Vehicles that continuously break down are a headache. They also cause heartache and money-ache. If proper maintenance and repairs just aren't enough to get your wheels humming again, then take the smart road and save your investment — and your sanity. Contact the Canadian Motor Vehicle Arbitration Plan (CAMVAP).

"CAMVAP helps consumers resolve disputes about the quality of their vehicle or how the manufacturer is interpreting or implementing its warranty on new vehicles," explains Stephen Moody, CAMVAP's general manager.

CAMVAP can help with claims regarding your car's engine, transmission, electrical, or body fit and finish. "Your vehicle can be new, used or leased, but must have been manufactured for sale in Canada, and must be from the current or past four model years," notes Mr. Moody. For complete details on eligibility, read "Your Guide to CAMVAP."

"It's a great alternative to the court system, and the process is free of charge," says Stephen Moody. Be aware, however, that you cannot use both the court system and CAMVAP. "You cannot take a manufacturer to court and then apply to have your case heard with us — or vice-versa," he cautions.

CAMVAP catching on
More and more consumers are turning to CAMVAP for assistance. And it's easy to understand why:

  • It's easy. Starting the arbitration process is quite simple. All it requires is a phone call to1 800 207 0685 or a visit to the CAMVAP website. If your case is eligible, a hearing date will be set. "The good news is that you don't need to hire a lawyer to complete the paperwork," says Mr. Moody. "And since filing for arbitration signals the seriousness of your problems, manufacturers sometimes settle before the actual hearing."
  • It's fast. "From application to final reward decision, the process normally takes less than 70 days," he says.
  • It's free. "There is no financial cost to the consumer," Mr. Moody explains. "You will need to spend time preparing your materials and attending the hearing, but there is no fee."
  • It's final. Once the arbitrator reaches a decision, it's final. "Arbitrators can rule that the manufacturer must repair your car, buy back your vehicle, reimburse you for repairs or out-of-pocket expenses or a combination of these," says Mr. Moody. "Of course, an arbitrator can also rule that there's no liability on the part of the manufacturer.

Before you go
"Before owners start the CAMVAP arbitration process, they must have given the dealer or manufacturer a reasonable opportunity to solve the problem," Stephen Moody stresses.

Talk to your dealer and the manufacturer before you contact CAMVAP. Let them know of the problems you're experiencing, and try to resolve them.

Expert tip: "Keep a paper trail," advises Stephen Moody. "Log any steps that you have taken to resolve the problem, such as the dates of meetings and conversations you've had with the dealer or manufacturer."

Make sure that you're following the owner's manual maintenance instructions as well. Otherwise, the problems you're having may be blamed on poor maintenance.

Your best protection
Purchasing or leasing a new car or opting for a used model is your trigger to get your auto insurance policy updated. That's the best way to ensure you and your family are protected from little — and big — driving mishaps. Think about it this way: updating your auto insurance policy is perhaps the simplest part of getting a new vehicle.

Click here for your free auto insurance quote. A few minutes online could save you a bundle.