How to find hidden car warranties that could save you thousands

HOUSTON – Car repairs can be costly. When a mechanic tells you shelling out big bucks is the only way to get your vehicle running again, you may feel like you don't have a choice. Before you write a check, you should know car makers do pay for repairs to some vehicles long after the warranties expire. Consumer expert Amy Davis explains how you can find out if your car has a hidden warranty. 

When there is a widespread safety problem with one particular vehicle, the car manufacturer usually issues a recall and sends you a notice in the mail. But car companies find defects all the time that don't necessarily put the public in danger. When that happens, they may be willing to pay to repair the defect, but no one will track you down to let you know about it. 

It's Murphy's law, a few thousand miles after your car warranty expires, something big goes out. That's what happened when Jon Hill's 2012 Hyundai Sonata went about 20,000 miles past the manufacturer's powertrain warranty.   

"The whole engine just died," Hill explained. "It was completely out of oil."

With no warranty, Hill planned to take the vehicle to his mechanic to pay for a used engine.  
"I actually was gonna have my mechanic put a used one in it for five grand," he said. "My wife said, 'No, no.. we need to call Hyundai.'"

A local Hyundai dealership discovered there had been issues with the engines in Sonatas like Hill's. That discovery saved him that $5,000. 

"Sure enough, Hyundai took care of us even though we were over the mileage," Hill told Davis. 

"To car owners, it could be their saving grace," said Gilbert Garcia with Helfman River Oaks Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram

Garcia says car manufacturers issue thousands of technical service bulletins with the federal government each year. The bulletins help mechanics diagnose and repair problems and many times, they indicate the manufacturer will pay for those repairs.

The notices are not sent to car owners, so many people end up paying out of pocket.

"Always just check with the dealership and check with us before they put money into something that could be covered," Garcia said. 

Before you take your vehicle in for a repair, you can search the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website for all service bulletins to see if it's covered by a hidden warranty. All you need is the year, make and model. In some instances, the TSB is referred to as "manufacturer communication." Before you select a repair shop, ask if it has access to these notices. Franchised dealers always do, and qualified mechanics will, too.