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Mazda rust warranty took driver by surprise

Eric Lai answers readers’ auto questions every week for Wheels.

Q: In 2007, I purchased a previously owned 2004 Mazda 3 Sport GT (2.3 L). It has been a great car, except for severe rust around the rear wheels wells. It has only 76,700 km. I recently became aware that Mazda accepted responsibility for the defect and extended the warranty to 6 years on this.

Although the rust problem on my 2004 became noticeable in 2009 (within the 6-year extension) I was not informed of, or aware of, the warranty extension. When I did hear about it from the body shop I asked to provide a rust repair estimate, I then took the car into the dealer to inquire. The service manager said that even though my car was now outside the 6-year extension, they would repair the damage at no cost to me.

About a week later, I was told Mazda Canada vetoed the decision. I don’t think this is right. If I had been informed of the warranty extension, I certainly would have taken my car in to have had the repair work done earlier, well within the time frame.

A: Sandra Lemaitre, spokesperson for Mazda Canada, replies:

In this reader?s case, Mazda was never given an opportunity to resolve his corrosion issues until nearly two years after he first noticed the corrosion issue in 2009, and now it?s too far outside the original warranty period for us to assist him.

Eric Lai adds:

As to the issue of owner notification, should this dispute be taken to small claims court, it would seem to hinge on whether or not the buyer had undertaken to notify Mazda Canada of the new owner details. That is, if they had mailed in the warranty transfer card or otherwise notified the automaker.

Consumers who don?t routinely service their vehicles at the dealership might want to periodically check online for any recalls, warranty extensions, or service bulletins that could affect their vehicle.

Web forums and other sources can provide such information even if the automaker itself does not provide this service on its official website.

In general, automakers? corrosion warranty coverage is typically for ?perforation? of the sheet metal from the inside-out only. That is, exterior surface rust as a result of a door ding or a pebble hitting the paint isn?t covered.

Even when rust originates from the inside of the body panel, technically, it must deteriorate to the point of creating a hole in the metal ? within the warranty time limit ? before it becomes a covered defect.

Coverage may vary between automakers, so this may not apply to all makes. See your owner?s manual for details.

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