car complaints solvedNot a day goes by that I don’t hear from someone with a car complaint. There is an art to getting help from the car manufacturer. Here are 5 steps to get your car complaint solved.

Car complaints solved

Sixteen years ago when I started solving consumer problems, car problems were handled differently. Dealerships and manufacturers fixed more problems. They offered goodwill gestures when a car fell just outside a warranty period or a fix seemed reasonable given the circumstances. It’s more difficult to get a repair since the collapse of the auto industry. Repairs still happen. You just have to fight a little harder. Here’s 5 tips to get your car complaint solved.

1. Research car complaints

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.

2. Ask for the service manager

Armed with the stats from NHTSA’s site, try to work with the dealer one last time. You should ask for the service manager. You need to find someone in a position of authority.

Email the service manager, and the owner of the dealership. You need to get someone’s attention, and these are ways to do just that.

3. Call the manufacturer

Sometimes the dealer can’t help you because they didn’t build the car. They just sell the product. Other times they simply won’t help you. Either way, reach out to the manufacturer next.

4. BBB Auto Line complaint

If you can’t get anywhere with the manufacturer on your own, file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau Auto Line. The agency handles warranty disputes. The BBB has a long-standing relationship with the manufacturers. They began resolving disputes in 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.

To file a free complaint with the BBB Auto Line, call 1-800-955-5100 or click here for more information.

Make sure you read the program guidelines before submitting a complaint. Nearly half the claim paperwork is never returned.

Of the cases that qualified for the program in 2015, 26% led to a replacement car. The manufacturer repaired the vehicle 56% of the time, and more than 12% of the time the driver was reimbursed.

If the program rules apply to your situation, give it a shot. It’s free.

5. File a lemon law complaint

The Lemon Law protects new car buyers during the first 24 months of owning the car. The laws vary by state, but typically a car must have the same problem repeatedly and be out of service for an extended period of time.

The Lemon Law is very specific in each state. There are specific guidelines to qualify for the program. You must follow each step carefully. For example, you have to give the manufacturer a chance to fix the problem before you file a claim.

Check with your state Attorney General for specifics on the program in your state.

It’s free, and it works. When the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal broke, a West Palm Beach man grew frustrated by the long wait for a settlement. So he filed a Lemon Law claim. Without an attorney, the man went to the arbitration hearing and beat Voilkswagen and its team of lawyers. The manufacturer was ordered to buy back his car.