Dear Car Talk:

We have a 2013 Avalanche with automatic steps going in and out. The step on the passenger side sometimes stays in when we open the door, whether getting in or out. Getting out, if I’m not watching, I could fall out, being a small person.

The warranty outfit will not fix it because when the guy looked at it, the step did come out, so he claims it worked for him.

Any way you can help with letting me know what could be the cause, and how to fix it? — JoAnn

You’re talking about the motorized running boards, JoAnn.

As you say, it pops out between the door sill and the ground when you open a door, making it possible for non-NBA players to get in and out of vehicles like the Avalanche. And when they fail, it’s either the switch or the step’s motor.

When you open the door, there’s a switch on the door jamb that signals a computer to turn on the dome lights, among other things. On some cars, opening the door turns on exterior lights, fires up some parts of the dashboard, unfolds the side mirrors or moves your seat back to allow easier access. In your case, it’s also supposed to switch on the running board’s electric motor, so it deploys for you and keeps you from having to fetch your 6-foot step ladder.

It could be the switch. More likely, though, the motor that moves the running board in and out is failing. Electric motors often fail intermittently. And that’s going to be pricey to replace.

You definitely want to push harder to get this fixed under what I assume is your extended warranty. The guy you saw may be hoping you get discouraged and go away. Don't. Reporting it to him was a good start. Make sure you save that repair order.

Next, start using your smartphone to take a little video every time you get in and out of the truck. Point the camera at the bottom of the door and start recording. Then open the door and film the running board.

If the running board operates normally, delete the video. If it fails to deploy, and you capture it on video failing, take that evidence to the repair shop and insist that they fix it. If you have several videos from several different days, all the better.

If they still give you the runaround, send that same video evidence, along with the repair orders, to the warranty company, and ask them to either fix the running board or refund the money you spent for the warranty. Good luck, JoAnn. And watch your step.

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