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Dealer Won’t Honor Your Warranty? Here’s What To Do And Why You Should Not Give Up

Your vehicle has a problem that you feel should be covered under warranty. But the dealer is saying otherwise. Here is how to get the help you need.


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For example, if you have only 10,000 miles, but have owned the vehicle for 40 months, a "3-year / 36-month warranty" is no longer in effect.

Related Story: Hyundai Extends Warranties On Current Owners' Vehicles In Response To Pandemic

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?

Educate Yourself
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.

Psst... Did You Hear About the Secret Warranty Expension On Your Car?

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.

Related Story: Subaru Extends Its New Vehicle Warranty For Current Customers An Additional 6 Months

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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Julilo Leal (not verified)    September 14, 2020 - 8:47PM

I read this entire post and it was the biggest wasate of ink in ther history of warranties. What do you do when your arew only 20k into tour original warranty or 2k miles into your extra warranty and the dealersdhip still doesn't want to honor it? Then what? What are your legal resourses? What government agencies can you go to? Nada, zip, zero. Mr. Gorham, I think you're a truly company man expited oout from a car manufactrurer to cover their bacon. Plead with the manager! Yeah, right, that's gonna take you far!

Bob given (not verified)    March 11, 2022 - 7:30PM

In reply to by Julilo Leal (not verified)

The dealership has had my ram truck for 4 months
Under warranty.. they will not repair it.. the advocate has no answers or tell me what to do ..
Does anybody know where I should turn to now ?

Jake Kadhim (not verified)    November 15, 2023 - 2:02PM

In reply to by roy (not verified)

We bought car 🚗 from dealer and ge said we have month warranty so after 2 days we have problems with wheels make noise we went back to him he said the warranty only for engine ..
So I put review on his page with one star he text me because I did that I will cancel ur warranty and su you for $1000000

Mike (not verified)    April 1, 2022 - 10:45PM

In reply to by Bob given (not verified)

Yes, call a lawyer! I purchased a new 2020 mustang gt and immediately noticed something was wrong with it it had now power. Took it in to dealer the first month I had it they said nothing is wrong with it. Later I noticed a noise coming from under the car you could hear from the inside under the gear shifter like a rattling noise. You could hear it getting louder and faster as I gain speed so I new it was the driveshaft. Took it back to ford dealer and they said it will be weeks before fixing or getting any parts in due to Covid. I said I can’t wait that long I have warranty you need to give me a rental to use so I can go to work every day they said no they don’t and won’t have any for me. Ended up being there for almost 2 months I called a lawyer and they said if your car is there for more then 30 days they can force them to give you a full refund and MORE!!

CJ (not verified)    April 6, 2022 - 6:41AM

In reply to by Bob given (not verified)

The first dealership had my car for 9 months to fix the engine that is under replacement warranty. They didnt fix it and returned it to me in an extremely damaged state (massive water damage). I took it directly from that dealer to another dealer where it sits nows (still at 9 months without car and manufacturer/dealer cant give an ETA as they cannot find a replacement motor) Insurance came to look at damages and state that they will probably total the car out. Which means the title will be branded and then the engine won't be replaced again (after only 1k miles on a new one) because that voids the service contract. Dealerships say not my problem call manufacturer, manufacturer has never called us back in the last 9 months and they say to call the dealership and try to mitigate the damages with them...Oh and btw we are putting everything on hold to see what your insurqance says. Nice huh?? Good luck. I truly hope that you don't make it as far as we have and have a better outcome. I have contacted the Attorney General of my state, Consumer protection Agency, BBB, and now I am hitting social media..Other than an attorney we got no help...theres too many complaints right now they cant keep up.

Angela Carrano (not verified)    January 10, 2023 - 10:08PM

In reply to by CJ (not verified)

Hello I seen your post about your vehicle and unfortunately I am in the same position with my brand new 2023 dodge Durango. The dealer ship is saying Chrysler is at fault for not living up to the warranty, Chrysler is saying that the dealer is refusing to fix the vehicle. I had the vehicle for six months and a rod blew through the engine.
I have contacted a lawyer who said this could take up to two years and $30,000 in legal fees. I was hoping you might have some input/suggestions for me. Thank you!

George Callas (not verified)    April 28, 2022 - 1:53PM

In reply to by Julilo Leal (not verified)

All absolutely true. New car Toyota warranties are nothing but puuurdy words written on paper but when you have a major problem like I have had for two years on a brand new Corolla, don't look for the dealer to do anything. I have told the dealer the car won't start. Have had it towed on a flatbed track back to dealer. Dealer sez they looked at it and find nothing wrong. Refuse to do anything. They have nerve to ask me what is wrong with it? I reply that's your job and my new car if parked in my driveway since it is a deathtrap waiting to kill someone. I refuse to allow my family or anyone else to drive it since when anything goes wrong I know Toyota will argue I had prior notice and use that as an excuse to deny liability. I wrote to NHTSB and received a prompt reply from the Feds. Am hopeful they can get Toyota's ear because I can't. This $25K car I paid for in cash is a POS. Also wrote to Calif. Watchdog agency and just hope they can do something to light a fire under Toyota.

Darrell Earnhart (not verified)    June 21, 2022 - 4:44PM

In reply to by Julilo Leal (not verified)

You can make a complaint with the state attorney generals office that holds the business license to the dealership. I learnt that in the past after wasting my time with the BBB. My car was fixed after making a compalint with the state. The dealer called me apologizing saying it was all just a mistake and they would take care of it asap.

NJRoss (not verified)    January 11, 2023 - 11:03AM

In reply to by Julilo Leal (not verified)

The Manager's do nothing because they are instructed to do nothing. My Hyundai Tucson is in recall for engine failure and my dealership is useless. I am having trouble getting one oil receipt from over a year ago and I might not be covered because of this BS. I have all the maintenance records and two other oil changes including the most recent but the older one was not in the glove compartment where I place these things, so even when I obtain it, I sense the mood of the staff. They make criminals out of good people and it grows on the ones that have this deviant nature within them.

Laszlo Ambrus (not verified)    February 2, 2021 - 11:40AM

I'm in south Florida, 2 years ago I purchased a VW egolf from offlease only, and of course they highlighted how long is the warranty on the battery pack but they forgot to mention, that the closest VW dealer who actually does EV repair/maintenance is in Maryland... After an extensive correspondence with the VW headquarters, learned all that. Now I have a feeling, the battery is started to fall under the threshold(70%) and I have only 2 more years left on the warranty to cover it....PLEASE HELP!!!

Kris (not verified)    April 19, 2021 - 3:05PM

Imagine telling people they are dumb for modifying a car with an exhaust, or a chip, because it’s in a wrx. Half the article is BS that some dude tells people the same general knowledge everyone else knows. If you already have a feeling about your warranty and want confirmation bias, this is the place. But for any detailed info? Wrong place.

Mark M (not verified)    July 29, 2021 - 1:37PM

Hello, I purchased a certified pre-owned vehicle from Audi with an extended warranty and recently the windshield wiper pump bracket broke. I was told by Audi that they will not fix it and that the charge would be approximately 750.00 with parts and labor. They said something I did had to break it when in reality I only opened the hood of the car once and closed it without issue. Do I have any recourse? Mark M. Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Timothy (not verified)    August 12, 2021 - 4:13PM

In reply to by Mark M (not verified)

Yes there is. They have the burden of proof. Ask them what you did to break it and let them know federal trade commission has said the burden of proof is on them. If they keep doing that, then file complaint with your state and ftc. You may have to even take them to small claims.

Patrick Schley (not verified)    August 5, 2021 - 3:41PM

Yes! There must be a government agency or some consumer agency one can contact. Consumer Protection or Better Business Bureau will not guarantee any result. That's wrong! If you have to borrow money for the purchase and your contract states, its a brand new (or even a) warranty, there must be someone who can help us and watch out for dishonest dealerships. I don't know where to turn and shouldn't have to pay an attorney for this. PLEASE HELP!

laura melgoza (not verified)    November 19, 2021 - 2:49AM

I purchased a brand new 2017 Kia
Sportage, which has had a gas pump issue since day one. I have taken it to the same Kia dealership several times to address this problem. They have
told me on every visit that “nothing was found”.
I take it in today for the same pump issue that had never been fixed because they claimed “nothing was found”, and not only did I have to pay $190 for the diagnostic, because it no longer under warranty, BUT all of a sudden they found the
problem!?!? What can I do to have Kia cover a cost that they claimed the couldn’t find while under warranty? I am so frustrated. PLEASE HELP ME!!!

Jim Davis (not verified)    December 28, 2021 - 5:53PM

2017 nissan rogue 31,500 miles regular oil changes, had it serviced at nissaan in July about 6000 miles ago got clean bill of health. Started to die occasionally at stop signs, took it to Coast nissan in san luis obispo California. They could not find why stalling, it died on them. Late in day they said compression was bad and will need new engine covered under warrenty and problem was not caused by me. Warrenty people claimed engine was not bad enough to change. I have all maint. Oil change recipes and their report on compression readings, etc etc..I had them write that
warrenty will be extended, it expires 12/30/21. Before I drove it off lot.. There is a known major problem identified by them which will only get worse. and they refuse to fix, talked to service manager he said same thing, called nissan consumer dept 3 seperate times,, filed report but have not heard back. I don't trust them honoring their extended warrenty when they won't honor the original. Kinda in a bad spot here and don't really know what to do.

Plc (not verified)    December 31, 2021 - 12:15PM

What do you do when its the manufacturer corporate (Hyundai) thats denying warranty work when dealership verified the vehicle is due repairs under warranty? Hyundai knows there is a problem with these engines & doesnt want to stand by their warranty!

Corina L Predmore (not verified)    January 24, 2022 - 10:27AM

My wife and I purchased a vehicle and a warrenty 1/3/22 after just 2 days I have a cel on for knock sensor this has come up MULTIPLE times! I call dealer they say oh let me get back to you on it then they never call back! Multiple calls and emails are sent not a single effort from dealer to repair! They say to call local dealer they take it so I call dealer they don't take it and since them no calls messages emails have been answered! So now I have a vehicle haven't even made my first payment! Call warrenty company they don't have any idea of where I can take it!

Melissa O (not verified)    January 31, 2022 - 3:20PM

Is there a timeframe in which Consumer Affairs must let you know one way or another if a repair is covered? After the dealership told me my repair would not be covered (leased vehicle), they advised me to contact Consumer Affairs. 34 days later and about 7 phone calls with Consumer Affairs, I still don't have an answer.

James Davis (not verified)    January 31, 2022 - 11:53PM

Contact BBB auto line, (should be in your warrenty book, or go online) I filed a claim with them and within a couple days Nissan sent paperwork to start the repurchase of vehicle, that's FULL purchase price.