What voids a car warranty?
Keep up with maintenance and avoid aftermarket modifications to get the most from your coverage
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Your car's warranty, whether it's from the original manufacturer or a third-party extended warranty company, is a vehicle service contract between you and the provider: You take care of routine maintenance to keep your car in good condition and prevent future mechanical problems, and the company is responsible for any repairs due to the failure of one of the car's covered parts or systems.
If you don't follow the obligations set for you under your car warranty, it's possible the vehicle service provider will void the warranty. Those obligations could include having routine maintenance done at a specific location, adding aftermarket modifications or using your car for off-roading.
- If you don't stick to the manufacturer's recommended maintenance schedule, you may have your warranty claims denied.
- It’s a good idea to set aside a car maintenance fund so you don’t void your warranty due to missed service.
- Salvage titles, vehicle misuse (like off-roading or racing), neglect and aftermarket modifications can also void your warranty.
What could void your warranty?
There are several actions that can void an auto warranty, so be sure to take care of your car and avoid the following:
If your car was in an accident and the cost to repair the damage is high enough that your state requires a salvage title or your insurance company deems your vehicle a total loss, your warranty is voided.
» COMPARE: Car warranty vs. car insurance
When shopping for a used car, it's important to avoid vehicles with a salvage title if you know you’ll want an extended auto warranty to help pay for future repairs.
» READ MORE: How to buy a used car
Follow the manufacturer's maintenance schedule to avoid warranty issues.
Off-roading, racing or competing with your car — generally, any actions outside of normal day-to-day use — could be interpreted as misuse. If your car shows signs of abuse from such activities, your warranty provider could void your coverage entirely.
Even if your car or truck was designed for off-roading (or if advertisements feature the vehicle in off-road conditions), the terms of your warranty may exclude repairs due to "excessive wear," so read your coverage details carefully before you leave well-traveled roads in pursuit of off-road adventures.
» LEARN: What does a car warranty cover?
Failing to take your car in for routine maintenance is a sure way to void your warranty. Make sure to adhere to the maintenance schedule created by the manufacturer and published in your owner's manual.
Though putting aftermarket parts on your car or modifying it may not automatically void your warranty, it could complicate matters when you need coverage for a repair. According to the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975, a dealer must provide proof that the aftermarket part or system caused the need for repairs before it can deny a warranty claim.
Some reasons for voided coverage are harder to plan for, as a reviewer from Iowa on our site learned the hard way:
“[W]hen my transmission blew, I didn't realize that the tire people had put on slightly undersized tires, which voided my warranty. So, I was rather pissed about that in general, but I couldn't blame Endurance. I blamed the guys that put the tires on my car.”
This is why it’s important to get your car serviced by well-respected and attentive mechanics and service providers (and to be aware of what exactly might void coverage).
How to get the most out of your car warranty
Here are some tips on how to get the most value out of your vehicle warranty:
- Read your warranty documents or third-party warranty provider plan. Pay special attention to the "What is not covered" section to make sure you understand exactly which repairs you'll pay for on your own.
- Service your car and document everything. If you have your car serviced at a dealership, it may recommend fluid changes and other maintenance in accordance with the manufacturer's schedule. Many people have an independent repair shop they like, which may not be tapped into a specific manufacturer's recommended maintenance schedule.
Take the recommended maintenance schedule seriously and keep receipts and other forms of documentation for each service appointment.
- Remember that warranties are often open to interpretation. If your claim is denied, don't panic. Ask questions and go through the warranty company or manufacturer's process to appeal a decision. A service advisor may have made a simple clerical error, or a customer service representative may have unfairly denied your eligible claim.
- Set up a separate auto maintenance fund. One of the simplest and most justifiable reasons for a denied claim is improper maintenance. If you’re on a budget, plan for regular maintenance by building the costs into your plan. If you set aside a bit of each paycheck in a separate account, when it's time to pay for an oil change, timing belt replacement or new tires, you won't be tempted to put it off due to a lack of funds.
What if your claim is denied?
If your warranty isn't honored, talk with the mechanic or service advisor to make sure the repair was properly labeled and the reason for the repair was explained in the paperwork you submitted to the warranty company.
Call the customer advocacy number in your car's manual if your claim was denied by the manufacturer. If you have a third-party warranty, resubmit the claim with a letter detailing why you believe your claim is valid. Include paperwork that proves you've kept up with the manufacturer's routine maintenance schedule.
If you suspect you've purchased a useless warranty or if you think you’re working with a company that routinely denies claims, look into canceling your coverage and getting a prorated refund.
Do I need an extended auto warranty?
According to Geoff Cudd, owner of FindTheBestCarPrice.com: “Extended auto warranties (especially third-party ones) are worth it if you're the type of person who believes ‘better safe than sorry’ and wants that extra peace of mind knowing that you won't have to fork over cash for a sudden and unexpected repair. That being said, if you're tight on money, have decent auto insurance coverage and have an older model car, they may not be worth it.”
Does missing an oil change or changing your own oil void a warranty?
Maybe. If you missed a single oil change or were late changing the oil, the warranty may not be void, but it could lead to denied claims. To be safe, pay attention to your car's mileage and when you get close to the date or number of miles for a recommended oil change and make an appointment to have the work done on time.
Can aftermarket exhaust void my warranty?
It can. If you have a third-party extended auto warranty, check the listed reasons for a voided warranty included in the contract. If your car is covered by an original manufacturer's warranty and your aftermarket exhaust caused problems in need of repair, the manufacturer might deny your claim.
Can I take my car to a different dealership for warranty service?
In general, you can choose any of your manufacturer’s dealerships as long as it has a service department equipped to handle warranty claims. If you have a third-party warranty provider, check for restrictions regarding where you can go for service.
» WHERE TO GO: Where can you use an extended auto warranty?
What should I do if my warranty isn’t honored?
If the car's manufacturer or a third-party warranty company isn't honoring your warranty, find out why. Ask for the reasons in writing and talk with your dealership's service manager or a warranty company representative to try to resolve the situation. You may have a low-quality aftermarket policy, or there may be a misunderstanding with a customer service provider. Remain calm and be polite, but persist until you understand exactly why you aren't getting the coverage you thought you had on your car.
» KNOW THE SIGNS: How to avoid the worst extended auto warranty companies
- Article sources
- ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. Specific sources for this article include:
- Federal Trade Commission, “Magnuson Moss Warranty-Federal Trade Commission Improvements Act.” Accessed Dec. 16, 2021.
- Edmunds, "What Voids Your Vehicle's Warranty?" Accessed Dec. 16, 2021.
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