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Troubleshooter: When it comes to warranty work, watch where you sign

Troubleshooter: When it comes to warranty work, watch where you sign
Autos
Your warranty doesn t cover everything, so read the fine print and cover your bases before you sign a work orderSupplied / iStock.com via Getty Images

This straightforward scenario happens many times a day, in just about any dealership — a customer drops off their vehicle with a request (or three) they assume will be covered by the warranty. A service advisor records and confirms their concerns on a work order, and asks for a signature. The customer leaves, with peace-of-mind that their problems will be rectified without cost.

If the inspection and search for the cause only takes a few minutes, most shops will waive any fees incurred until the customer approves the proceeding work. And if they decline, then the service department will usually “eat” the costs, but not always — if a technician had to spend time accessing panels, trace a wiring circuit to a fault not easily found, or haul out some special equipment and tools for the job, someone has to pay the piper.

Troubleshooter: Should you ditch your dealer for maintenance work?

And usually, if the customer isn’t a regular — either they bought the car from another dealer, or they never returned for maintenance or other repairs — things might take a different turn. If this happens, and they’re usually met with the phrase, “you signed the repair order.” When most dealers charge over $100 per hour for labour, and often have a minimum fee for diagnostic testing, these costs aren’t inconsequential.

So, as a consumer, how do you protect yourself? First, don’t assume just because your vehicle is within the terms of its warranty, anything that goes wrong is covered . When you’re dropping off and your service request is being written up, make sure you indicate no retail fees are to be run up until you’re notified, and you agree. You can — and should — put this in writing above your signature on the work order.

Furthermore, check for any signage at the counter indicating their policy on minimum charges. Then, make sure you’re accessible by phone or email to receive updates from your service consultant. If your claim is denied and you disagree, ask the service manager to go over the details. If that doesn’t cut it, check your options on taking your cause up the food chain to the dealer’s owner, and then the automaker’s head office, if necessary.
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