Car Owners Could Save Under Unadvertised `Warranties'

Car owners could save thousands of dollars by taking advantage of free or reduced-cost repairs that aren’t announced to the general public by automakers, according to Consumer Reports.

Carmakers usually issue “call service actions” or “customer service campaigns” when a component or system in a given car model fails more often than expected. Under one such program, a coolant-leaking, 2006 Honda Civic’s cracked engine block could be replaced for free, Consumer Reports said. That might save a car owner about $4,400, according to Mel Yu, the magazine’s automotive analyst.

These “secret warranties,” as Consumer Reports terms them, are contained in letters to all known owners of a particular model. People who have bought the car used may not receive the letters, which could also get thrown away, it said.

In other cases, “there is no advance notice, and car owners find out about it only if a dealer tells them or they discover it on their own,” the magazine said.

The customer-service campaigns, also presented as “warranty extensions,” are contained in technical service bulletins that are sent to dealers. Service departments then may share them with car owners who ask, Consumer Reports said. Summaries of the bulletins can also be found at the government website http://safercar.gov.

Honda Motor Co., and its Acura luxury brand, offer a half-dozen or more service actions, Consumer Reports said, suggesting the carmaker is “unusually generous to customers.”

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