Voiding a Car Warranty

A manufacturer or third-party warranty is a contract between you and the provider that promises to pay for services or repairs for a pre-determined length of time.

But just as the automaker or insurer has promised to make repairs should your vehicle falter, you as the owner are required to abide by the terms and conditions of the contract in order to keep the warranty from becoming void.

How a Warranty Claim Works

Most manufacturers can require services to completed at select repair facilities. Once you take a vehicle into a dealership or authorized service center for repairs, a claim will be filed with the manufacturer. This will determine if the requested repairs are covered under the warranty, or if the owner is responsible for payment because of a voided warranty contract.

Reasons a Warranty May Be Voided

Most warranty contracts will detail what the owner is responsible for in order to keep the warranty from becoming void. Since this can mean paying for repairs or other services out of pocket, it is important to understand common circumstances that may cause a claim to be denied.

Common reasons a manufacturer or other provider may void a warranty include:

  • A salvaged title.
  • Misuse of a vehicle, including:
    • Racing or competition of any kind.
    • Off-roading.
    • Any use other than normal operation (often left to the discretion of the warranty provider).
  • Environmental damage, such as:
    • Fire.
    • Flood.
    • Earthquake.
    • Hail.
    • Other natural disasters.
  • Tampering with the odometer.
    • Often determined by investigating a vehicle's maintenance history.
  • Neglecting vehicle maintenance.
    • Failure to take vehicle in for routine maintenance such as oil changes can void warranty coverage for the engine.
  • Using fluids other than those outlined in your owner's manual.
  • Vehicle modifications and aftermarket parts IF they are the primary cause for the failure.
  • Collisions, riots, and other events that are not a fault of the automaker.

Preventing a Voided Warranty

While anomalies like a total loss or extreme environmental hazards can't always be avoided, there are a few things you can do to protect your vehicle's warranty from becoming void.

  • Carefully read the warranty contract, including looking for what isn't covered.
  • Keep up with vehicle maintenance.
  • Save all your service records and receipts.
    • This will provide proof should a dispute over a voided warranty arise.
  • Know your warranty period and fix any problems before it expires.

In the event that your warranty does become void, you have a few options. You can file a complaint by:

  • Contacting the automaker directly.
  • Taking your vehicle to a different dealership for a second opinion.
  • Filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

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