Could your vehicle have 'hidden' warranty?

By Aaron Wische - Senior Executive Producer , Amy Davis - Reporter/Consumer Expert

HOUSTON - Warranty work is part of the daily routine for auto shop owner Dennis Raghunandan. But he recently came across a "hidden" warranty for a customer who was about to pay thousands for repairs.

"We had a nice young lady who had a Hyundai and her car was experiencing a lot of vibration and shaking," Raghunandan said.

So he looked up the repair and saw the car manufacturer covered it.

"It was a known issue at the dealership for a sensor that had to be replaced, and a computer update, and it was at free at charge."

Car manufacturers issue thousands of technical service bulletins with the federal government each year. They're sent to dealers when a problem is widespread, but not considered dangerous enough for a recall.

The bulletins help mechanics diagnose and repair the problem, and many times they indicate the manufacturer will pay for those repairs. The problem is, those notices are not sent to car owners. Many people end up paying out of pocket.

"It would have been close to $1,000 for that repair," Raghunandan said.

Last year Channel 2 Investigates told viewers about melting dashboards affecting Toyota, Lexus and Mazda vehicles.

After first refusing to cover repairs, Toyota eventually agreed to enhance or expand the warranties on more than 4 million vehicles and sent letters to owners. Honda notified owners of 2006-2009 Civics to let them know it would extend coverage of cracks in the engine block. But many times, drivers won't get a heads up.

So, before taking a vehicle in for a repair, search the NHTSA website for all service bulletins to see if it's covered by a hidden warranty. All you need is the year, make and model.

And before selecting a repair shop, ask if it has access to the notices. Franchised dealers always do, and qualified mechanics will, too.

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