Vehicle ownership is challenging. You didn’t sign up to be an expert on vehicle repair when you bought your car, crossover, or truck. You expected that the warranty would be simple to use if needed. Guess again.
Automakers have good intentions when they offer you a vehicle with a warranty, However, to them, a warranty is more easily understood. After all, they wrote it. For the rest of us, there are really two parts to understand. The first part is the comprehensive warranty. It covers failure on the vehicle more or less from bumper to bumper with some obvious exceptions. Glass, rubber like tires and wiper blades, and maintenance are not part of your warranty unless you have one that states otherwise.
The second part is trickier. It is the “drivetrain” warranty. There is no standard definition of exactly what is and what is not included in a “drivetrain.” So your owners manual will have an insert or section that lists all of the stuff covered and not covered. Generally, the engine, transmission, and the power delivery system are included. However, things that make those work, like your alternator, which hangs off the engine, may not be.
The warranty has a duration that begins on the day you buy the vehicle, It is not tied to any calendar year or model year. So, if you buy a leftover new car, it should still have a full warranty beginning on the day you buy it. The warranty will always be the lesser of the months of coverage or miles of coverage. For example, if you have only 10,000 miles, but have owned the vehicle for 40 months, a "3-year / 36-month warranty" is no longer in effect.
Your warranty also depends on how you maintain and keep the vehicle. You must follow the manufacturer’s instructions on required maintenance such as oil changes and other care, or the warranty is not enforceable. Furthermore, if you are dumb enough to do something like put an aftermarket chip in your WRX’s engine, or modify the suspension, or the exhaust, you may as well kiss goodbye any part of the warranty related to those systems.
Related Story: How To Get the Most and Pay the Least When Your Car Needs Service At the Dealership
So, let’s say that you and your dealer are not in agreement on who should pay the cost of a repair that is required, and you feel it does meet the warranty requirements. Here’s what to do:
Don’t Lose Your Cool
Nobody needs a person screaming at them at work, nor should they have to deal with it. You will catch more flies with honey than with vinegar when it comes to warranty coverage and customer service people. Be polite. Be firm, but offer the person the same respect you would like to have from a person if you were at work.
Ask If a Manager Is Available At the Dealership
If a manager is available, be patient. They manage. Ask if they are familiar with your situation. If not, politely explain what is going on and why you feel your vehicle should be repaired under warranty. Maybe they will see things your way.
“Do You Kow Who I Am?!"
Almost everybody is a brand-loyal car buyer. If you’ve owned multiple vehicles of the brand, and if you have been a long-term customer of that exact dealership, it is worth mentioning. However, your loyalty and past business only goes so far. Be tactful. If you have already screamed that you will never buy another car from that brand again, why would the manager bother with helping you?
Using the world wide web, find out if the problem you are having with your vehicle is known to the dealer. Search using keywords and then add “TSB” and “Service Bulletin.” Find out if many other owners are also reporting this same issue. Try to determine if the manufacturer has issued any guidance to the dealers on how to fix it, either under warranty or otherwise. If it is a known issue, you are in a better position. In many cases, the manufacturer may be offering support to those customers who ask for it. Here’s how to do that.
Try The Manufacturer’s Customer Advocacy Line
Every automaker has a customer advocacy line in their owner’s manual or that you can find online. Give it a try. Be prepared to start at the beginning. Explain your case and why you feel that you deserve to be helped. Try not to make the issue one of “right vs. wrong.” Ask if the manufacturer will help you out. There are many possible outcomes.
How a Manufacturer Might Offer Help
A manufacturer may cover the full cost of the repair. They may offer no support. However, there are other ways they might offer to help. For example, they may offer to pay for the parts if you will pay for the labor. Or vice versa. Or they may offer a partial payment. Consider these offers a win if the issue is in any way fuzzy and not an obvious warranty repair. If the issue has already been dealt with, you can also ask for an extended warranty to help ensure the issue won’t be a problem in the future.
ALWAYS SAVE YOUR RECEIPTS
You should have a folder with every single receipt that you get when you maintain your car, truck, or crossover. No exceptions. They can help you prove you maintained your vehicle in a warranty dispute, and they can help you get a higher trade-in or sell price when you finally get rid of the car. One receipt that you MUST save is your disputed warranty repair. If you paid for it, and if the manufacturer later decides to cover this repair for all owners later, you may get a refund. But you will need that slip of paper. Keep it safe.
Dealerships are almost always independent companies apart from the manufacturer. This can be frustrating, but it also affords you a second chance to get help. Before you give up on a warranty claim you feel should be honored, remember our advice; Be polite, educate yourself, ask for the manager’s input, and call the manufacturer’s advocacy line for help.
If you have had a conflict over a warranty feel free to report it below. We’d especially love to hear stories about how an initially declined warranty repair ended up with a happy ending.
John Goreham is a long-time New England Motor Press Association member and recovering engineer. John's focus areas are technology, safety, and green vehicles. In the 1990s, he was part of a team that built a solar-electric vehicle from scratch. His was the role of battery thermal control designer. For 20 years he applied his engineering and sales talents in the high tech world and published numerous articles in technical journals such as Chemical Processing Magazine. In 2008 he retired from that career to chase his dream of being an auto writer. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American newspapers and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin
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