Takata air bag recall leads to $2,000 'upsell'

Don't Waste Your Money
Posted at 6:46 PM, May 09, 2016
and last updated 2017-06-07 21:54:29-04

UPDATED 6/7/17:

With more and more air bags added to the Takata air bag recall every month, chances are that someone in your family has received a recall notice, or will soon.

But before you take in your car for its free repair, consumer groups are saying you should watch your wallet.

Many people report receiving postcards saying "important information about your car's warranty," and assume it concerns their air bag.  It turns out it is simply a pitch to sell you an extended warranty, often from a questionable company with a poor BBB record.

But even if it is a legitimate recall notice, you still need to watch for an upsell once you get to the dealer.

Expected Free Repair

Scott VanCauwenberg, like millions of drivers, received a letter saying his Takata air bag could be dangerous and was on the list for a free replacement.

But when the Milford, Ohio man took in his car, he says, "They went to order the part because they didn't have it in, but they said I needed some work done on the front end specifically, on part of the suspension and some axles."

So he reluctantly agreed to the extra work, and as his receipt shows, he ended up with new axle boots, sway bar links and some other items, for a grand total of $922.

But that wasn't the end of it. A few weeks later, when the new air bags came in, he says, "I took it in to get the air bags, and they presented me with a recommendation for a lot of other work. It was like another $2,000 worth of work."

Safety Inspection Can Find Issues

A $2,000 estimate for more brake and suspension work, after he just paid $900?

When you take in your car for an air bag recall or any recall, the dealer's going to do a safety inspection.They don't want to send you out on the highway in a dangerous vehicle.

But those recommendations are just recommendations -- you don't have to pay. VanCauwenberg decided to take his car to an independent repair shop instead.

"They came back that of the repairs that were recommended, only $300 needed to be done."

Consumer Reports magazine says "some dealerships are exploiting safety recalls as a marketing hook to sell additional repair work." It says check your car's handbook to see if a service is really due, and if the estimate is for really big money, get a second opinion, as VanCauwenberg did.

We're not accusing any car dealers of ripping anyone off. Your car may indeed need brakes, filters or maintenance on the suspension.

But you are under no obligation to get it done by that dealership, so don't be embarrassed to say you are going to check with another shop so you don't waste your money.


Don't Waste Your Money is a registered trademark of the E.W. Scripps Co.

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