Tips To Avoid Warranty Issues

The Federal Trade Commission defines a warranty as a promise, often made by a manufacturer, to stand behind its product or to fix certain defects or malfunctions over a period of time. The warranty pays for any covered repairs or parts replacements during the warranty period.

Can a promise be broken? That’s probably not the best way to describe a case when a manufacturer refuses to repair a mechanical or operational issue while it’s under warranty. According to federal law (you can Google search the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975) there are situations when the manufacturer or dealer has the right to deny coverage for failed parts and ask you to pay for any repairs.

If this does happen, you have recourse. But the occasions when anyone argues over the provisions of a warranty have been described by Road & Track Magazine as “never easy, swift or cheap.”

So be proactive and find out how to get the most out of your product or vehicle warranty. Here are some ideas from the FTC, the governmental agency that enforces federal law in this area:

  • Read your warranty. Often bundled with your owner's manual, the warranty gives a general description and specific details about your coverage. If you have misplaced your owner's manual, look for it online. Check the "Owners" section of your manufacturer's website.

  • Be aware of your warranty period. If problems arise that are covered under the warranty, get them checked out before the warranty expires.

  • Service your car at regular intervals. This is a good idea in any case. But for the sake of keeping your warranty intact, follow the manufacturer's recommended service schedule. Details are in your owner's manual.

  • 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. Create a file to keep track of repairs; it will come in handy if you have to use your warranty. If you ever have a warranty claim and it appears that you did not maintain your vehicle, your claim could be denied.

  • Complain. If you think a dealer's service advisor denied your warranty claim unfairly, ask to speak with a supervisor. If you still aren't satisfied, contact the manufacturer or go to another dealer. You also may wish to file a complaint with your state attorney general, local consumer protection office or the FTC

Here are some other considerations not listed by the FTC:

  • Be careful if you want to “soup-up” or modify your car or other possession with an aftermarket part or accessory. Check with the manufacturer or dealership any time you are looking to modify your vehicle or other product. While you don’t have to use the manufacturer’s parts and services, you do want to make sure the modification you’re planning doesn’t have the potential to damage another part or system on your car. This could open the door to your warranty being voided, or at least the repair not being covered under warranty.

  • Know that there are extended, or supplemental coverage options. Remember, the average new car is out of warranty in two and a half years, and major mechanical protection can be added to cover your vehicle if expensive repairs are needed.

Study your warranty to make sure you don’t run into what you consider to be a “broken promise.”