But I’m only 150 miles out of warranty!

When asking your dealer or independent auto repair facility to pay all or a portion of your repair bill after your warranty has expired, you should first consider their side of this very sensitive issue.

While they won’t say this to you, I will.  What would you have said to them, if some 30 months into a 36 month warranty, your shop called and asked if they could shorten your warranty time, say, by six months. After all, if everything is going OK and you don’t have any outstanding issues, why not just call it even and allow them to duck out of the last 6 months of the warranty period?

So what they are thinkin' when you ask for them to extend your warranty to cover a repair is this: We never ask you to shorten the warranty period, please don’t ask us to lengthen it.

But let’s say your transmission failed at 38,000, just 2,000 miles past your major drivetrain warranty coverage. You have the best chance getting financial assistance if you follow the guidelines below:

1. You must be the original owner. The car manufacturers have made it very clear that their obligation only extends to the original buyer and few dispute resolution parties disagree with that position. So if you are the second or subsequent owner . . .STRIKE ONE.

2. You better have all your maintenance records and they better be valid. Having your garage doctor up a couple of oil change receipts is the worst thing you could do. Guys like me can spot those a mile away AND if you are asked for the canceled check or a copy of the dated credit card receipt or if the shop is asked for a copy of the bill just before your bill and the one just after it and you come up with some lame excuse why that info is not valid . . . STRIKE TWO.

3. Keep your cool, tell them what you think is fair, don’t threaten to picket the place or paint your car yellow and park it out front. Ask a lot of questions, put your case in writing, be nice. Be brief, take no more than two pages to state your case and ask for financial assistance.

Your written case should sound and look like this:

"I am the original owner of this car. I have enclosed all of my maintenance receipts that apply to my transmission. As you can see, I have had the filter and fluid changed twice in the last three years (bonus point) at your dealership. According to your service advisor, Mike Salem, my transmission failed at 38,000 miles, just 2,000 miles past my warranty period.

It appears that the normal life or a transmission may very well be 100-125k miles. Using that figure and if you agree, it appears that my transmission failed in the first third of its life. I do acknowledge that I did receive the benefit of using that transmission for 38,000 miles and I’m am more than willing to pay for all of that use (38,000 miles divided by 112,000 (average life btw 100k and 125k = 33% of this transmission was used). But could we discuss all the options available on the other two thirds? Perhaps we could agree to somehow fairly split the bill into two parts. I’ll be very glad to pay for the first third of the transmission repair, then could we discuss how to fairly deal with the balance?

Thank you for your time, please call me when you can."

All car manufacturers have a dispute resolution process available for consumers. Look in the back of your owners manual for that information. If you choose to go that route because you are unhappy with the deal you were offered, make sure of two things.

One -  Make sure you can briefly describe your case without using the word "Principal". If you can’t, forget making an appeal. I 've sat on the Ford Consumer Arbitration Board (FCAB) as a technical advisor and chairman for two years, I've sat as an arbitrator for the BBB and GM for three years and I have served two years as a technical advisor for Chrysler and nothing turns board members off faster than a 25 page hand written appeal, name calling, bogus receipts, threats, unreasonable requests and the misuse of the word "Principal".

Two - Always have the repair done at the dealer so if the appeal is successful, to institute the terms of the new agreement will be easy. Having your transmission done at my garage eliminates the car manufacturer from taking my bill, reducing it to cost, adding your portion and making it all come out at the end. They can and will do that at the dealer, but they can’t do it to other shops not related.

There is a time when asking if you can take it to another shop can benefit you. Say you are unhappy with the paint on your hood and your dealer has made three repair attempts, none to your satisfaction. First make sure that everyone who looks at the hood can see what you see. Second , you can ask that the shop of YOUR choice be paid by the dealer or car manufacturer, to repaint your hood. That many times will fly. You see, if the estimate you have from the shop you want to repaint your hood is fair, they will normally pay that bill in a heartbeat. They know that you will go away, you will become that shops problem and they will never have to deal with this hood issue again. So for $350, the problem is gone and so are you.

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