Car repairs dismantle your warranty

May 20, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
A small fender bender could end up costing you a small fortune, and it isn't in the cost of repairs. California law contains a huge potential problem for consumers. You get in an accident, your car is repaired and you think the trouble is past. It usually is, but there is a downside very few consumers know about.

The work body shop technicians are doing at San Rafael's Bertolli's Auto Body could mean a lot to you down the road, when your car ends up at place like Piercey Toyota in Milpitas.

"What are looking for?" asked Finney.
"Rust, vent, leak," said the technician.

This car is a lease return and the mechanic is giving it a good once over searching for problems, and for after market parts.

If there's too much non-Toyota under the hood, the car can't be a certified used car. That means it's worth less at turn in and the consumer will have to make up that difference.

"Have you had to tell car owners this?" asked Finney.
"Yes," said Ralf Nielsen, from Piercey Toyota.
"What happened?" asked Finney.
"They're not really happy about it because in most cases were not told of what was being put on their car," said Nielsen.

When cars are being repaired in collision shops, often insurance companies want after market parts installed.

"Well one of the things you get when you have an aftermarket part for example is the part will cost less to do the repair. When the repairs are less, your insurance rates will actually stay at a premium that customers can afford and move forward with," said Tully Lehman, on behalf of the insurance industry.

So, how much less are we talking about?

"It is substantial, sometimes as much as half the cost of using of a new part," said Laura Bertolli, an auto body shop owner. "Really? Then why not use them," asked Finney.
"Like I said sometimes they don't fit right and it would be a problem because the mechanics of the car, especially on the condensers and radiators," said Bertolli.

"The light was smashed, the front was all smashed, the bumper had been buckled under, the light was smashed," said Tommy Kesecker.

Kesecker's car was slammed bad and he felt slammed again when his insurer wanted to install non-factory parts on his nearly new minivan.

"My own insurance company was telling me I couldn't have Chrysler parts," said Kesecker.
"And you would expect them, to fight for you," said Finney.
"That's right, that's what I expected and I was very disappointed," said Kesecker.

Eventually his insurer came through with the factory parts including a radiator, and that's good thing because a non factory radiator could have voided his warranty on many coolant issues.

"Any failure that are caused by nonstandard part or nonstandard repairs are not covered," said Nielsen.

"It is important to know if those parts aren't factory guaranteed by the manufacturer, you lose your warranty and you are on your own," said State Senator Carole Migden (D) of San Francisco.

Senator Migden is introducing legislation that requires insurance companies to use only factory parts when a vehicle is under three years old and still under warranty. Or the insurance company can tell consumers, in a very big, noticeable way, that when they buy a policy aftermarket parts may be used.

"We are only saying here that we believe there ought to be notice if substitute parts used under the hood of the car," said Migden.

The insurance companies point out, that by definition, auto manufacturers have a monopoly on factory parts and that could increase costs.


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