YONKERS, N.Y.Motorists can save thousands of dollars if their vehicles qualify for customer service campaigns that are rarely announced to the public, according to an article in Consumer Reports magazine.
These campaignswhich amount to secret warranties on vehicles, according to Consumer Reports (CR)arise when auto makers discover that some component or system in a given model is failing at a greater rate than expected.
For example, owners of Honda Civics from model years 2006 to 2009 may qualify for free replacement of the engine block, or even the entire engine, if their cars are leaking coolant from a crack in the block, the magazine said.
At any time, consumers can find out-of-warranty service actions from many manufacturers, CR said in a press release.
When auto makers conduct a customer service campaign, they send notification letters to all known owners, according to CR. Often, however, vehicles included in the campaign may already be on their second or third owners, who often do not receive the notifications, it said.
All service campaigns and warranty extensions are included in technical service bulletins (TSBs) that auto makers send regularly to their franchised dealers' service departments, CR said, but vehicle owners usually don't have easy access to TSBs.
The best way to find information on service campaigns is to search for free summaries on the government website www.safer-car.gov, the auto safety website operated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), according to CR.
Once there, enter your car's make/model/year in the 'Owners' section, and click on the 'Service Bulletins' tab, the magazine said. But be warned, the summaries are often vague. Dealers and repair shops may share TSBs if you ask, CR said.
Drivers may also purchase current TSBs for their cars at Alldatadiy.com (http://alldatadiy.com/) at $26.95 per year; or Mitchell 1 DIY (www.eautorepair.net) at $25.99 per year, according to the magazine.
In some cases, auto makers issue TSBs on some vehicle problems that should be covered by formal recalls, according to the magazine. For example, Toyota has TSBs on the braking systems in the 2007-11 Camry Hybrid, but CR has asked NHTSA to order a recall on those brakes if Toyota doesn't, it added.
The complete report on secret warranties appears in the November issue of Consumer Reports and also is available on its website at www.ConsumerReports.org.