What Voids a Car Warranty?

Buying a car is an exciting and important investment, and a warranty is often included to protect that investment. A warranty – commonly sold with new vehicles and used vehicles at dealerships – is a promise from a manufacturer or dealer to fix any defects in your car within a certain timeframe. This covers repairs or replacements at no cost to the consumer.

However, there are certain situations that can void car warranty terms. If the warranty is voided, you will be responsible for the repair cost – and you cannot pursue a lemon law claim if the vehicle is defective.

Lemon laws protect consumers from being stuck with faulty vehicles. If the vehicle is proven to be a lemon, the manufacturer will need to provide a refund or replacement vehicle.

To qualify as a lemon under California lemon law, a vehicle must:

  • Be covered under the manufacturer or dealer warranty when the defect or nonconformity was first reported; and
  • Have one or more defects/nonconformities that substantially impair the vehicle’s use, value, or safety; and
  • Have been subjected to a reasonable number of repair attempts by a manufacturer-certified facility to fix the defect/nonconformity; or
  • Have been out of service for repairs on one or more defects/nonconformities for at least 30 days; and
  • The defect or nonconformity must not have been caused by driver abuse or neglect.

So, what actions can void car warranty terms and prevent you from being able to pursue a California lemon law claim? Here are some common scenarios:

Improper Use of the Vehicle

One of the main ways a warranty can be voided is when the vehicle is not used as intended. Improper use of a car can take many forms. 

Off-roading, for example, can cause damage to the car that may not be covered under warranty, as it is not a typical use for most vehicles. Another example of improper use is towing beyond the recommended limit. This can strain parts of the vehicle and potentially lead to damage that voids car warranty terms. 

It is important to read through the warranty and understand how the vehicle should be used to maintain coverage. Otherwise, you could end up paying for the damage out of pocket.

Tampering with the Odometer

Tampering with the odometer (or altering the mileage displayed) is illegal and can void a car’s warranty. This is a common tactic of shady car dealers to drive up the cost of a vehicle.

Turning back, advancing, disconnecting, or resetting the odometer is illegal in California. Yet, people still try to change the odometer to make a car appear newer or have lower mileage. Of course, this is a risky move. If the manufacturer finds out, they may void car warranty terms – and the buyer may choose to press charges. 

Whether you run a dealership or are a private seller, it’s best to leave the odometer alone and not risk voiding the warranty – and potentially facing legal consequences. 

Taking the Vehicle to a 3rd Party Mechanic

Taking your car to a mechanic – of which is not manufacturer-certified – can also void the car warranty. This is a breach of the contract, as it states that authorized technicians must perform maintenance and repairs while under warranty.

While the vehicle is under warranty, the manufacturer or dealership is your mechanic. Any work done by a third party can potentially void car warranty terms.

For example, if there are recurring problems with the engine and your family mechanic works on it, the manufacturer may argue the mechanic caused the issue. Not only would this potentially void the warranty, but it could invalidate a lemon law claim.

It’s important to follow the guidelines and take your car to the designated places for service.

Aftermarket Modifications

Did you know that making changes to your car, such as adding a new stereo or changing the exhaust system, may void your car warranty?

While upgrading your car with new parts may be tempting, you need to consider the potential consequences. The manufacturer may not cover any issues that arise from aftermarket modification, leaving you to pay for repairs.

It’s best to stick with parts and upgrades that the manufacturer approves to maintain your coverage under the warranty.

How to Keep Your Car’s Warranty Intact

Here are a few tips to keep your car’s warranty valid so that you can pursue repairs – or potentially a California lemon law claim:

1. Read the Fine Print 

Make sure to read through the warranty before signing the purchase order and keep it in a safe place for reference. Understand what voids the coverage so that you can avoid those situations. If you have any questions, ask the dealership or manufacturer for clarification.

2. Follow Maintenance Guidelines

Regularly scheduled maintenance is crucial to keeping your car running smoothly and preserving the car’s warranty. Keep track of when certain services need to be done and bring the vehicle in on time. This also shows the dealership or manufacturer that you are taking good care of the car.

3. Be Ready to Prove “Normal Use”

When it comes to filing a California lemon law claim, you may need to prove that the issue with your car was not caused by “abnormal use or neglect.” Car manufacturers are notorious for denying claims by saying that the owner’s actions caused the issue.

Keep records of maintenance, repairs, and proper use of the car. This can help prove that you were using the vehicle as intended and not neglecting it in case your warranty is challenged. A lemon law attorney in California can also assist you in gathering evidence to support your claim.

Need a Lemon Law Attorney in California?

If you have a vehicle that has repeated issues and your warranty is in question, it may be time to pursue a California lemon law claim. At Cline APC, we have the experience and expertise to guide you through the process and fight for compensation. Our lemon law attorneys in California will thoroughly review your case and handle all negotiations with the manufacturer.

Contact us today for a free case evaluation.

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