranties available. They may even be calling it a service campaign or goodwill adjustment just to confuse you. But they’re not going to tell you about it.

How can I find out about secret warranties?

There is a way to find out, however. The Center for Auto Safety has a ton of information on their site at www.autosafety.org. If you’re searching for information specifically about secret warranties, enter ‘AWA’ into the search window. You can also click on the “recent service campaigns” link in the navigation.

You can also send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to:

The Center for Auto Safety
Suite 410
2001 S Street NW
Washington DC 20009-1160

In your letter, list your make, model and year and describe the problems you're having with your vehicle.

Finally, you can call them at (202) 328-7700.

Secret warranties have their limitations, but if you find out about them, are the original owner of the vehicle and have been a good customer, you may get those issues fixed with your car that were on the verge of making it a lemon.

NOTE:The information here is not legal advice and is only presented to you so you can know your options if you purchased a lemon. As with any legal issue, you should seek the advice of a qualified attorney.



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