I-Team: Your car's warranty may not cover expensive airbags

ABC7 I-Team Investigation
CHICAGO (WLS) -- The I-Team investigates airbag safety and the high cost of one man's repair.

He's angry that the auto manufacturer won't cover the bill.

You depend on airbags to save your life in a crash, but what if your vehicle's extended warranty wouldn't cover a needed repair?

One driver who called the I-Team says it happened to him, and now he may have to get rid of his car.

Minor Esquivel says he's been in a battle with Nissan. When he noticed the passenger airbag light flashing in his 2011 Sentra, he brought it into the shop. The mechanic found a failure in the passenger seat sensor.

And then - sticker shock. He discovered the repair was not covered under his extended warranty and would cost him about $4,500.

"Right now, my family and I, we don't feel safe in this vehicle... even though it's still covered under warranty," said Esquivel.

However, his trunk repair was covered under the warranty.

"I think it's ridiculous considering that a trunk anybody can fix, unlike an airbag which has sensors in the passenger seat, those can't be removed. The whole seat has to be removed, and that money comes out of the consumer's pocket," said Esquivel.

Nissan confirms with the I-Team that Esquivel's vehicle has "an internal failure in the airbag sensors," but the automaker says airbags are excluded from the extended warranty. Nissan showed us the exclusion information.

"Manufacturer warranties are designed more to protect the manufacturer than the consumer. And we see a lot of problems with manufacturers and warranties and not covering defects," said Clarence Ditlow, Center for Auto Safety.

On Friday, the I-Team told you about Mary Wisowaty's dispute with Chrysler and an airbag recall. Her airbags deployed, and she wasn't in an accident.

Wisowaty says she got a recall notice before the incident, but parts for repairs weren't available. She says she's refused a offer of $8,000 from Chrysler because she wants more.

Chrysler told the I-Team that may times recalls are launched well before manufacturers have the parts.

Esquivel's airbag defect is not part of a recall, but he's now faced with the choice of not driving or paying that $4,500 repair.

"I have to be very conscious about not having anybody sit in the passenger seat in the event where I get hit, something could happen to the passenger," he said.

Esquivel says his insurance company will not cover it because it's not a collision or vandalism.

Auto experts say before buying an extended warranty you should take the time to read it all, so you know what's covered and what's not. It may not always be worth buying.

The i-team also found if you're waiting on parts to fix a recall that poses a safety issue, manufacturers may provide a rental car, if you ask.

Safercar.gov powered by NHTSA
-Check with your mechanic and ask about recalls every time you go in for service or an oil change
-If your dealership does not give you rental car and you are waiting on recalled parts for a safety issue, call the manufacturer. We called and emailed several manufacturers. Only Chrysler and Nissan got back to the I-Team and said they DO provide rental cars in those circumstances.
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