FTC Offers Tips on Making the Most of Your Auto Warranty

Tips for Consumers

Can a dealer void your car’s warranty if you have someone else do routine maintenance on the vehicle?  The answer is no, and the Federal Trade Commission wants to make sure consumers know it.

Under federal law, it is illegal for manufacturers or dealers to refuse to honor a warranty or to deny coverage simply because someone other than the dealer did work on the car.  And dealers must be able to demonstrate that improper repair caused the damage that they refuse to cover.

The FTC, the nation’s consumer protection agency, offers these and other tips for American consumers to help them make smart decisions and get the most out of their auto warranties.  For example, if an independent mechanic improperly replaced a belt and the engine is damaged as a result, a manufacturer or dealer may only deny responsibility for fixing the engine under the warranty after demonstrating that the improper belt replacement – rather than some other defect – caused the engine damage.  However, the warranty would still be in effect for other parts of the car.

The same is true of ‘aftermarket’ parts made by a company other than the vehicle manufacturer or the original equipment manufacturer:  The manufacturer may not deny warranty coverage unless it can show that the aftermarket equipment caused the need for repairs.
Other tips from the FTC include:

  • Read the warranty that came with the car, or check the “Owners” section of the manufacturer’s website.
  • Be aware of when the warranty period ends, and get any problems that arise checked out beforehand.
  • Service the car at regular intervals, following the manufacturer’s recommended service schedule.
  • 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.  These receipts can be used to prove that the vehicle was properly maintained.
  • Complain if you believe your warranty claim has been denied unfairly.  Speak to a supervisor at the dealership, then go to the manufacturer or another dealer.  Consider filing a complaint with the state Attorney General, local consumer protection office, local Better Business Bureau, or the FTC.

The FTC works to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint or get free information on consumer issues, visit ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. Watch a new video, How to File a Complaint, at ftc.gov/video to learn more. The FTC enters consumer complaints into the Consumer Sentinel Network, a secure online database and investigative tool used by more than 1,800 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. 

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