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Aftermarket parts VS Manufacturer Warranty

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  • Aftermarket parts VS Manufacturer Warranty

    Alright, I borrowed this from
    This is a little something people with remaining factory warranties should know when they want Bolt-On performance.

    Aftermarket vs. Factory Warranty

    In today's market, even the most ardent enthusiast might pause before making any performance modifications to a late-model, emission-controlled vehicle. One of the first considerations before "bolting-on" is the legality of any such modification.

    With the performance aftermarket industry working at flank speed to develop new emission-legal performance products, it should not be too long before owners of virtually any late-model performance vehicle will be able to purchase fully emission-legal performance products.

    The next major concern for anyone who has just plunked down $20 to $50K or more is: What will the addition of performance products do to the durability of my vehicle; and more importantly, will the addition of these products void my factory warranty?

    On the subject of durability, performance modifications that have been engineered to meet emission standards and used prudently should not affect the overall durability of your vehicle. To clarify this, an engine that was designed to make 300 horsepower, is not likely to live as long at 400, but how often is the 400 horsepower actually utilized over, let's say, 100,000 miles? This is, in most cases, is driver related.

    Common sense would dictate that the addition of a performance exhaust system should not void the factory warranty on an air conditioning unit. However when it comes to the dealer's understanding of the law, common sense might not carry the day.

    To find answers to some of the warranty questions, we started our research with copies of the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act of 1987, which basically defines how a warranty should be written, along with the definitions of full, limited and implied warranties.

    As we started working through piles of paperwork, we contacted the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) for legal information and found that great minds think alike. SEMA had, with the help of its lawyers, just completed a brief outline of consumer's rights with regards to the addition of aftermarket performance products.

    To some degree, the bottom line is good common sense. If you take a car to the service island with a tattletale boost gauge stuck at 10 psi over the rated boost pressure, and a set of fried piston rings, things could be a little hectic. On the other hand, if you have made some fairly mild modifications, and a service advisor tells you that the warranty on your car is void, you have rights under the law. As outlined in the sidebar, below are some phone numbers to call for help.

    Let's take a look at a few typical customer complaints, the dealer's response, and you rights under the law:

    Consumer: "I have a drivetrain problem."
    Dealer: "Warranty Denied! Aftermarket parts have been fitted."
    Law:The warranty is NOT void by the mere installation of aftermarket products. If the dealer insists on warranty denial, call the Federal Trade Commission at (202) 326-3128.

    Consumer:"The malfunction light comes on indicating a mass air-flow sensor failure."
    Dealer: "Warranty denied! An aftermarket exhaust system has been fitted."
    Law: The warranty cannot be denied on the mass air-flow sensor due to the installation of an aftermarket exhaust system. If the dealer insists on warranty denial, call the Environmental Protection Agency at (202) 382-2640 .

    Almost everyone has heard that the mere installation and/or use of aftermarket parts will void a vehicle manufacturer's warranty. That claim appears to know no limitations and is heralded from coast to coast with no lack of certainty. In spite of having unbridled support, however, one basic problem remains: It's not true!

    In looking at the potential for violating a vehicle manufacturer's warranty, it is important to remember that there are a number of different types of warranties that may come with a new vehicle.

    Express and Implied Warranties
    The first is the warranty which is offered by the vehicle manufacturer. This is called an expressed warranty. This is made by the manufacturer to assume responsibility for various things which might go wrong with the new vehicle during a stated period of time, or before the vehicle has traveled a given distance.

    Beyond this, however, the manufacturer is also responsible for what are referred to as implied warranties. These are not written warranties, but they exist because it is felt that if a manufacturer produces and sells a product, that product should meet certain standards. These standards are the basis of implied warranties.

    Keep in mind, however, that with both expressed and implied warranties, there are circumstances where the manufacturer can be relieved of responsibility to make good on warranty claims.

    Emission Warranties
    The warranties we discuss most often are emission warranties. These warranties are required by, and are a direct result of, the Clean Air Act. Each of these warranties provides the consumer with certain rights and imposes on the manufacturer certain obligations. However, as in the case with expressed and implied warranties, the manufacturer may not have to fulfill those obligations under all circumstances. These are times when the manufacturer's expressed, implied and emission warranties can be voided. Let's look at when that can, and cannot, happen.

    Defect Warranty
    Looking first at the warranties required by the Clean Air Act, we find that there are really two warranties. The first warranty is called a defect warranty. This means the manufacturer is required to produce a vehicle, which at the time of sale did not have any "defects" that would cause it to fail to meet the required emission levels for its "useful" life, as defined by the law.

    A manufacturer can be held liable for this warranty when a "defect" has indeed been found. If, for example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that a large number of a particular type of vehicle was failing to maintain proper emission levels, they might determine that the failure was the result of a defect in the vehicle.

    While it is unlikely, the vehicle manufacturer could seek to show that the reason for the vehicle's failure to meet emission standards is that all vehicles in question had been equipped with aftermarket parts - and those parts were responsible for the emission failure. If the vehicle manufacturer could prove his argument, it would be grounds to "void" the defect warranty.

    The manufacturer could not, however, seek to void the warranty merely because aftermarket equipment had been installed on the vehicle. The aftermarket equipment would have to directly relate to the emission failure to void the warranty.

    Performance Warranty
    A second warranty required under the Clean Air Act is the performance warranty. Under this warranty the vehicle is required to maintain certain emission performance standards throughout its "useful" life. If the car fails to meet those requirements, the vehicle manufacturer is required to make repairs.

    What could void this warranty? The only circumstance under which the vehicle manufacturer may void the emission warranty is where the aftermarket part is responsible for the warranty claim. The vehicle manufacturer cannot void the warranty merely because aftermarket equipment has been installed on the vehicle.

    Protection Under the Law
    The law relating to the other types of warranties is similar. Federal law, regulating to one extent or another, expressed and implied warranties is very clear: That warranties may not be conditioned upon the use of the manufacturer's parts or services unless those parts or services are provided free of charge. Therefore, the expressed and implied warranties cannot be voided merely because aftermarket parts are installed on a vehicle. The warranties can be voided only where the installation of an aftermarket part is DIRECTLY responsible for that failure which gives rise to the warranty claim.

    Knowledge Isn't Enough
    Just knowing the law may not be enough. What happens if a vehicle dealer denies a warranty claim? If the claim is in reference to a part governed by the Clean Air Act and you believe the claim was improperly denied, a call to the EPA at (202) 382-2640 would be in order. The EPA maintains a staff that will investigate situations in which vehicle manufacturers have failed to honor warranty claims.

    If the failure to honor a claim involves the new warranty, and it appears that the vehicle dealer improperly denied the claim, the matter should be raised with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at (202) 326-3128. The FTC is responsible for monitoring compliance with the warranty law. Between these two federal agencies there should be sufficient authority to work out any warranty problems.

    In addition, SEMA monitors problems associated with warranty claims to ensure that vehicle dealers are not misrepresenting the law. Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) (714) 396-0289.

    Reprinted with permission. Turbo and High Tech Performance Magazine


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