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A letter from Stew

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Newsletter No 44
March 2008

HELLO & HAPPY SPRING

Hello again to all of you, and welcome to our many wonderful new customers who are not familiar with our newsletter.  We try to write four of these per year, but 2007 flew right past us.

Our goal with the newsletters has always been to provide you with useful information in a way that makes you want to keep reading to the end.  Hopefully, we’re not too rusty.  We want to be a resource, and we are always here for you, even after you pay your bill.  


NEW CAR WARRANTIES

Let’s talk about the various warranties your new or used car might have, as we field a lot of inquiries about these.

Factory or New Car Warranty is what your manufacturer issues when you purchase a new vehicle.  Factory warranties differ between manufacturers and indeed even between model years.  

Vehicles also have different layers of warranties. Let’s break them down by looking at the different warranties that are standard on a typical new car (or a slightly used one, for that matter).

It has a three year/30,000 mile bumper to bumper warranty.  This covers anything that goes wrong, from a burnt valve to a headliner that falls down.  It has a six year/60,000 mile “power train” warranty.  Power train or drive train refers to mechanical components only.  So if your headliner falls down at 31,000 miles, you’re out of luck, but the burnt valve would still be covered up to 60,000 miles. It also has a Federal Emissions Warranty of 8 years/80,000 miles.  This is an EPA mandated warranty and covers major components of the pollution control equipment on the car (primarily the catalytic converter). Every new car in the US has a federal emissions warranty of 8 years/80,000 miles. If your catalytic converter fails at 79,000 miles and your car is less than 8 years old, you are entitled to a free replacement, courtesy of your local dealer, even though your powertrain warranty expired at 60,000 miles.

Other coverages may include a warranty on the tires and alignment, California emissions, or hybrid systems.  These vary greatly between the manufacturers.

Any factory warranty work, recalls, or work done under the Federal Emissions Warranty has to be performed by your dealer, in order for it to be no cost to you. The dealer then submits the claim to their parent company for reimbursement.

Another type of warranty we field questions about is an Extended Warranty.


EXTENDED WARRANTIES:
Worth It or Not?

Extended warranties are available for just about any major purchase, whether it is a computer or a car.  The extended warranty is designed to kick in when your factory warranty expires.

Among extended warranty providers, there are good companies, fair companies, and awful companies.  We deal with them all, regardless of how fair or rude they are.

If you have an extended warranty on your car, we need, at minimum, your contract number and the repair hotline telephone number.  It is helpful if we have the actual certificate of coverage too, as this allows us to argue the case more effectively, should we be dealing with one of the warranty companies of lesser reputation.  Believe it or not, sometimes we have to get into shouting matches over claims they’re unfairly trying to deny!

Keep in mind that all extended warranty companies must authorize the work in advance of the repair, not after.  If you tell us after we complete your repair that you have an extended warranty, we will not be able to help you get it paid for!

If you’re contemplating buying an extended warranty, feel free to give Betsy a call to chat about it.  And read your fine print carefully! I can’t emphasize that enough. We dealt with one company last fall that had a tiny little exclusion on the back of the contract that read “we do not cover any component we consider subject to wear and tear”.  This basically was every single component on and in the car.  That one was about as close to a complete scam as I’ve ever seen.

One of the most important questions to resolve before you buy the contract is whether or not the insurance company will cover a component that is in the process of failing but is not technically broken.

 A year or so ago, we were working on an Audi A6 with an extremely noisy timing belt tensioner about to seize up.  The extended warranty company wouldn’t cover it unless it actually broke. If that tensioner failed, it would have taken the timing belt with it and bent every single valve in the engine.  They wouldn’t have covered the cost of the replacement engine (considered “consequential damage”), just the cost to replace the failed tensioner.  On the other hand, some companies will cover parts that are failing.  It really varies widely between companies.  Other things to ask are: whether or not the coverage includes diagnostic time, will pay the sales tax on parts,  will impose a cap on labor rates (usually about $50 an hour – again, read the small print.)

Are extended warranties worth it?  That is so hard to answer, but of course we’ll give it a try.

Pattern failures do occur on every car.  Some pattern failures are minor and some are potentially catastrophic.  You may be surprised to hear that the more expensive your new car is, the more likely you are to have higher repair bills.  You would think that just the opposite would be true – that if you pay $45,000 for a brand-new luxury sedan, you won’t have any major repair bills because the car is so well-built.  Your car IS well-built, but the more complex the machine, the more parts there are to break down. A six cylinder twin-turbocharged dual-exhaust car has more components than a garden variety four cylinder sub-compact car.  More parts, more possibilities of failure.  


AT YOUR SERVICE

At least once a week, we greet a returning customer we haven’t seen for a few years, because their car is just coming off warranty.  We’ll do an oil change and the tech informs me that the car’s check engine light is on.  When I ask the customer what they know about that, I hear a variation of “oh, that’s been on for years, and the dealer said it was just one of those things that happens on these new models”.  We’ll do a quick code pull and diagnose a problem that should have been covered under the factory warranty.  Just as a reminder, under no circumstances is it EVER normal to have a chronic check engine light.  

Why don’t the dealers like doing warranty work? No one (except the dealers) really knows the answer to that question. One answer might be that they get reimbursed from their respective parent companies at a substantially lower rate than if they were billing the repair out to the customer themselves.  Or maybe they’re so busy that warrantywork becomes less of a priority.  No one knows for sure.

This is a great reason to bring even your newest car into us for your routine oil changes.  We can catch things like a chronic check engine light or a suspiciously noisy catalytic converter before your warranty is up.

If we do catch an issue, which necessitates a trip to the dealer for some warranty work, we can arm you with written information to give to your dealership when attempting to get the warranty coverage you are entitled to.  We can advise you on which dealerships are more customer-service oriented, and which ones to avoid.

Another service we can offer is our ability to give reality checks.  Let me give an example of that. About a year ago, we got a call from a new customer.  He had just purchased a pre-owned European car with some factory warranty still in effect.  A few days after purchase, the car overheated and the head gasket blew.  He called the dealer back.  After much deliberation, and blaming him for the failure, they agreed that since it was still under partial warranty they would split the cost of a head gasket repair with him.

He’s a smart guy who understands a lot about cars, and their quote sounded strangely high to him, so he called us for a price comparison.

I quickly realized that the dealer’s estimate was over double what it should have been.  After the proposed “50/50 split of the repair cost”, he was in reality going to be paying full price!  Ouch!

The customer confronted the dealer and, needless to say, did not proceed with the repair at the dealership.

On another occasion, a regular customer with a newer Subaru called for a quote on an oxygen sensor.  The dealer said he needed one and the part wasn’t under warranty any longer.  We become a little suspicious because the mileage on the car was still low.  We got the car in here for a reality check and diagnosed a failed catalytic converter.  We sent him right back to the dealer for a free replacement cat as the car was still covered under the federal emissions warranty.  There was nothing wrong with the oxygen sensor and replacing it would have been a big waste of money.


GARNISH THOSE PLATES!

Have you ever struggled to install your new license plates?  Do you suffer from the dreaded Crunched Front License Plate disease?  Well, do we have a deal for you.  You might be interested in our free service of installing and maintaining license plates.  It’s free over the lifetime of your car, and the descendents of your car, as long as you agree to have your car display one of our license plate surrounds.  Wow!  


FOREIGN POLICY

We no longer accept paper checks of any kind as payment for car repair.   Current forms of payment accepted are cash, Visa, Master Card, or Discover.  If you are a long-time customer who has always paid by check, please give us a call.

Stop in to visit us, or if you have any questions about your cars, call us at 651-635-0395.



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