Is a Jeep owner on the hook for problems caused by the repair of a recall issue?

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Q. I own a 2009 Jeep Compass in good condition, with 110,000 kilometres on it. I received a recall notice about a rusting frame member and I took it to a dealership. After charging me $50 for an inspection, they said my Jeep needs both the front and back crossmembers changed, and that the repairs are covered by the manufacturer. However, the rear part is so badly rusted that when they remove it, other components may fall apart—and those other parts are not covered. 

I received a loose quote of $1,800 to $2,000 for my contribution to the repairs. I don’t think that should be my problem, since the crossmembers are recognized as being faulty.

Am I stuck with the repair bill?

A. You are one of the fortunate people who managed to get both the front and rear crossmembers covered! Some owners of the Jeep Compass, and related Patriot and Dodge Calibre, were unable to obtain coverage from the manufacturer for even one crossmember. Fiat Chrysler extended the warranty applicable to both the front and rear frame crossmembers on 2008–2012 Jeep Compass and Patriot SUVs, and Dodge Calibre compacts to 10 years from the original date in service. Most owners who experienced this corrosion problem before the program was announced were out of luck. (Fiat Chrysler did reimburse some repairs paid by customers prior to the program launch, if they were performed at a dealership.) Because the warranty extension was so long in coming, many vehicles had already moved into the hands of second and third owners who did not receive the manufacturer’s notice.

Parts and services required to complete an extended warranty or recall repair should be included by the vehicle manufacturer. These include:

  • Inspection charges if the diagnosis confirms that the repair covered by the program is needed ($50 to $150).
  • Fasteners and shop supplies, like cleaners and rags needed for the job.
  • Items that are attached to the defective component, like the brake parts and fuel lines that pass through or are attached to the rear crossmember of your Jeep.
  • Engine or transmission fluids, if these were not scheduled for replacement. For example, the transmission fluid and engine coolant on many new vehicles has a recommended replacement after 10 years or more, or has no scheduled replacement. (Some dealers may nonetheless apply a charge to fill a recalled engine or transmission with fluid.)
  • Wheel alignment (in your situation, it will be required to set up the suspension after replacement of the front crossmember)
  • A courtesy vehicle, if the owner’s vehicle will be off the road for more than a day or two.

Unfortunately, several automakers don’t operate this way. 

So, what are your options? You contact Fiat Chrysler to ask that they cover the total cost of the repair, but without saying you reject their offer. Then, ask the dealer who completes the repairs on your Jeep for the old parts back, or take photos of the underbody. When you sign the final bill, write: “Customer reserves right to claim for additional charges required for the safety repair.” 

The customer’s contribution to a recall or warranty extension repair is usually much lower than the estimated outlay of $1,800 to $2,000 provided by your dealer. Typically, it’s in the range of $75 to $150 for a diagnosis or a wheel alignment. Most customers accept it, partly because the total value of the repair is so much greater.

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