• Dec 28th 2010 at 2:00PM
  • 119
Nobody in their right mind would want to void their car warranty. Yet, there are thousands (perhaps millions) who worry that one small thing will crumple their precious warranty up and throw it into the waste basket. A portion of those people have written to me lamenting the fact that they did something that voided it. So what are the most common actions that result in a voided car warranty?

What Is A Car Warranty?

First of all, in order to understand your part in the warranty relationship, it is vital that you understand what a warranty is and what it is not. A new car warranty is an agreement between the carmaker and the consumer. It outlines what you must do to keep your warranty in force, and a warranty can be voided in part or whole. For instance, if you don't have the oil changed in the engine according to the suggested maintenance schedule and the engine fails as a result, the carmaker has the legal right to void the warranty on the engine. The rest of the warranty remains intact, providing nothing else was affected by such negligence.

There are also warranty issues related to the installation of aftermarket products and/or services on a vehicle that is still under a new car warranty. Often people install aftermarket products for adding customizing features or they use certain services for vehicle maintenance. The Magnuson Moss Warranty Act addresses such issues. This law states that if a customer installs an aftermarket product (it could be a fluid, filter, hard part, software...virtually anything that was not installed on or in the vehicle from the factory when it was new) and if the vehicle fails as a result of the installation or use of the aftermarket product/service, the carmaker cannot arbitrarily deny a warranty claim and/or void the new car warranty because of the installation or use of the aftermarket product, but must prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the failure was indeed caused by the installation or use of the aftermarket product. The reason this law was put into place is because carmakers were arbitrarily voiding car warranties and refusing warranty service because the customer had installed an aftermarket products/services. Since there was no required burden of proof on the carmaker, consumers were hung out to dry. The Magnuson Moss Warranty Act forced the carmaker to prove that the failure was due to the aftermarket product. The law still stands today within the U.S.

Common Ways People Void Their Car Warranty

At this point, you know that a new car warranty is an agreement where both parties have obligations. And you know that, as a consumer, you have certain legal safeguards against arbitrary decisions on the part of the carmakers. Now let's take a look common errors people make that can void their warranties.

Fluids: Use the proper fluids specified by the carmaker
Carmakers dump millions of dollars into research and development to determine the best fluids to put into their vehicles for maximum performance and longevity. So why do people continue to use what they think are the best fluids for their new vehicles? For example, a woman called my national radio show a couple of years ago crying on air that, when her husband changed the oil in her new Ford Taurus (3.0 liter V6 engine), he used straight 30-weight, non semi-synthetic motor oil and the engine had failed. When the oil was analyzed, it was found that the oil didn't provide proper lubrication to the engine and was the cause of the failure. Lack of proper rod and main bearing lubrication was cited as the key cause for the engine failure. Ford specifies using 5W20 semi-synthetic oil in that particular engine; hence the warranty claim was denied and the engine warranty voided. The point? Use whatever fluid the carmaker specifies in your car to keep your warranty intact. In this case, Ford was completely within their rights to void the engine warranty.

Receipts: Make sure you keep 'em (All)
Keep all receipts on any maintenance work done at facilities other than the dealership while your car is under warranty. Some people do not return to the dealer for service after buying a new vehicle. They have their vehicles serviced at quick lubes, their local repair facility, and/or anywhere they can find a deal. It's okay, as long as the service provider uses the specified fluids and OEM (original equipment) quality filters. So what's the problem? A lot of folks don't keep records and receipts. They have no documentation proving that the services were done according to mileage intervals as specified by the carmaker. When it comes time to file a warranty claim, the carmakers will ask for proof that the services were done. No receipts? No warranty coverage. This is one benefit of going to a dealer for regular maintenance while under warranty; the carmaker requires that they keep meticulous records. When and if a warranty claim becomes necessary, the dealership simply transfers all vehicle records electronically to the proper people for processing.

Tires and Wheels: Don't use non-conventional tire/wheel combinations or modify the suspension
One of the major crazes these days is installing "Dubs," (aka twenty-inch wheels) and making dramatic suspension modifications using extreme lift or lower kits. Base vehicle designs are compromised by such modifications. These include conventional alignment angles, vehicle undercarriage components, and drivetrain components such as axle bearings (due to extreme offset of the wheel hub on some wheels). Such compromise can result in steering, suspension, and drivetrain problems. In the event of a warranty claim related to these systems, the carmaker will scrutinize the modifications. If the failure is due to the installation, the warranty claims are denied.

Performance Modifications: Don't modify or "chip" your car
A few years back, Ford issued a TSB (Technical Service Bulletin) regarding blown head gaskets on 6.0 Powerstroke turbo diesel engines in F series pickups (2005 and up). A rash of pickups were coming into shops across the country with blown head gaskets. The common thread? Power chips were installed to boost engine output. According to the TSB, on trucks with blown head gaskets, techs were to check for the installation of a power chip, which increases engine power by modifying the drivability and engine management parameters. Part of the programming modification on these vehicles included increasing turbo boost (which increased combustion chamber pressures), thus blowing head gaskets. In such cases where the vehicle was under warranty, claims were denied and engine warranties were voided. In this case, the carmaker confirmed that head gasket failure was indeed due to installation of the power chips. The carmaker was well within their right to deny claims and void engine warranties.

Towing: Don't tow a trailer with a vehicle that is not designed to tow
In order to tow a trailer, a vehicle must have an increased cooling system capacity, auxiliary trans oil cooling, beefed up rear frame area to support the hitch receiver, beefed up suspension to handle the additional weight, heavy duty brakes to stop the increased load, and special wiring to power the trailer lighting. Typically, vehicles used for towing that are not properly equipped experience an overheated engine, overheating of the transmission (and internal damage), frame damage, suspension damage, excessive brake wear, and compromised wiring (causing electrical shorts and malfunction of lights). Oh, and let's not forget the poor handling and safety hazards an overloaded vehicle presents to both the driver and other motorists on the roadways. If any of these issues arise as a result of towing with a vehicle that is not designed for it, warranty claims will be denied.

Obviously this is a complex topic, and there are many other actions that would result in voiding part or all of your new car warranty. My advice? Follow this rule of thumb: Before doing ANY modification or using ANY products or services other than OEM recommendations, as specified by the carmaker, check with your car dealer before proceeding.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Months Ago
      Have you ever thought that the dealers are using factory recalls as a profit center...what a better way to get customers cars into the shop than a recall....be careful, many dealer shops are trying to upsell you while you are in for a free & mandatory service....just be wary of the "you might as well do this while you are here".
      • 8 Months Ago
      I think we should all be trying Http://www.hybridcarplace.com to convert over to the hybrid.
      • 8 Months Ago
      What happens to your warranty if you take it to the dealer, and they put the wrong oil in your new car? I noticed that when I was at home, called them right away. They admitted they had put the wrong oil in my car and that I was to bring it back in and had the oil changed to the right oil. I no longer go to the dealer but what about my warranty?
      • 8 Months Ago
      Weekly Ford commercial from A.O.L.
      • 8 Months Ago
      Extended automobile warranties are a money making scam by the auto manufacturers. Yes, it is important to follow their general recommendations during the standard warranty period, or the initial warranty gets voided. I am referencing extended warranty policies. Do you honestly think that a manufacturer is going to compromise their profit? Maintain your vehicle according to factory specifications, but don't be duped into buying extended warranty policies.
      • 8 Months Ago
      I bet you can't find a person who's won a claim using the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act .
      • 8 Months Ago
      Most Warranties do not cover anything that actually goes wrong. The service manager at a garage found that out when he and his wife were jipped out of 1,000's... Anytime the car had a problem the first year it was stuff they had to pay for.
      • 8 Months Ago
      Like Pappo I also have A Ford truck. Mine's a F150 and I've towed a trailer twice from Indiana through the Rockies. This is the third one I've had and I've had great service from F150's. I change my oil myself every 5,000 miles and use synthetic Mobil 1 oil. Every F150 I've had lasted well over 150,000 miles with only tires, battery and brakes needing to be changed. I'm really satisfied with them.
      • 8 Months Ago
      I own a 1994 Ford E-150 Conversion Van. It has been set up to tow trailers and for the past 555,000 miles it has given me great service. I tow my 25' trailer from Massachusetts to Tampa, Florida and return twice a year, and the only problem I've experienced is a blown tire of the trailer, on I95 Southbound. I can't wait until the van turns 555,555! Half a million miles and still going strong! Incidentally, all of my fluids have always been maintained by my dealer, and an arrangement was made with a Tampa area Ford dealer. I am truly satisfied.
      • 8 Months Ago
      when i go into a dealership im very nice, i let them know whats the issue and i am firm but nice when i tell them, if its not under warrantee then do not do any work to it because i have an independant mechanic fo non-warrantee repairs. i havent ever had an issue.
      • 8 Months Ago
      JIMJENT: Using regular gas in vehicles that specify premium or mid-grade is probably OK if it is done only once in a while because most car electronics today have logic in them to adjust to the different grades. But the lower the grade gas, the higher the burn temp and that can cause nasty and expensive problems after a while in cars that are designed to use cooler burning (i.e., higher grade) gas. Most likely is that after awhile the car will blow a head gasket or, even worse, warp the head, making the car not drivable. The fixes for either of these scenarios is very expensive. If a manufacturer specifies premium, use premium. On the other hand, using higher grade gas in cars that are designed for using regular doesn't hurt the car at all but it doesn't help it, either. No point in putting premium in a car design to run on regular...unless you like spending more for gas than you need to.
      • 8 Months Ago
      I had a service contract with GM on my Saturn. When they decided to punish Saturn for providing service and not trying to sell additional parts with the threat of having my warranty voiden ( BUICK ) I had to take my Saturn , for the remaining service contract, I had to wait 2 1/2 hours for an oil change. I had to make a trip up North then, when I found that the air filter had not been changed. But the service record says that it was. I hadn't found a dealer that gave reliable service, including my fine orental car, I don't know what to do or where to go, I am disabled and need good honest service. I owned Buicks, Fords, Chevrolets Pontiacs and two Mazdas and found they were not consistantly relaiable. And then I had a dispute with Mazda and my credit union made them take it back. I had to have something right away and the only thing I had heard positive about any car maker was Saturn so I leased one, 5 Saturns later here I am. I guess they had to punish Saturn for coming out with an electric car, or maybe they had to get rid of that woman who headed the Saturn organization, after all what does a woman know about cars or service !
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