Dear Tom,

I own a 2008 Ford Taurus. The dealership told me that I should take my car to them to have the oil changed to insure that my warranty stays intact and that the proper oil and filter are used. I don't like to go to the dealer because I have to make an appointment and wait. I prefer to go to my local Jiffy Lube where I can get in and out quickly. What is your opinion?

Janet from Los Angeles, CA


According to the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act of 1975, you can go to whomever you want to have your vehicle serviced (IE: oil changes, brake work, etc). However, warranty work has to be done by the dealer. According to the law, in order for the carmaker (or dealer as agent of the carmaker) to void a warranty, they must prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the failure was caused by the work performed or by the aftermarket part installed. In regards to the correct oil and filter installed, quick lubes typically have access to manufacturers' service data to ensure that the proper oil viscosity and type is used, as well as the correct filter. In addition, the larger oil change chains usually have a good training program to ensure that the techs are up to speed on the latest technology. Be an informed consumer and ask these questions of your quick lube before employing their services. I would also ask for the highest quality oil filter and oil available (OEM spec) to insure it cannot affect the warranty.

For years people have been asking me the following question: What kind of shop should I use for automotive repairs or general service while my car is under warranty, a dealership or an independent shop?

It's perfectly fine to take your car to an independent general service provider for basic maintenance on your car. The Magnuson Moss Warranty Act of 1975 ensures that you are covered should the general service performed on your car become the focus of a warranty denial. However, if the independent shop was in error (used an incorrect oil or oil filter) and this caused catastrophic engine failure while under warranty, then that's a whole different story. You are now liable and the carmaker is exempt from warranty coverage on your car; the new car warranty is null and void.

If you choose to use an independent service provider, just make sure to keep meticulous records should a warranty claim arise. Support documentation is critical in all warranty claims. Now, more than ever before, car makers scrutinize every claim in an effort to save the company money. The smallest reason for denial can be used as a basis for denying the warranty claim. Basic maintenance and wearable items like belts, hoses, brakes, oil changes, and transmission service fall under the acceptable areas of maintenance by an independent service provider (you can find a complete list of these items in your owner's manual in the maintenance section). It is only when the independent performs services that should be covered under warranty that the customer spends unnecessary money and the warranty become void. Whenever an independent provider recommends a service, you should ask yourself, "Could this be covered under warranty?" Check your owner's manual at this point. If the manual or the independent can't answer the question, it's better to go to the dealer than to spend money that might have been saved. Even more importantly, it could put your warranty at risk.

Read More Stories from Tom Torbjornsen:

- Oil Change Every 3,000 Miles?
- Keep Your Car Young
- Synthetic Motor Oil: Should You Use It?

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