The Federal Emissions Warranty is Often Overlooked When Your Vehicle Needs Emissions Fixes
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The Federal Emissions Warranty is Often Overlooked When Your Vehicle Needs Emissions Fixes

many vehicle owners pay for or put off needed emissions system repairs because they don't realize the problem might be covered by a warranty

February 23, 2020

Do you know about the Federal Emissions Warranty? Many people have never even heard of it and don't know that it can translate into free repairs for certain emission-related defects. Before you spend money you don't need to spend or go without repairs, check to see if your vehicle qualifies for free emissions system repairs when your check engine light comes on or you fail an emissions inspection.

It's like an extended warranty

Think of the Federal Emissions Warranty as an extended warranty covering certain major emissions-related parts on your vehicle. The Federal Emissions Warranty applies to vehicles manufactured since 1995, regardless of ownership. If you live in an area of the state that has mandatory smog testing, also known as I/M (Inspection and Maintenance) testing, you are eligible for free repairs for your vehicle if the vehicle fails to pass the inspection because of the failure of a component covered by the warranty when repaired at an authorized dealer service facility.

performance warranty

Most people know about the original manufacturer's warranty, also called the bumper-to-bumper warranty, that covers repairs to nearly everything on the vehicle excluding normal wear and tear. The Federal Emissions Warranty, however, gives you added benefits on top of that coverage. If the vehicle fails an emissions test during the vehicle's first 2 years/24,000 miles (8 years/80,000 miles for specified major components), the manufacturer must make repairs or modifications necessary to allow the vehicle to pass. Specified major emission control components are covered for and include only the catalytic converters, the electronic emissions control unit or computer (ECU), and the onboard emissions diagnostic (OBD) device or computer. This applies even if there are no mechanical defects with the vehicle. It is different from the Design and Defect Warranty.

The requirement of the manufacturer to bring your vehicle into compliance excludes wreck damage and tampering. Also, anything with a specified replacement interval, such as filters, are covered only up to the first replacement interval. Afterwards, if a failure to pass an inspection is caused by a replacement part that is beyond its replacement interval, you are responsible for the repairs and possibly diagnostic charges to bring it into compliance.

Design and Defect Warranty

The Design and Defect warranty covers repair of emission control or emission related parts which fail to function or function improperly because of a defect in materials or workmanship during the vehicle's first 2 years/24,000 miles (8 years/80,000 miles for specified major components). The manufacturer can deny this warranty coverage if evidence shows that the emission component failure was caused by improper use or maintenance and not caused by a defect.

Eligibility for repairs

You are eligible for repairs under the Federal Emissions Warranty provided that:

  • Your car or light-duty truck fails an approved emissions test;
  • Your vehicle is less than 2 years old and has less than 24,000 miles (up to 8 years/80,000 miles for specified major components);
  • Your state or local government requires that you repair the vehicle
  • The test failure does not result from misuse of the vehicle or a failure to follow the manufacturers' written maintenance instructions; and
  • You present the vehicle to a warranty-authorized manufacturer representative, along with evidence of the emission test failure, during the warranty period.

California Emissions Coverage

Vehicles with California emissions equipment have an additional separate warranty mandated by the state of California of 7 years / 70,000 miles from when the vehicle is first put into service, whichever comes first and regardless of ownership. This warranty covers many more parts than the federal warranty. There are also some vehicles that have emission parts covered well beyond the 8 years / 80,000 miles afforded by the Federal Emissions Warranty.

Think of the California Emissions Warranty as a second extended warranty in additional to the Federal Emissions Warranty.

Components listed under the Federal Emissions Warranty

There are a number of parts and systems in today's vehicles that qualify as emissions-related parts. These parts and components are listed below. Keep in mind that new systems may be added since vehicles are constantly evolving.

  • Air system controls
  • Catalytic converters
  • Distributor and distributor components
  • Electronic fuel injection system and injectors
  • Evaporative-emission canister and controls
  • Exhaust manifold
  • Exhaust gas recirculation valve and control system
  • Exhaust pipes (between exhaust manifold and catalyst)
  • Fuel cap and tank assembly
  • Pump and fuel lines
  • Ignition coil and ignition module
  • Intake manifold
  • On-board diagnostic-system components
  • Oxygen sensors
  • Positive crankcase-ventilation (PCV) valve or orifice
  • Powertrain control module
  • Secondary ignition wires
  • Spark plugs
  • Throttle body
  • Transmission-control module
  • Vacuum hoses, clamps, and fittings, as well as tubing used for these components
  • Vacuum, temperature, altitude, speed, time-sensitive valves, sensors, and switches used in these components and systems.
  • For details about which components may be covered, consult your vehicle's warranty manual, consult your dealer or contact your vehicle manufacturer.

Private companies May Say You Have No Warranty

It's common for many vehicle owners to avoid using the dealer for repairs and instead use third-party repair shops. But keep in mind that your local mechanic is under no obligation to tell you that you may have a warranty for a particular problem. Some shops may even tell you that if your check engine light comes on after your bumper-to-bumper warranty expires that you have no choice but to pay for the repair, which isn't necessarily true. While there is a chance you may end up having to fork out some cash for the repair, there is also a chance you'll have the repair performed free of charge if you have a covered emissions component that failed. But you can only receive warranty repairs through your dealer, so it may be a good idea to have your vehicle inspected at the dealer each year. The dealership will tell you if a failure to pass the emissions test is a result of a failure by a part covered under warranty.

How Do I Find Out If My Vehicle Is Covered?

The easiest way to find out if an emission component is covered under warranty is to contact your local dealer. The dealer can look up warranty information, including any additional warranties that may have been added to the vehicle since it was manufactured. You will need to provide your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). Keep in mind that the dealer will have to verify the cause of an emissions failure before any work will be performed.