Was Your Car Repaired After An Accident? Was it Done Right?

For safety’s sake, DCA’s Auto Body Inspection Program will find out

After you’ve had some types of repair work done on your car, it’s pretty hard for the untrained eye to see if it was all done right, isn’t it? Well, if you’re a California consumer, you can get some assistance by getting a free auto body inspection from experts at the DCA’s Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR).

Why have an inspection?

This sport utility vehicle had its door repaired by a California auto body repair shop. Afterward, the owners took it through a car wash and it leaked profusely. BAR inspectors discovered that the seam next to the Post-it note should have been welded together. It leaked where the work had been done and had no structural integrity. The proper weld would have created rigidity necessary to prevent crumpling of the passenger compartment. Another collision could have led to serious injury – or worse – for the occupants.

Because most collision repairs are hidden by the vehicle’s panels, it can be hard to tell if the repairs were performed correctly, or done at all. Undetected deficiencies could reduce the structural integrity of the vehicle and could put the driver and passengers at risk. BAR officials have seen cases where consumers who have had collision repairs done paid for parts they didn’t receive or labor that wasn’t performed. In some cases, the vehicle may be left unsafe. Or, consumers may be set up for further mechanical problems down the road. This quick video shows how one consumer was helped: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LCxs4OdA13U

How does the inspection program work?

Call BAR’s toll-free number at (866) 799-3811 to schedule an appointment, and have ready a copy of the auto body repair invoice listing the repairs performed. On the scheduled date, a BAR inspector will come to meet you to inspect your vehicle. The Bureau’s inspectors check your vehicle to determine whether the auto body repairs were performed properly and match the work listed on the invoice. That’s how easy it is, at no cost to you!

If BAR inspectors find no discrepancies, they’ll just document the result. When BAR officials do find problems, they will help get the shop to make corrections. You can also:

  • Have the inspector open a complaint that will be investigated by a BAR field representative.
  • Contact your insurance company for a follow up with BAR.
  • Choose not to pursue the issue.

BAR experts say that most of the time when a problem is found, it’s simply the result of an oversight on the body shop’s part, but the State will take action if it’s believed fraud is involved.


This vehicle is missing a shield in the bumper cover that protects the components behind it—in this case the windshield washer fluid container—from road damage. The shield also directs air back into the engine to assist with cooling. It’s minor, and likely an oversight by the body shop, and the consumer can choose to seek remedy or not.

Although BAR will not inspect mechanical work, the Bureau will still take a complaint about it. Visit www.bar.ca.gov and click on the “Consumer” tab for information on how to file a complaint as well as more details about the Auto Body Inspection Program.

DCA is Here to Help All Year Long

Just because National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW) has ended doesn’t mean you aren’t protected. As #NCPW2017 wraps up, DCA wants to remind consumers that our resources and programs are available any time of year. This past week, we’ve shared details on many of them.

An informed consumer is a protected consumer: consider yourself empowered! Learn more at www.dca.ca.gov.

Also, see our complete list of free publications at www.dca.ca.gov/publications/publications_list.shtml, subscribe to our award-winning magazine, Consumer Connection, and follow us on Facebook and on Twitter @DCAnews.

DCA’s Umbrella Has You Covered

National Consumer Protection Week spotlights free resources, programs to help consumers

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Consumers: Do you feel empowered? You will after this week!

The California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) is proud to be a partner during the 19th annual National Consumer Protection Week (#NCPW2017), a coordinated campaign that encourages consumers nationwide to take full advantage of their consumer rights and make better-informed decisions. This year, it runs from March 5 through 11, so stay tuned to this blog and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for great tips all week!

Here are some of the ways DCA helps:

Licensing for protection

We all know someone who’s had a bad experience with an unlicensed or unscrupulous contractor who does sloppy work, lacks proper insurance or takes money upfront and disappears or leaves the job incomplete. That’s why you’ve heard our mantra “check the license” repeatedly, because this is one way consumers can help protect themselves from frauds, scams and financial harm. Licensing tells you that the person you are dealing with has met certain qualifications and levels of competency and offers a remedy if a service is not delivered or work is not acceptable. Through its boards, bureaus, committees and other entities, DCA regulates many industries and the people licensed to work in them.

Check a license or file a complaint against a licensee by calling our Consumer Information Center at (800) 952-5210, or visit www.dca.ca.gov.

Consumer education, enforcement and special programs

Through award-winning consumer publications, social media, blogs, Senior Scam StopperSM events from the Contractors State License Board and other special programs like the Auto Body Inspection Program from the Bureau of Automotive Repair and the Veterans Come First Program from the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services, DCA staff educates consumers by giving them the information they need to avoid unscrupulous or unqualified people who promote deceptive or unsafe services.

DCA also advocates consumer interests before lawmakers and enforces consumer laws. Our enforcement staff works with the California Attorney General’s Office and local district attorneys to fight fraud in the marketplace. In fact, many investigations are initiated by consumer complaints. If DCA determines wrongdoing, it can place licensees on probation, or suspend or revoke licenses.

Dispute resolution

When a dispute arises between a customer and a business in certain industries under DCA’s jurisdiction, alternative methods are available for resolving complaints without going to court in which the involved parties can work out a solution with the help of a mediator.

Who we are what we do

Learn more on our website at www.dca.ca.gov or get our publication titled, Who We Are & What We Do. For a free printed copy, call the DCA Publications Hotline at (866) 320-8652. Find more consumer resources at https://oag.ca.gov/, https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/, www.ncpw.gov and #NCPW2017.

Don’t Miss the Latest Issue of Consumer Connection!

In 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recalled 51.3 million autos in the United States. The recalls included everything from defective ignition switches and consumer-connection-winter-2016steering wheels to acceleration issues and airbag and seatbelt defects. If you receive a recall notice, don’t ignore it. The winter 2016 issue of Consumer Connection walks you through what to do if you receive one.

This edition of DCA’s magazine continues its regular feature highlighting Department leadership. This issue includes an interview with the Executive Officer of the Board of Registered Nursing (Board), Joseph Morris. Mr. Morris discusses his background, long-term goals for the Board, and the Board’s challenges ahead.

The issue also explores a variety of other interesting topics, including recognizing a flood-damaged car when shopping for a used vehicle, fighting antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and the recently launched California State Athletic Commission’s campaign to prevent and treat concussions.

Visit the DCA website to download or read the magazine. You can also pick up a printed copy in the DCA Headquarters lobby at 1625 North Market Boulevard in Sacramento. Or, to have it mailed to you at no charge, call (866) 320-8652 or send an e-mail request to consumerconnection@dca.ca.gov. Get connected!

 

Don’t Kick That Recall Notice to the Curb

In 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recalled 51.3 million automobiles in the United States.  That’s an all-time record and almost three times the number of cars that were sold during the year. These recalls included everything from defective ignition switches and steering wheels, to acceleration issues and worn out suspension parts.

Auto recalls occur when a manufacturer (or the NHTSA) determines that a car model (or several models) has a safety-related defect or does not comply with a federal safety standard.iTunesArtwork@2x1

One of the largest automotive recalls this year (2016) that continues to dominate the news involves more than 29 million defective Takata airbag inflators. According to the NHTSA, these airbags have been prone to explode during collisions, resulting in shrapnel flying throughout the vehicle and wounding—and in some cases killing—the driver and or occupants.

Not all automotive recalls consumers receive may pose an imminent threat or danger. Some may be for issues like an annoying rattle or noise emanating from the vehicle or other non-safety issues such as a faulty radio or air conditioner.

Dan Povey, the Deputy Chief of Field Operations & Enforcement for the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) recommends that consumers who receive automotive recall notices shouldn’t ignore them.

“It’s important for consumers to take the notices seriously and read them very carefully,” says Povey. “Follow the instructions and contact your local dealer as soon as possible.”

Recall notices usually contain the following information:

  • A description of the defect.
  • The potential risks and hazards of the problems including the type of injuries that may arise from the defect.
  •  A list of possible warning signs.
  •  Steps the manufacturer will take to fix the issue(s).
  • The estimated time to complete the repair.

While recall notices don’t have expiration dates, there can be an expiration date for work to be completed at no cost on vehicles more than 10 years old.

In addition, recall repairs should only be done by dealer representatives that have agreements with vehicle manufacturers to perform these repairs, which also have the expertise to repair the make of a vehicle being recalled.

Manufacturers that initiate vehicle recalls have agreements with dealers to perform recall repairs. Consumers may have recall repairs done by any dealer representative, regardless of where the vehicle was originally purchased. For example, a Honda purchased at Mel Rapton Honda may have a recall repair done by Maita Honda, Folsom Honda or Auto Nation Honda.

Most importantly, consumers should make sure that the dealerships that perform their recall and warranty repairs are registered with BAR as an Automotive Repair Dealer (ARD).

If a consumer believes the work on their vehicle hasn’t been done properly or feels they’ve been treated unfairly by an ARD, they should file a complaint with BAR (www.bar.dca.gov) as well as contact the vehicle manufacturer with complaints about dealer representatives.

Consumers can call the NHTSA’s Vehicle Safety Complaint Hotline at 800.424.9393 for more information on vehicle recalls/complaints.  To check for active recalls on your vehicle, it’s best to visit the manufacturer’s website or www.nhtsa.gov.

Bureau of Automotive Repair’s Consumer Assistance Program (CAP)

With some of the strictest vehicle emissions standards in the Nation, many motorists in California are aware that sooner or later, their vehicle will be required to have a biennial (every other year) Smog Check inspection.

Let’sSMOG say your registration renewal notice indicated that your car needed a Smog Check, you took your vehicle to a Smog Check station and your vehicle failed the inspection.  Emissions-related repairs can vary and may be costly.  What is a consumer to do?  Check out the Repair Assistance option under the Bureau of Automotive Repair’s (BAR) Consumer Assistance Program (CAP).

CAP was designed to help improve California’s air quality and assist in the effort to ensure vehicles meet the State’s emissions standards. Eligible consumers may receive financial assistance up to $500 towards certain emissions-related repairs.  Since 2000, BAR has administered the program on a first-come, first-served basis, depending on availability of funds.

The requirements for the repair assistance program are as follows:

  • The vehicle must have failed its “biennial” Smog Check inspection.
  • The vehicle must not have a tampered emissions control system.
  • The vehicle must be currently registered with the DMV with a valid, unexpired registration sticker OR have all fees paid to the DMV and not have a registration that has been expired more than 120 days.
  • The vehicle registration must not have lapsed for more than 120 days during the two consecutive years preceding the current registration expiration date.
  • The vehicle must not be undergoing a transfer of ownership, initial registration, or re-registration in California.
  • The vehicle must not be registered to a business, fleet, or non-profit organization.
  • You must be the registered owner with title issued in your name.
  • You must have a household income that is less than or equal to two hundred twenty-five percent (225%) of the federal poverty level, as published in the Federal Register by the United States Department of Health and Human Services
  • You must not have previously received assistance for the same vehicle through CAP.

To highlight the benefits of the program, the Bureau of Automotive Repair and the California Department of Consumer Affairs developed a short video featuring an actual consumer who participated in the Consumer Assistance Program.

For more information about CAP and to download an application, please visit www.smogcheck.ca.gov.

Don’t forget.  Check the license!  Before taking your vehicle to a Smog Check station, it is important to verify that the station is licensed.  To verify a license, click here or go to www.bar.ca.gov and click the “License Search” button on the main page.

Get it While it’s Hot: Check out the Summer Issue of Consumer Connection

Summer’s not over yet. There’s still time to take a road trip to one of California’s manyConsumer connection summer 2016 state parks. From beaches and deserts to redwood forests and mountain summits, California parks offer a variety of amazing and beautiful sites to explore. The Consumer Connection article “Time for a Road Trip!” details 10 state parks—including Angel Island, Marshall Gold Discovery, Humboldt Redwoods, and Crystal Cove—to consider for your next destination, and ways to make sure your car is as ready for the trip as you are.

Also inside this issue is an article about the recently enacted California End of Life Option Act. The new law provides legal guidelines on how terminally ill adults can choose to die in a humane and dignified manner.

Readers will also find features about the recent trend of more Americans choosing to rent instead of buying a home, dealing with the repo man, the dangers of DIY braces, wills versus living trusts, the dangers of buying from a rogue online pharmacy, and more.

To download or read DCA’s award-winning Consumer Connection magazine, visit the DCA website. You can also pick up a printed copy in the DCA Headquarters lobby at 1625 North Market Boulevard in Sacramento. Or, to have a copy mailed to you at no charge, call (866) 320-8652 or send an e-mail request to consumerconnection@dca.ca.gov. Get connected!

 

Tips for Keeping Your Car and Family Safe: Winter Driving

Most Californians are fortunate to live in areas where the notion of “winterizing” our vehicles is not necessary, but winter driving season is near so keep reading if you live in or are planning to visit an area where the barometric pressure can take a sharp dive well before the winter solstice.

Winter Driving Image

The Department of Consumer Affairs’ Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) offers the following tips to keep you, your passengers, and your vehicle safe for driving this winter.

 WINTERIZE YOUR VEHICLE

Below are procedures you may already follow for proper vehicle maintenance, but driving during inclement conditions such as snow and ice really ups the ante.

  • Start with your owner’s manual

Be sure your vehicle is up-to-date on its recommended maintenance, including changing the engine oil and filter, and adding antifreeze, coolant, brake, automatic transmission, windshield wiper and steering fluids if needed.  Be sure to use the correct engine oil because engine oil thickens below a specific temperature.

  • Carry tire chains

Practice placing the chains on your tires before venturing out.  It’s better to get the hang of it before you need to use them.

  • Check the battery

Corrosion, cracks, and dirt can affect battery cables and hinder performance.

  • Be sure your brake system is in good shape

Have a licensed adjuster check pads and linings. Visit the BAR website at www.bar.ca.gov to find a licensed brake station.

  •  Inspect the lights

The inspection should include turn signals, brake, fog, and high beams. Cleaning your car’s lenses can maximize visibility.

  • Check hoses and belts

Look for any cracks, soft spots, or bulges that could be a potential problem and find a qualified technician for any repairs.  Visit the BAR website (www.bar.ca.gov) to find a licensed auto repair technician.

  • Test your vehicle’s heater and defrost systems

Make sure they are working properly.

  • Change wiper blades

Unless you recently purchased a pair, it is best to err on the side of caution and purchase new, quality, windshield wiper blades.

  • Inspect tires

Balding or underinflated tires reduce your vehicle’s handling and traction and can be a safety hazard.  Check the air pressure in your tires regularly, including the spare.

 

KEEP IN MIND

Road trips during the winter months, although beautiful, can be dangerous.  Below are additional precautions and items you might consider bringing while traveling in winter.

  • Share your plans

Let family members or friends know your dates of travel and proposed travel route.

  • Carry a road atlas

GPS reception can become compromised in remote areas or during storms.

  •  Bring extra windshield washer fluid

During a snowy or messy day of driving, you may use your windshield wipers and the washer fluid more than usual.

  • Fill’er up!

Your vehicle may become your life source should you become stranded during a winter road trip.  The more fuel you have, the longer the vehicle can idle to heat the interior of the car in an emergency.

  • Pack on the pounds

Keep sand bags or two 20-pound bags of kitty litter in the trunk to help add weight to improve rear wheel traction.  Sand and liter can also be spread on the ground in front of or behind wheels to provide traction if you get stuck in the snow.

BE PREPARED FOR THE UNEXPECTED

Pack a winter safety kit with the following essentials.

  • Jumper cables
  • NOAA Weather radio with re-chargeable battery and crank power option and phone/tablet charger through USB connection and flashlight
  • Extra batteries for smartphone
  • Basic first-aid supplies
  • Bottled water and non-perishable snacks
  • Fleece blankets
  • Extra clothing
  • Road safety flares
  • Windshield ice-scraper and brush
  • Tool kit
  • Cellphone and car charger

The Bureau of Automotive Repair has created a brochure with the above tips and more (http://www.bar.ca.gov/pdf/BARWinterTips.pdf) to help you get your vehicle winter road trip ready.

Updated Consumer’s Guide to Auto Repair

BAR_ConsumerGuide_CVRWBIf you’re like most Californians, you depend on your vehicle. When it needs service or repair, you want the work done quickly, correctly, and at a reasonable cost.
By following the tips in the recently updated Consumer’s Guide to Auto Repair from the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR), you can keep your vehicle in good condition and ensure a good working relationship with your auto repair shop.
For more valuable consumer information from BAR, visit www.bar.ca.gov or call toll-free at (800) 952-5210.