When Can Your Car Dealer Void Your Vehicle's Warranty or Deny Auto Warranty Service Claims?
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When Can Your Car Dealer Void Your Vehicle's Warranty or Deny Auto Warranty Service Claims?

Don't let the dealer sweep your warranty claim under the rug just because someone else does your oil changes or if you use parts not sold by them

July 29, 2021

Can the car dealer void your car's warranty if you have someone else do routine maintenance for you? What if you use aftermarket parts to make repairs or to perform your maintenance? What if you have made upgrades to the car, such as installing a new audio system or new lighting? What if your vehicle has undergone body work? The answer is usually no, but it could be yes depending upon the work done.

Illegal to deny warranty claims just because someone worked on the car

Under federal law, manufacturers and dealers can't refuse to honor your vehicle's warranty and can't deny warranty repairs just because someone other than the dealer worked on the car. This means that just because you use your local shop to do oil changes, tire rotations, and other maintenance you can't have a warranty claim denied.

Major repairs by someone other than a dealer

Your vehicle's warranty can't be voided just someone does major repairs on your vehicle, such as upgrading electronics, installing larger wheels, or even body work after a collision.

tampering or damage

It should go without saying, but if you tamper with a part, the dealer can deny a warranty claim. If a part of your vehicle is damaged, whether intentionally or unintentionally, you should also expect your claim to be denied. This can happen if something drags under your vehicle and causes damage. It can also happen if you or someone else is working on the vehicle and accidentally breaks something. We're not advocating it, but if asked if anyone has been working on the car you could always play dumb.

But a warranty can be voided or repairs denied

It is possible for a manufacturer or dealer to void a warranty or to deny warranty repairs. To do so, they must be able to demonstrate that improper repairs, improper maintenance or improper upgrades resulted in damage to the component that is subject to your warranty claim dispute.

If your engine fails and your warranty claim is denied because you changed the oil yourself, that's not good enough. If they can document that the wrong type of oil was installed, too much or too little oil used, or the oil changes weren't performed according to the maintenance schedule, they may be able to deny the claim and win. If your engine failed and they are trying to say that your new tires caused it to fail, that's not good enough. They may still try to deny it, at which point you should contact the North Carolina Attorney General's Office or a lawyer.

Your entire warranty can't be voided

It's a common tactic. Manufacturers or dealers will imply that they won't do any more work on your vehicle because your warranty is 'void.' If we go back to the failed engine example, your warranty for your vehicle electronics can't be voided if the warranty for your engine is voided.

aftermarket or recycled parts and your vehicle's warranty

Just as your warranty can't be voided and warranty repairs can't be denied simply because you had someone else perform maintenance, the same applies if you use aftermarket or recycled parts. If you use aftermarket oil filters, you can't have a warranty claim on your engine denied simply because of using this filter.

The manufacturer has to prove this caused the failure. But if the part causes a problem, you're on the hook for the repair. Some people have suffered failures of the Mass Air Flow sensor, which detects the amount of air entering the engine, by using aftermarket oiled air filters. If too much oil is on one of these filters, it can contaminate the sensor. This is a valid case of a warranty claim being denied.

know your warranty before you go to the dealer

Actually read the warranty that came with the car or check the "Owners" section of the manufacturer's website for warranty details. This documentation is a great first step to see what might and might not be covered under your warranty.

have warranty repairs addressed before you come to the end of your warranty

Know when the warranty period ends and get any problems that arise checked out beforehand. Too many people wait to have their problems fixed until just after the warranty expires and find themselves footing the entire bill.

It can pay to have the dealership perform maintenance

The service department is the most lucrative place in the dealership, so the dealership wants you to keep coming back for regular service. If you are only getting warranty work done, you are helping to make the bottom line. But warranty repairs are paid at a lower rate than if you pay for them. So you aren't as valuable as the customer who comes in for each scheduled maintenance item. If you have all routine maintenance performed by the dealership in addition to warranty repairs, the dealership will often go above and beyond to help you get free repairs if your vehicle suffers a catastrophic failure shortly after your warranty expires.

proper maintenance can prevent problems

Service the car at regular intervals, following the manufacturer's recommended service schedule. You don't have to provide proof that service was done to obtain warranty coverage, but having this proof can make getting warranty repairs a little easier, especially if the dealer tries to claim that maintenance wasn't performed.

Keep all service records and receipts, regardless of who performs the service. This includes oil changes, tire rotations, belt replacement, new brake pads, and inspections. These receipts can be used to prove that the vehicle was properly maintained. If you do your own maintenance, keep your receipt for the parts.

if your warranty claim is denied

if you believe your warranty claim has been denied unfairly, speak (calmly) to a supervisor at the dealership. If that doesn't help, go to the manufacturer or another dealer. But keep in mind that another dealer or manufacturer can see all the notes the first dealer made about your car.

You can also file a complaint with the North Carolina Attorney General's Office or the Federal Trade Commission. You can also consult with a private lawyer.

don't hold your breath for the better business bureau (BBB)

Many people think that 't hold out any hope for getting resolution from the BBB. The BBB is powerless to resolve consumer complaints and is an organization that gets its funding from business memberships. The BBB can't force a dealer or manufacturer to do anything for you.