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What actions can void your new car warranty? Here's what to know

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A new car limited warranty, sometimes called a “bumper-to-bumper” warranty, is a contract between the vehicle owner and the automaker. It promises to take care of any applicable repairs, provided that the owner properly maintains the vehicle.

But like most contracts, a warranty can be broken if one person doesn’t hold up his or her end of the bargain. That’s why it’s important to know what circumstances can void that coverage.

Any time you take your vehicle to the dealership for warranty work, the dealer must file a claim with the manufacturer or warranty provider. That’s how it gets paid for the work performed under warranty. If a repair isn’t covered under the manufacturer’s warranty, the claim will be denied, and the dealer will come to you to pay for the work out of your own pocket.

In many cases, warranties are open to interpretation. If you think that a service adviser has denied your warranty claim unfairly, you can always go higher up in the management chain, contact the automaker directly or go to another dealer altogether.

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Here are a few reasons how your warranty claim can be denied and tips on how to avoid problems down the road.

What voids the entire warranty?

  • Salvage title: If your car was in a severe accident and was given a salvage title or declared a total loss, your entire warranty is voided. Keep this in mind if you are looking to purchase a late-model used car from a private party or an independent used car lot. If you are unsure about a car’s past, we suggest getting a vehicle history report.
  • Misuse of the vehicle: This term can be interpreted in a number of ways and often includes racing or competition of any type, overloading the vehicle or going off-road if the vehicle wasn’t designed to. Some automakers will void your warranty for these infractions, and this decision is typically left to the discretion of the warranty administrator. Even if there is no proof and only signs of abuse, your warranty claim may be denied.
  • Altered odometer: If your car’s odometer has been disconnected, tampered with or replaced, the dealership cannot determine the exact mileage. This is usually grounds for a voided warranty. Make sure to run a vehicle history report before buying a used car to check for any mileage inconsistencies.
  • Environmental damage: If your vehicle was damaged in a fire, flood, hailstorm, earthquake or any other environmental disaster, your warranty is void.

What voids your warranty claim?

Not every situation will void your entire warranty. In some situations, the repairs for a specific part will not be covered, but you still retain the warranty on the remainder of the vehicle.

  • Neglect: If your car is under warranty, avoid this at all costs. If you fail to take your vehicle in for service during its scheduled maintenance, the dealer is not responsible for repairing any damage to the engine.
  • Use of dirty or improper fluids: If you never change your oil — or if you spaced out and put diesel fuel in your gasoline engine — any damage incurred is not covered under warranty. Always make sure you are using the correct fluids as outlined in your owner’s manual, and change them at the recommended intervals.
  • Damage caused by modifications or aftermarket parts: This can be anything from a lift kit for a truck to a cheap off-brand replacement part. While some dealers would have you think otherwise, simply having an aftermarket part or modifying your vehicle cannot void your warranty. However, if that part created damage on the vehicle, the dealership can deny your warranty claim. In these scenarios, the burden of proof is on the dealership to prove the part was not properly installed, or a modification led to a component failure.

Tips to avoid warranty issues

  • Read your warranty coverage, especially the section on “What is not covered” or “Warranty limitations.”
  • Service your car at regular intervals. This is a good idea in general, but for the sake of keeping your warranty intact, follow the manufacturer’s recommended service schedule. If you misplaced your owner’s manual, you can often find it online.
  • Keep all service records and receipts. In case you want to sell your vehicle, this habit provides proof that you maintained your vehicle. If you perform maintenance on the car yourself, save the receipts for the parts and fluids you bought.
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