from Goss’ Garage by Pat Goss

Did you ever think you would see it? Two massive American car companies filing bankruptcy, it’s a sad day for America! It’s a disaster that will cost many Americans their jobs and send even more American dollars overseas. How we got here isn’t my subject but rather how you protect yourself as the owner of a GM or Chrysler vehicle.

First, unless you bought one of their rare problem vehicles you probably have one of the better cars on the road. There is way too much criticism about domestic cars from uninformed idiots who simply read, test and talk about cars but don’t fix cars for a living. I on the other hand do fix cars for a living and I can tell you, domestic cars for the most part, are extremely good cars. Unfortunately like they say, perception is reality and it is perception not quality that has wrecked the domestic auto industry. No matter the cause you have to protect yourself so, Step one: Don’t panic and do something foolish, the sky is not falling.

As a result of what’s happening warranty claims will now likely be tightly scrutinized. Step two: read all the fine print in your owner’s manual and your warranty booklet. Then make sure you’re doing everything necessary to fulfill your part of the warranty agreement. If you don’t hold up your end of the agreement you could inadvertently void your warranty.

In the past dealers had discretionary money they could use for goodwill adjustments on issues that happened shortly after a warranty expired or if there were extenuating circumstances. If you were only slightly out of warranty the dealer at his or her discretion could extend the warranty coverage and pay for the repair out of their discretionary fund. But those funds are mostly gone now which means the last mile or last day of the warranty is the end. Step three: Don’t count on being able to sweet-talk someone into a warranty adjustment. Although your actual coverage will be the same you will have to play by the rules and meet every maintenance requirement. ‘Close’ won’t cut it as the rules will be administered by the bankruptcy court. Courts are all about rules and seriously dispassionate about individual foibles and desires.

Also many dealers will be closed through bankruptcy court mandate or manufacturer reorganization which could cause another set of problems. Step four: To avoid future conflicts from record keeping I suggest you get a full written history of your vehicle from your servicing dealer. This will help prevent warranty issues if your dealer is one that is ultimately closed. Keeping complete documentation on file will help prevent paper problems but there is still one remaining issue to deal with, namely how long you’ll keep your car!

Before you jump to a conclusion on that consider this, no matter what, your domestic car or truck is going to take a huge depreciation loss. That means you will have to decide between keeping the car longer and driving the value out of it or trading now at a huge loss. Naturally the smart way to avoid automotive financial suicide is to keep your car longer. That brings up another concern, protecting against big repair bills. Step five: Consider buying extended warranty coverage, but beware of high-pressure aftermarket companies that send post cards or jam your voicemail with unsolicited messages. I’ve been checking warranty companies for many years and during that time I have only found one that I feel is trustworthy so be extremely careful.

A small amount of your time, common sense, planning and preventive action will protect you for years to come!