During the past, thirty years in the automotive industry, it has been my experience that whenever the phrase "it's covered under warranty" is used in auto repair, it's music to the ears of the motorist. Conversely, the phrase "its not covered under warranty" is received with much dissatisfaction. To clear this up, I believe all that is needed is a little education.

First of all, a car warranty is not an entitlement; it is an agreement between you and the car manufacturer. You are responsible to follow the specified maintenance requirements set by the manufacturer. By doing so, you have fulfilled your responsibility to the warranty agreement. Now the manufacturer is obligated to you to perform any repairs due to a defect from poor workmanship, or a failed part for the time or mileage set forth by the terms of the warranty agreement.

So why all the misunderstanding? I believe it is because of a common attitude that a car warranty is an entitlement and not an agreement. A small number of "professionals" in the industry reinforce this attitude by telling the consumers what they want to hear. "Oh no problem! It's covered under warranty," they say. When it comes time to fulfill their promise, they can't because it's not covered! Furthermore, there are a few service personnel that abuse the system by "sliding things in under the wire," covering repairs under warranty that don't quality. This kind of activity further reinforces the attitude that a warranty is an entitlement and not an agreement.

As a result, car manufacturers now scrutinize every warranty claim that comes across their desks. Whenever anything questionable comes up, the magnifying glass comes out with laser-like intensity. The consumer interprets this attitude as the manufacturer trying to "get out of" the agreement; when, in actuality, the repair in question doesn't qualify under the terms. The lack of qualification can be due to a number of things, ranging from abuse, expiration of the warranty because of time or mileage, or an uncovered part.

Let's move on to parts and services covered. The car manufacturer is responsible for parts it makes; for example, engines, transmissions, suspension, steering, computers and emission control devices, instruments, chassis wiring, and anything else that they manufacture. These components and systems may have different time and mileage coverage. Maintenance items such as filters are not covered. In addition, wearable items such as belts, hoses, brakes, tires and the like are expected to wear out and, consequently, are not covered under the manufacturer's warranty.

Now let's talk about parts that are not made by the car manufacturer; for example, tires, after-market stereo systems, conversion components, etc. These items fall under their own manufacturer's warranty, which you will find in the paper work you received at the time of your new car delivery. So often I hear stories from consumers and service personnel alike about warranty nightmares where perceived coverage was there, and reality struck when it wasn't. Educating oneself is the key to such misunderstandings!

Now allow me to define some of the more popular warranty related terms for you:


This is a comprehensive warranty that normally covers all items under the basic and drivetrain warranty for the period specified by the manufacturer.


This type of warranty covers rust-through perforation on sheet metal with actual holes. Surface corrosion from nicks, chips, and scratches, are not covered (this is not the fault of the manufacturer). Coverage varies with each manufacturer, so check your warranty information or check with your dealer for specific details.


Safety recalls/campaigns, when announced by a manufacturer, are performed at no charge to any owner of an affected vehicle. Manufacturers may elect to perform campaigns regardless of time or mileage. Most dealers encourage owners to have them "run their VIN number." This is where the dealer will plug the owner's vehicle identification number into their computer. The computer then searches the database (which is connected to the manufacturer) to see if the vehicle is covered under a campaign.


Some vans or limousines are covered under separate warranties for the add-ons not installed by the manufacturer. Be sure to obtain a written warranty disclosure when purchasing these types of vehicles. Make sure you (and your dealer) completely understand the ins and outs of conversion vehicle warranties. I have witnessed nightmares resulting from misunderstandings about the conversion warranty when it's too late... after the customer has taken delivery of the vehicle.


Manufacturers sometimes allow their dealers or field reps to make "goodwill adjustments" once a vehicle is out of warranty time and/or mileage. Decisions are based on certain criteria such as: owner's loyalty; time in service; maintenance records; vehicle history; mileage and whether any service contracts are in effect. Customers may be asked to share some of the portion. Never be afraid to ask for assistance. I had this happen. The paint on my Plymouth minivan had delaminated (gone dull) and I asked for help. The van was out of warranty but because of my impeccable service history, the field rep opted to pay for most of the repair. A $400 job cost me $40!

There is so much more to share about warranties. Possibly I will cover this topic again in another column. Meanwhile, I urge you to educate yourself! Get with your dealership service manager and ask questions!

On a final note, I want to address the term "Hidden Warranty." There is no such thing as a hidden warranty. Dealerships make money performing warranty campaigns. This is an income stream for them; they get paid directly from the factory for any warranty work their service department performs! So don't go beating up your local dealer because you think a certain operation should be performed under a "hidden warranty." They would if they could because it would be money in their pockets! I hope this information is helpful.

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