Arm yourself with information
There are many car complaint websites, and some are better than others. If you Google your car’s make and problem and find dozens of complaints about the same thing, don’t get all that excited. That will not be very good ammunition to work with the manufacturer or dealer toward resolving the problem. Those are often undocumented cases and the manufacturer’s doesn’t put much value into them since anyone can post anything they want.
You’re better off going to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website. NHTSA runs a site called “Safer Car.” Here you can search recalls, defect investigations, service bulletins, and customer complaints. It also has miscellaneous information like child passenger seat inspection stations, air bag safety, rollover prevention tips, tire safety and ratings, and crash test safety ratings.
You can also file your own complaint, and I suggest you do this if you have a problem you feel is a safety defect. NHTSA reviews these complaints and looks for trends and patterns before opening up an investigation. To file by phone, call 1-888-327-4236.
Call the manufacturer
Armed with the stats from NHTSA’s site, try to work with the dealer one last time. If that fails, call the manufacturer directly. Click here for a list of phone numbers and addresses for the various manufacturers.
BBB Auto Line
If you can’t get anywhere, you may try the Better Business Bureau Auto Line if you have a warranty dispute. It’s a program that’s been resolving disputes since 1978.
Click here for a list of manufacturers (note some participating companies vary by state) that participate in the BBB Auto Line. The participating manufacturers agree to arbitrate certain disputes.
Click here for a link to the program summary by vehicle and state.
Make sure you read the program guidelines before submitting a complaint. A lot of decisions do end in denials, so make sure you qualify. The statistics for 2009 show a vast majority of the people don’t return the forms or are ineligible for the program. Another 17% of the cases are settled or mediated and 12% are arbitrated.
Of those national settlements, half lead to repairs. In Ohio, the settlements are split between repurchase / replace (37%) and repair (34%).
If the program rules apply to your situation, give it a shot.
Call the Executive Office
If you’ve tried to work with your dealer and manufacturer with no success, and perhaps see a pattern of problems from NHTSA’s website, try calling the manufacturer and ask for the “Executive Office.” These are the people who have the power to make decisions on your repairs to your vehicle. Don’t expect this to solve your problem. Remember, based on what I’m hearing from consumers goodwill gestures are happening less and less.