Driving a newer car? You don’t have to return to the dealer for maintenance

When you buy a new car, it’s covered by a warranty–often a number of warranties. The most basic is the bumper-to-bumper warranty, which covers components like sensors, electrical components and the air conditioning. But those warranties don’t cover regular maintenance (such as oil changes), and things like new tires.

If your car has a problem that is covered by the warranty, it makes sense to go to the dealer to get the issue taken care of with no cost to you. But when it comes to routine maintenance, many people are surprised to find out that you can take your car to an independent mechanic—like Auto Lab—for the work, or even do it yourself, without affecting the warranty.

In fact, according to the Federal Trade Commission, it’s illegal for a dealer to deny your warranty coverage just because you had routine maintenance or repairs performed by someone else. The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, which is enforced by the FTC, makes it against the law for manufacturers or dealers to claim that your warranty is void or to deny coverage under your warranty because someone other than the dealer did the work.

Your only obligation is to adhere to the maintenance schedule and to keep records proving that the maintenance has been done. This is to show that you haven’t neglected the car. For example, if there’s a major engine failure, you’ll want to be able to prove that you’ve had the oil changed regularly.
The FTC offers these tips to avoid warranty issues:

  • Read your warranty. Often bundled with your owner’s manual, the warranty gives a general description and specific details about your coverage. If you have misplaced your owner’s manual, look for it online. Check the “Owners” section of your manufacturer’s website. (If you have any questions about your warranty, please feel free to ask us for help.)
  • Be aware of your warranty period. If problems arise that are covered under the warranty, get them checked out before the warranty expires. In fact, it’s a smart idea to have the vehicle inspected by an independent third party before the warranty expires. If you bring it to Auto Lab, we’ll make you aware of any needed warranty repairs, which you can then have the dealer address. (Some dealers are more proactive than others when it comes to identifying warranty repairs because they make more money from customer-paid work than they do from warranty items.)
  • Service your car at regular intervals. This is a good idea in any case. But for the sake of keeping your warranty intact, follow the manufacturer’s recommended service schedule. Details are in your owner’s manual.
  • 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. Create a file to keep track of repairs; it will come in handy if you have to use your warranty. If you ever have a warranty claim and it appears that you did not maintain your vehicle, your claim could be denied.
  • Complain. If you think a dealer’s service advisor denied your warranty claim unfairly, ask to speak with a supervisor. If you still aren’t satisfied, contact the manufacturer or go to another dealer. You also may wish to file a complaint with your state Attorney General, local consumer protection office, local Better Business Bureau or the FTC.
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