Secret warranties, also known as "after warranty assistance" (AWA) and "good will assistance," refer to a little known program that many vehicle manufacturers have. Under these programs, manufacturers offer to pay for repairs for defective parts after the factory warranty period has expired as long as the car owner asks for such assistance.  

Secret warranties can sometimes allow a car company to avoid paying certain costs associated with having to offer programs to every customer. Thus, such programs are typically considered inherently unfair, and may be illegal under several state laws.

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Part of My Car Failed after My Factory Warranty Expired, Will an AWA Pay?

If part of your car failed after the factory warranty expired you may be eligible for after warranty assistance.  However, there are many restrictions that may apply. These may include:

  • The customer cannot have an extended warranty that covers the repairs;
  • The original owner must still possess the car;
  • Not all manufacturers offer AWA;
  • Time and mileage restrictions may apply; and/or
  • The car must be well maintained.

Disputes over these restrictions and requirements may result in a legal conflict. In such cases, legal representation may be needed to address and resolve disputes over the warranty clauses. This is especially true if there have been changes to the restrictions after the agreement was already made.

Are Secret Warranties Nationwide or Regional Programs?

Secret warranties are often regional programs. Moreover, secret warranties may be largely left to the discretion of the regional dealerships that actually interact with the car owners. Thus, determining how to approach a particular policy or company practice may differ from case to case. The assistance of a legal expert may be needed to determine how warranty laws apply in a specific jurisdiction. 

How Can I Find Out if My Car's Defect is Covered under a Secret Warranty?

It may be difficult to find out if your car's defect is covered under a secret warranty. The best way to find out is to check the service bulletins for your car's type and model. These bulletins are published by the car's manufacturer and are sent to dealerships. The bulletin may also give the dealerships the authority to fix the problem free of charge.  

Also, some secret warranty laws may require manufacturers or dealerships to disclose their warranties through direct notice given to the affected owners. This may include information about the warranty terms, reimbursement amounts, repairs, and other issues.

Do I Need a Lawyer for my Secret Warranty Issue?

If you find documentation of a secret warranty and the dealership or manufacturer of your car refuses to acknowledge that it exists, don't give up.  Most often, if you continue to complain for long enough, the manufacturer will give in. However, if they do not, you may be able to sue them for the cost of the repairs and other damages. An experienced products liability attorney can help you prepare your case.