What Voids Your Vehicle's Warranty?

Breaking the Contract Between You and the Automaker


  • Street Racing

    Street Racing

    Racing your vehicle is a surefire way to void most warranties. | March 18, 2010

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A warranty is a contract between you and the company that built your car. It promises to take care of any applicable repairs, provided that you maintain the vehicle to proper expectations. But like any contract, it can be broken if you don't hold up your end of the bargain, so it is important to know what circumstances can void your warranty.

Warranty Partially Voided or Claim Denied?

Not every circumstance will void your entire warranty. In some situations, the repairs for a specific part will not be covered, but you still retain the warranty on the remainder of the vehicle.

Any time you take your car to the dealership for warranty work, it must file a claim with the manufacturer or warranty provider, which is how it gets paid for the work performed under warranty. If a repair isn't covered under the manufacturer's warranty, the claim will be denied and the dealer won't get paid. This could mean paying for the work out of your own pocket, and in many circumstances, a dealer will make the determination whether your car is covered before a claim is even submitted.

What Voids Your Entire Warranty?

Salvage title: If your car was in a severe accident and was given a salvage title or declared a total loss, your entire warranty is voided. Unknowingly buying a salvaged car isn't an issue with certified pre-owned vehicles, but keep this in mind if you are looking to purchase a late-model used car from a private party or independent used car lot. If you are unsure about a car's past, we suggest getting a vehicle history report.

Misuse of the vehicle: This term can be interpreted in broad ways, and often includes racing/competition of any type, overloading the vehicle or off-roading. Potentially, anything outside of normal operation of the vehicle can be considered misuse. Some automakers will void your entire warranty for these infractions, and this decision is typically left to the discretion of the warranty administrator. Even if there is no proof but just signs of abuse, your warranty claim may be denied.

If you scour Internet message boards, there are plenty of articles noting how dealers and automakers monitor racing events (and even attend events to record license plate numbers) in order to deny warranty service the next time those cars come in for service. Though these may sound like conspiracy theories, you may want to think twice before competing in your car.

Even when you have a vehicle designed to go off-road, there is still a large gray area when it comes to warranty repairs. We found this out firsthand when we took one of our long-term test cars to Death Valley, California. One of our editors was driving a 2006 Honda Ridgeline when he came across a washboard dirt road, and followed it for a number of miles at speeds of 10-15 mph. On the way home, he noticed the ride was unusually bouncy, and took the truck in for service. The inspection by the dealer revealed that all four struts were blown out and needed to be replaced, a service not covered under warranty on the grounds that the struts were excessively worn.

We explained to the service advisor that this 4WD truck was doing what it was designed to do, and that the washboard road should not have caused the struts to fail. The Ridgeline's repairs were eventually covered under warranty as a one-time goodwill gesture, but not without our being persistent and pleading our case to Honda and the service manager.

Environmental damage: If your vehicle was damaged in a fire, flood, earthquake or any other environmental disaster, the automaker will not honor your warranty.

Altered odometer: If your car's odometer has been disconnected, tampered with or replaced, the dealer cannot determine the exact mileage. This is usually grounds for a voided warranty. There's no surefire way to know if your odometer has been tampered with, but if you order a vehicle history report, the dealer can check for inconsistencies in mileage reporting.

What Voids Specific PartsNeglect: Some people are so oblivious to the needs of their vehicle, they have gone years without having an oil change. If your car is still under warranty, avoid this at all costs. If you fail to take your vehicle in for service during its scheduled maintenance, the dealer is not responsible for repairing any damage to the engine.

Use of dirty or improper fluids: If your angry ex-spouse poured sugar in the gas tank or if you spaced out and put diesel fuel in your gasoline engine, any damage incurred is not covered under warranty. Always make sure you are using the correct fluids as outlined in your owner's manual.

Aftermarket parts or modifications: This aspect of warranty coverage has a great deal of gray area. Although many dealers would have you think otherwise, simply having an aftermarket part or modifying your vehicle cannot void your warranty.

Some dealerships may say, for example, that just because you have a performance part such as a cold air intake on the car that the whole vehicle warranty is void, says Loren Wong, a car enthusiast and a former warranty administrator for BMW and Acura. "That's not true," he says.

The saving grace for consumers is the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975. The act states that a dealer must prove that aftermarket equipment caused the need for repairs before it can deny warranty coverage.

However, if the reason for a parts failure is unclear, a dealer will usually charge you to diagnose the vehicle. If the aftermarket part was not properly installed or a modification led to a component failure, it is within the dealer's right to void the warranty for that part, and you will have to pay for the repairs out of pocket. If the aftermarket parts had nothing to do with the repairs in question, you will be refunded the fee for the diagnosis.

Any aftermarket performance parts on your vehicle can cause a dealer to suspect that you either drive the car hard or possibly race it. "Although they may not void warranties," Wong added, "modifications may raise a red flag when vehicles are in for service. If consumers who mod their cars do a little research, they may find certain dealerships that are a little more 'mod-friendly.'"

How To Avoid Warranty IssuesThoroughly read your warranty: Though this article has hit on some of the major issues, we still recommend reading your warranty's fine print, often bundled with your owner's manual. Find the section that says "What is Not Covered."

Service your car at regular intervals: This is a good idea in general, but for the sake of keeping your warranty intact follow the manufacturer's recommended service schedule. If you misplaced your owner's manual, you can often find it online. Or you can always use the Edmunds maintenance calculator.

Keep all service records and receipts: This is another good habit to keep in case you want to sell your vehicle, but also to have as proof that you maintained your vehicle. If you perform maintenance on the car yourself, save the receipts for the parts and fluids you bought.

Warranties are open to interpretation: If you feel that a service advisor has denied your warranty claim unfairly, you can always go higher up in the management chain, contact the automaker directly or go to another dealer altogether.

Comments

  • g556 g556 Posts:

    2009 mazdaspeed3 cold air intake ,push button start,blow off valve.no street or drag racing.(54yrs old not my thing)i get up to 35 mpg on this change and had an mild tapping fron valve area.on highway at 60 mph.slow down and when safe checked oil(mobil1)was full.babied home (family in car)called road side to tow to mazdadealer(did not want to do any damage and no change in tapping.dealer said motor was blown???i said it is tapping not knocking so they called the factory rep who said he thinks i race it judgeing from the intake and bov.i was shocked!!!i said heck no but they refused to do anything and told me my warranty will be voided.i thoght they had to prove these things caused the problem this i am sure they did not!the car ran fine untill the dealer i had to tow it to (browns-malloy was the first one)i was told becacause i bought the ext.ened 6 yr-100,000 mile warranty i needed to take it where i boght it and not the closest dealer and they are charging me $550.00 to take the oil pan off and look at the rod bearings.the problem was not found even tho i told them it was tapping not knocking I work for Ford Dealer 16 years!).and thoght it was covered.now it can't be started because they took it apart and want another 8 hours to pull the head off!they got to be crazy first they said it's a push rod (2.3 don't have push rods!then they said there is a hole maybe in the piston(wrong car not running rough or smoking at all!i really don't think they know what they are doing and want me to pay for there guess work.all n all i think a valve spring collasped and that is all.but now i am stuck at there mercy and fell totally abused more than my car ever has .where do i stand with these guys.in the past they have blown two engines in my rx8 when they retuned it with a flash from mazda that i did not need.another story.

  • floydandsib floydandsib Posts:

    I purchace a vehicle from Hillbish Ford 4 months ago and the transmission went bad on Saturday June 9, 2012. We took it to the dealer and they said that the transmission was bad and that they needed to replace it. I bought warranty and was told that if anything goes wrong with the vehicle, I would only have to pay $100.00. it's also in the contract. My warranty also states that I conld get a renter during the time of the repair. It's Tuesday and I told that they will pay$250.00 and i have to pay the $350.00. I do not have it and I need my truck. My wife is sick and I have to get her up so she can carry me to work, and return to pick me up. I'm thinking about seekiong an attorney, because they broke the warranty contract.

  • 1highplains 1highplains Posts:

    How can I find online the criteria by which dealers make decisions about extended warranties?

  • santaclaus santaclaus Posts:

    Not at all surprised to see the article mention Honda as a manufacturer who refused repairs under warranty. Has a 2010 Accord V6 with a manual transmission which over 2 years was broken down for over 8 months because of engine defects. Honda would not honor the warranty claiming that the manual transmission made the driver exclusively responsible for engine defects.

  • whatfuture whatfuture Posts:

    Your article states to follow the manufacturer's service schedule. The problem I'm having is the schedule says one thing and the service manager and salesmen say another. For example, the manual says to add a detergent at 7500 miles. The serv. manager said add it at 15000 miles. Will the manufacturer be able to tell? Doubtful. The manual says do an oil change at 3750 miles. I was told by someone at the dealership 5000 is fine. THIS the manufacturer will be able to tell. Finally, I met with the sales manager due to issues I had at the dealership. HE said he does regular maintenance (we live where I believe most of my driving is on hills/and city driving - not severe) on his car not using the severe maintenance as his guide. The service manager said it's severe (I disagreed). He also said I had to go to the dealership for an oil change and the sales manager said I don't have to (I know) and the serv. manager was just trying to bring in work. It's nuts.

  • whatfuture whatfuture Posts:

    Your article states to follow the manufacturer's service schedule. The problem I'm having is the schedule says one thing and the service manager and salesmen say another. For example, the manual says to add a detergent at 7500 miles. The serv. manager said add it at 15000 miles. Will the manufacturer be able to tell? Doubtful. The manual says do an oil change at 3750 miles. I was told by someone at the dealership 5000 is fine. THIS the manufacturer will be able to tell. Finally, I met with the sales manager due to issues I had at the dealership. HE said he does regular maintenance (we live where I believe most of my driving is on hills/and city driving - not severe) on his car not using the severe maintenance as his guide. The service manager said it's severe (I disagreed). He also said I had to go to the dealership for an oil change and the sales manager said I don't have to (I know) and the serv. manager was just trying to bring in work. It's nuts.

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