Warranty Battles: OEM vs. Aftermarket

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You have big plans for your car. But the last thing you want is for your extracurriculars to void your factory warranty.

So, what will you do to ensure you keep your warranty intact? You will read the fine print, service your car at regular intervals, and maybe skip the performance tuner you’ve been thinking about.

But the question sits with you: should you be avoiding aftermarket parts? Will hacking or modding your car automatically cancel your warranty? The answer is no. But you need to be smart.

Lesson #1: Your warranty administrator is not a benevolent uncle

Your factory warranty is a contract between you and the company that built your car. They promise to pay for any applicable repairs to your car if you promise to maintain it to proper standards. The warranty contract breaks if you drop your end of the deal.

Hey… does “maintain to proper standards” sound vague to you? Well, it is. And I think they did that on purpose. Sounds to me like your warranty administrator wields unlimited power in deciding what is and what isn’t a proper standard.

warrnadmin…and your warranty administrator is not a benevolent uncle.

He actually has an incentive to save a few bucks for his employer.

And that’s not fair, is it?

Lesson #2: Feeling paranoid is not warranted

I know you’re passionate about making your great car even better. And you want to do it your own way! Using aftermarket parts!

That doesn’t mean you have to wave good-bye to your car’s factory warranty.

Yes, the game is fixed. But don’t plug back into the Matrix, yet!

I have some good news. It’s close to impossible for car companies to void your entire warranty. They are restricted by a list of rare circumstances.

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This means you’re in the clear, unless your car’s been totaled. Or unless your destiny is to have your warranty voided. In which case there’s little you can do about it. We’ve all seen the Final Destination series.

My dark humour aside, feeling paranoid is not warranted. Aftermarket parts didn’t even make the list!

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Lesson #3: Anticipate any warranty bumps coming your way

You’re not out of the woods yet. Your warranty could be partially voided. And I made a list for that too.

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And there you have it. It’s spelled out in black and white. You may face problems with your warranty if you mod your car. It’s the truth. And it makes sense.

But let’s focus on “may face problems” & “makes sense”.

You can safely assume your dealer won’t blame your new tires for the problems you’ve experienced with your transmission. Your warranty should cover it. But don’t take that as a green light.

Get to know your rights.

If you’re smart about modifying your car and if you make your decisions thoughtfully – you can completely avoid issues with your warranty.

Or at the very least, you will be able to anticipate any warranty bumps coming your way.

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Lesson #4: Avoid a headache when you can

Are there “safe” car modifications?

It’s impossible guesswork to know which car parts might someday fail. It depends, right? And that makes it difficult to suggest “safe” modifications.

 

Obvious aesthetic mods should not be a problem.

 

If you’re going in for a repair - avoid a headache when you can. Some mods can be undone. It’s easier to swap in your factory air filter instead of haggling with your dealership.

If that’s not an option, walk in prepared to explain why your installed aftermarket part did NOT cause the problem.

There are many shady service departments. So even if you’re doing everything by the book, you could still hit a wall. If that happens, ask to speak to a manager, or consult with a factory representative.

Remember your rights! It’s up to you to know the law and stand up.

A smart choice is to purchase aftermarket parts from authorized dealers, like TDot Performance. They will provide a manufacturer’s warranty on the products you install. And you won’t be left without any coverage in case of warranty disputes with your dealership.

Lesson #5: The burden of proof is on the dealership

If a dealership tells you that your warranty is voided because you installed a performance part… the dealership is basically breaking the law.

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In the United States, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act forbids manufacturers from:

“… asking consumers to use any specific brand of article or service in order to invoke warranty coverage.”

 

 

And what does the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act mean, exactly?

It means that aftermarket parts which improve your vehicle’s performance do not necessarily void your warranty. Unless the dealer can prove that the aftermarket part is the direct cause of a failure.

If the reason behind a failure is not clear, the dealer may charge you to run diagnostics. If the aftermarket part is still not found to be connected to the problem, the dealer is required to reimburse you that diagnostics fee.

The burden of proof is on the dealership and the manufacturer. And that’s something to smile about! They have to prove, not just vocalize, that the aftermarket equipment caused the need for repairs before they can deny warranty coverage.

If you’re sulking because you live in Canada, stop.

The Consumer Protection Acts in each province are the Canadian equivalent to the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.

 

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The law in Canada also states that a manufacturer cannot require a consumer to use OEM parts under the threat of voiding warranty. This practice is referred to as “tied selling” and is in direct violation of the Canadian Competition Act due to its anti-competitive nature.

Lesson #6: Face the consequences

In certain cases your warranty will be partially voided. And it won’t be because your warranty administrator has it out for you.

Be aware of the possible consequences before undertaking major mod work on your car.

  • Service may be denied if your vehicle is modified to the extent that dealership technicians are not able to diagnose issues. For example, if your mods have compromised your car’s OBDII ports technicians will not be able to read your engine’s diagnostic codes.
  • If you take your car in for drive train repairs and you have a tuner installed, get ready for an uphill battle. An experienced professional tuner is able to write a balanced custom performance tune. But it can also create vulnerability to deterioration and even detonation.

You can always make a case with your dealer. But the decision may not be in your favor.

TDot Performance does not endorse any kind of deception in terms of warranty coverage. If you choose to buy and install an aftermarket part in your car and it causes a problem – it’s your problem. Don’t expect the car manufacturer to pay for the choice you made.

If you are modifying your car, be ready for the consequences if the mods DO cause a problem.

Lesson #7: Keep car manufacturers in check

If you feel that you have been denied a warranty claim unfairly, go higher up the management chain. If that doesn’t help, try a different dealer, or contact the automaker directly.

Remember that you always have the option to consult with an attorney and use SEMA as a resource to fight the denial of coverage.

 

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If you are in Canada, you can access the Canadian Automobile Manufacturers Vehicle Arbitration Program. The program offers free arbitration to consumers who are faced with warranty disputes with manufacturers. The CAMVAP has the power to order repairs or even vehicle return in certain cases.

Lesson 8: Share your experience

Have you had warranty disputes in the past?

5 Responses to Warranty Battles: OEM vs. Aftermarket

  1. Mal says:

    Glad there is some additional information out there helping consumers against dealerships when it comes to warranties and modifications. Obviously some people will encounter more than difficult situations, but this give everyone a basis to start from and the education that so many people are lacking. Great read!

  2. Xer says:

    Too bad tuner “companies” (usually some guy with a computer) are at your own risk…pay the extra $$$ and get a supercharger like an edelbrock e-force and edelbrock will cover your powertrain warranty.

    • Rice killer says:

      That’s all well and good for American Muscle. Can’t put an e- force on my M4. Also, if you put a super charger on ANYTHING, ITS STILL REQUIRES A TUNE!!! Get and education before spouting off.

  3. Smartmod says:

    Also be aware that automobile manufacturers pockets run deep. Its hard to fight billion dollar corporations. A well planned mod includes reverse engineering that will allow reinstallation of factory components or removal of aftermarket components without visual clues that a modification was done in the first place i.e plug and play aftermarket lights or no drilling required bolt on parts. Both can be easily removed with little to no visual clues of their respective installations. Anything that ties into your electrical (even plug and play aftermarket lights) may generate computer codes indicating a modification. This is paricularily true of late model canbus cars.

  4. Anzael says:

    If you’re going in for a repair – avoid a headache when you can. Some mods can be undone.

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