How to Know What to Look for in a Car Warranty

One reason why people decide to buy a new car is for the warranty. Warranties guarantee that repairs required during the original period of ownership will be carried out free of charge for the vehicle owner. Although there are slight differences between manufacturers, most car warranties typically include:

  • Manufacturer Error
  • Emission protection
  • Mechanical problems
  • Breakdown service
  • Audio or other functional errors

Warranties can provide the owner with peace of mind because he knows that the manufacturer bases the vehicle he has produced on defects that occur within a certain period of time. However, some guarantees can be unclear and difficult to interpret. Among the legal terms and information that most don’t read, there is valuable information within your warranty that can prevent you from feeling frustrated when the time comes to have your vehicle repaired.

Used car warranties are also an option for vehicle owners once their manufacturer warranty has run out – please bear in mind though, that a car warranty UK will differ from a car warranty in USA. 

Learn how to understand the important information in your vehicle warranty.

Part 1 of 4: Determine the length of the cover

Your vehicle warranty can be found in your owner’s manual or in the warranty brochure you receive when you buy a new car. If you bought a used vehicle, it is possible that you did not receive the new vehicle documentation from the previous owner.

Step 1: Find the comprehensive warranty. This cover is often referred to as the “bumper-to-bumper” warranty because it covers almost all defects that occur between the bumpers.

For example, if the fuel system, brakes, seat belts, power steering or air conditioning fail during the warranty period, you are usually covered by the bumper-to-shocker warranty.

For almost all manufacturers, the duration of a general warranty is 3 years from the time the vehicle was purchased new. This is also known as an in-service date.

Some manufacturers, such as Kia and Mitsubishi, have a 5-year warranty on most of their models.

Step 2: Determine the warranty period for the powertrain. The term “powertrain” refers to the main components in the system that help drive the vehicle forward.

A powertrain warranty covers, but is not limited to:

  • Differences
  • Drive wheel bearings
  • Drive shafts and axle shafts
  • Engine
  • Transfer case
  • Transfer

The powertrain warranty may be identical to the comprehensive warranty for some manufacturers, while others extend the powertrain warranty.

For example, General Motors models have a 5-year powertrain warranty while Mitsubishi offers a 10-year powertrain coverage for most of their vehicles.

Step 3: Determine the length of the other warranty coverage. Coverage conditions for roadside assistance, audio systems, software updates and accessories vary by manufacturer.

Some of the components listed above are covered for a shorter period of time than the powertrain warranty and comprehensive warranty.

You can find this information in your vehicle warranty booklet with your new vehicle materials or on your manufacturer’s website.

Picture: Ford Warranty Manual

Step 4: Check your emissions warranty coverage. In the United States, manufacturers are required to provide warranty for certain emission systems for a period of 8 years or 96 months.

For example, if an emissions test detects a problem with your electronic emission control unit (ECU), you can have this repair done by your manufacturer.

The components covered by the emission guarantee are very limited, but usually include the catalytic converter, engine control unit (PCM) and emission control unit (ECU).

Part 2 of 4: Determine the distance for which the warranty is valid

The conditions of your vehicle warranty are not only limited in time, but also from the distance travelled. If a warranty limit is displayed, it will be indicated as the period of coverage followed by the distance. Your warranty is only valid as long as you are within the time frame AND below the mileage limit.

Step 1: Determine your comprehensive warranty limitation. Most comprehensive warranties are covered for 36,000 miles from the time a vehicle is purchased new or from its date it is in service.

Some manufacturers, such as Kia and Mitsubishi, offer coverage of their vehicles for longer distances such as 60,000 miles of new ones.

Note: Some warranties are time-dependent only and do not take into account the kilometers driven. These are marked as “unlimited” under Miles.

Step 2: Know the distance limit of your powertrain. Powertrain warranties vary by manufacturer.

Some cover their vehicles for just 36,000 miles, while others like General Motors extend the range of up to 100,000 miles anew.

Step 3: Check your emissions warranty coverage. The emission guarantee for all vehicles is at least 80,000 miles. However, they can be covered for more, depending on your car.

Step 4: Learn about other reporting. Other covers, including corrosion protection, audio systems, or roadside assistance, should be checked in your user manual as they vary greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer.

Part 3 of 4: Understanding What’s Covered by the Warranty

A common misconception is that the new vehicle warranty for your vehicle covers all kinds of repairs while meeting your time and mileage limits. This is not true and can result in frustrating visits to the dealer.

Step 1: New vehicle warranty covers manufacturer defects. Problems that arise in your vehicle not through your own fault, but due to parts failure, are considered manufacturer defects.

Step 2: Powertrain repair cover. The Powertrain Warranty covers only the mechanical components required to power your vehicle.

These include motor, transmission, drive shafts, axle shafts and transfer cases. In some cases, wheel hubs or bearings are covered on drive wheels, but not on all makes.

Step 3: Emission repair coverage. Emissions coverage provides 8 years or 80,000 miles of protection against catalytic converter or powertrain control module failure, resulting in a failed emissions test.

Step 4: Determine if you have roadside assistance. Roadside assistance provides towing services, locksmith services and fuel services in the event of a breakdown.

Note: Additional costs may apply if you require emergency filling for a roadside service.

Step 5: See if your audio system is covered. The coverage of the audio system includes the radio head unit, amplifier and speakers including subwoofer if your vehicle is equipped with it.

Most audio system main units are covered by the manufacturer, who supplies the units to the automobile manufacturer, not to the vehicle manufacturer.

Part 4 of 4: Pay attention to the excluded items of your warranty

There are items that your warranty does not cover. Some are common sense, while others may be a little surprised.

Step 1: Warranties do not include physical damage. If you have an accident, have a rockfall or have a scratch on your car, this is not covered by your new vehicle warranty.

Top For these types of situations, consider making an insurance claim with your car insurance company if the damage is significant enough for you.

Step 2: Warranty does not extend to wear parts. Some manufacturers cover wear parts for a year or 12,000 miles, but that’s more out of courtesy than necessity.

Portable components include your drive belt, brake pads, brake discs, clutch material (in manual transmissions) and fluids.

Step 3: New vehicle warranty does not cover maintenance. While some manufacturers like BMW and Volvo offer free maintenance packages for new car buyers, this is not considered part of your vehicle warranty.

The maintenance of liquids, the replacement of filters and other wear parts are your responsibility as a vehicle owner.

Here is a list of the regular maintenance services that should be done on your car:

Change oil and fuel filters – An oil and fuel filter change should be done every 3,000-5,000 miles or every 3-5 months.

Tire rotation – Rotations should be done every 5,000-8,000 miles to avoid tire wear.

Check or replace spark plugs – Spark plugs should be checked every 30,000 miles.

Replace Air Filters – Air filters should be replaced every 30,000-45,000 miles.

Replace windshield wipers – Windshield wipers last an average of 2-3 years.

Check or replace timing belts and other belts – Timing belts should be replaced every 60,000-100,000 miles.

Check or replace the brake pads – replacing the brake pads largely depends on how you drive your car. It is recommended to check your brakes for wear every 30,000 miles.

Check or flush transmission fluid – Transmission oil should be serviced every 30,000-60,000 miles for manual vehicles and checked every 30,000 miles for automatic cars.

Check or replenish coolant – Coolant level should be checked every 30,000-60,000 miles to avoid overheating.

Battery change – Batteries usually last 3-6 years.

Check or flush brake fluid – Brake fluid should be checked every 2-3 years.

Step 4: Tire wear is not covered by most warranties. If your tires are worn prematurely, this may indicate a problem in your steering or suspension that needs to be fixed under warranty, but the tire wear itself is not covered.

Step 5: Adjustments are no longer covered by the warranty after 1 year. If adjustments such as wheel alignment or door adjustment are required, in most cases they must be made within a year or 12,000 miles.

This is because external forces usually require adjustments and not manufacturer errors.

Warranty coverage is an important part of your car purchase that you should try to understand. Acknowledging the warranty terms can help you if you have a problem with your vehicle or if it’s time for a repair. Consider an extended warranty, either by the manufacturer or an aftermarket warranty provider, so you can feel safe longer and longer than with the new vehicle warranty.

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