You know about the official manufacture auto warranty that comes with cars, when you purchase one new. Then I am sure you’re aware of extended warranties, which can cover auto repairs after the factory warranty expires. However, there’s another type of warranty: a “secret” warranty that could fix your car for factory-based manufacturing errors or faulty parts.
What Is a “Secret” Auto Warranty?
You may have heard of someone getting their car fixed for free at a dealership because of a factory-caused defect. For example, Jeep Wrangler and Jeep Liberty models from 2006 had a factory-based defect in their clutch assembly that kept the vehicle from starting. Dealers received instructions from Chrysler to fix the problem at no charge.
Automakers issue technical service bulletins (TSBs) about problems they’ve identified with their models. They may also be willing to fix problems at no charge if several owners have made complaints.
How would a TSB or other manufacturer planning to fix a car at no charge qualify as a “secret” warranty? If you were a 2006 Jeep owner in California, Connecticut, Maryland, Virginia, or Wisconsin, both the problem and free repair were no secret. Jeep notified owners of a potential clutch and starting problem, and their local dealer would replace the faulty parts for free.
Only California, Connecticut, Maryland, Virginia, and Wisconsin require automakers to notify owners about TSBs that could help cover their car for repairs resulting from manufacturer errors. But what about other states?
In all other states you are required to do your own research to learn whether your car has a problem that the manufacturer will fix for free or at a very low cost.
This is why the TSB is called a “secret” warranty. The federal government doesn’t require any disclosure of TSBs or other repair programs.
Is There a Difference Between a TSB and an Extended Warranty?
Because the TSB can provide repairs during the entire life of the car, it is a kind of extended warranty. TSB-based repairs are for specific parts, car systems, or problems. General Motors maintained a 5-year/50,000-mile warranty for rack and pinion power steering on all (16 million) of its 1981-1988 front wheel drive cars.
An extended warranty provides coverage for many systems and components of your car. Depending on your car’s age, your mileage driven, and your needs, an extended warranty can cover 100 percent of repairs for your engine, transmission, heating and air conditioning, electrical system, and more. Extended warranties cover the repairs your car needs, not problems the manufacturer may have identified through customer complaints.
Why Are Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs) Not Required to Be Disclosed Like Safety Recalls?
During the 1970s, consumer protection agencies and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) tried to require automakers to disclose TSBs and notify owners of problems and repairs. By 1981, political changes and a new federal administration resulted in a rollback on these efforts. Five states, including California and Wisconsin, continued with consumer protection requirements. On a national level, automakers aren’t required to even inform dealers about TSBs or repair policies.
Find Out if Your Car Is Under a Secret Auto Warranty
Enter your car’s VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) into the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s defects and recalls search page. You can also check the NHTSA website for consumer complaints and TSBs.
Negotiate for Free or Cheap Repairs
If you see your car in the NHTSA database, print out documents to support your claim. Take the documents to your local dealership and request a free repair.
If the dealer refuses, you can contact the manufacturer’s regional or district office directly. Some “secret” warranty programs are so secret that manufacturers don’t even tell dealers about them, preferring to wait for complaints before authorizing repairs. If the repairs still haven’t been made, you can pursue a remedy in small claims court.
According to the Center for Auto Safety, the number of secret warranties increased dramatically after the federal government stopped enforcement efforts in 1981. Your car could have a TSB or otherwise qualify for a repair under a “secret” warranty.
Secret warranties relieve customers of the responsibility of paying for repairs. Now that you know about secret warranties, search the NHTSA database to see if they affect your car. Protect all other parts of your car and any future repairs with an extended warranty from Protect My Car.