14 Nov 2012

How not to invalidate your new car's warranty - It's easy to do

Colin Hubbard looks at manufacturer's warranties and demonstrates how easy it is for you to invalidate them. He gives hints and tips on making sure your car stays within the terms of the warranty, and looks in detail of the terms of some manufacturer warranties

A colleague of mine recently had an incident with her 11 month old Vauxhall Astra.  She parked up, got out and proceeded towards the boot. The car then rolled down her drive and crashed into a neighbour's Mercedes -  nearly knocking her over as she went to open the boot. The car had already been booked into the Vauxhall dealer for the next day, to have the electronic handbrake checked as it had failed on a few occasions.

The car was repaired through her insurance company and they are pursuing a claim through Vauxhall due to the ineffective handbrake.

However, with the ongoing saga, she missed her allotted time for the car to have its annual check (required under Vauxuall warranty terms if you do not service at their authorised Dealer). The check should have been carried out within 14 days of the car's anniversary and, because it wasn’t done, the dealer (Lookers Vauxhall) refused to accept it .

That means her 13 month old Vauxhall now has no warranty.  So, for example, if her engine fails then she will have to pay to get it fixed at her own cost.

These unfair warranty conditions may be due to the modern car being much more reliable than their former models.  Manufacturers are getting cocky with their warranties and 7 years is now standard on some new cars -  to entice potential buyers and fleet managers. In the past cars struggled to hit 100,000 miles due to engine failure or corrosion of the chassis but cars which are produced now can easily see 200,000 miles and the body should not rust at all, unless they have been poorly maintained.

To safeguard the greatly enhanced warranties they now provide, manufacturers will protect their position by a range of terms and conditions which the buyer is unlikely to digest and so you may get caught out when you car fails on you.

What you need to do to keep you car healthy

The modern motor car is very well built but just like anything you own, for example your house, you do need to carry our servicing and maintenance and care for it to retain its showroom feel and looks.

For the oily department ensure it is serviced at the recommended intervals both to keep up the warranty and to ensure it runs well. If it is your own car consider changing the oil more frequently than some of the recommended 2 years or 20,000 miles guides.

The most important element of car servicing is healthy engine oil. Weigh up whether main dealer service prices are reasonable and if you feel they aren’t then use a reputable specialist who uses genuine* parts and the correct oil instead. You may still need to take your car into it's main dealer for yearly checks on servicing and paintwork inspections to retain the respective warranties.

Nowadays cars shouldn’t rust as they are galvanised or dipped in electrically charged paint and more parts are made of plastic but cars can still rust if the paint is removed by items such as stonechips or crash damage, if these are not touched up or repaired properly then rust can get out and will not be covered under warranty.

Please don’t use the carwash.  It picks up the dirt from your car and crushes it into the paintwork in a circular manner leaving swirl marks in the paint after time. I would recommend getting out the hosepipe and bucket yourself, visit your local jetwash or pay for a minivalet once a fortnight at around £20.00. Also clean bird droppings off your bodywork as soon as possible to avoid the lacquer being damaged.

There are simple things you can do to extend the mechanical parts of your car such as avoiding potholes (if you can), not holding the car on the clutch at traffic lights or junctions (it will eventually burn it out as it is a wearable item just like brake pads), letting the engine warm up before any hard acceleration and letting the oil recirculate after driving hard to cool and lubricate the engine.

A selection of Individual Companies and specifics comments regarding warranty cover


2 year unlimited mileage and/or 3 years up to 60,000 miles. 12 year rust warranty. Unapproved modifications will not be covered. Vehicle should be serviced in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations. Any damage to or defect in the vehicle caused by poor or insufficient servicing will not be remedied under the vehicle's warranty. Please ensure that you maintain sufficient records to enable the Authorised Network to confirm that the vehicle has been appropriately serviced. Carpets and seat covers excluded, so if the seat sags after 50,000 miles then it isn’t covered.


Initially 1 year with unlimited mileage, then another 2 years up to 60,000 miles total whichever passes first. 6 to 12 year corrosion warranty depending on vehicle. Ford is not responsible for any repair or replacement that is required as a direct result of failure to properly maintain the vehicle in accordance with Ford maintenance schedules and service instructions, unauthorised modifications of the vehicle or its components or failure to use genuine* Ford branded parts and fluids.


As per Ford with 1 initial year and unlimited mileage but then a further 2 years and up to 60,000 miles (total). After that, Vauxhall provides a Lifetime Warranty, available to the first owner only for an unlimited time and a maximum of 100,000 miles. This is subject to an annual validation for both mechanical and corrosion inspections. 6 year anti-perforation corrosion warranty. The activation and validation can be performed only up to 14 days after the expiry date of the preceding certificates expiry date.


BMW offers a 3 year unlimited mileage policy which must be a fleet managers dream. 12-year anti-corrosion warranty. If servicing has been carried out by a workshop that is not authorised by BMW, then BMW reserve the right to reject any claim where the cause of the defect is due to the use of a non-genuine* BMW part or inadequate servicing. Any modified BMW could have warranty work refused.  Remapping could be a reason for many electrical faults and warning lights and aftermarket wheels could be a reason for refusal.


Well done to Kia who have confidence in their new cars to offer a 7 year warranty and up to 100,000 miles whichever comes first. Alternatively unlimited mileage for the first 3 years only. The anti-perforation warranty is valid for between 7 and 12 years depending on the model. Audio is only covered for 3 years and batteries for 2 years. The Warranty is transferable unlike Vauxhall's 7 years which applies to the first owner only.


In the past Toyota have been super reliable and paved the way in the eighties for reliability which other manufacturers had to try to follow. You must have seen how many taxis were Toyota Carinas or Avensis', due to the reduced likelihood of the breaking down. Unfortunately in recent times they have has some massive and costly recalls due to some parts manufacturers not being up to standard. So the 5 year or 100,000 (whatever first) mechanical warranty will be a huge comfort to their owners.

What to learn from the above

To retain your warranty you will need to ensure you maintain the vehicle as the manufacturer intended, use the rights oils, ensure warning lights on the dashboard are seen to as soon as possible and keep it clean.

 In addition ensure you visit the dealer when required for the relevant checks to retain the mechanical warranty or rust warranty.  You may be asked to pay a small amount for them to verify the warranty is still valid but it will benefit you going forwards in both your future claims, and when you sell the car on (if it is still in the warranty period). The manufacturer's dealers may try their best to refuse your warranty claim for a number of reasons and could legitimately hide behind several of the clauses in the warranty wording, for example words like ‘modify’ or ‘indirectly’ can apply to many things.  A non-genuine* part could have an effect on another part, for example a non genuine* clutch, it could be claimed, will affect a gearbox repair.

With cars getting ever so complicated and many functions being taken care of by electrical motors instead of the human touch you may financialy rely on your warranty so don’t give the manufacturers the excuse they need to refuse your claim.

The light at the end of the tunnel is that my Colleague's warranty has now been reactivated but only after taking the matter up with Vauxhall Head office Customer Services!

*What is a genuine part?  Clarification by Chris Small of Mill Auto Supplies who wrote to us after this article was first published:

As long as “Original Equipment Matching Quality” parts are used in accordance with European Block Exemption regulations, the vehicle’s warranty will remain unaffected. All parts manufacturers that comply with these regulations issue a certificate to their distributors (which is also available to the customer) known as a “Statement of Quality”. This guarantees that their products meet the required standard. Here are a couple of examples that are hosted on our own website:



It’s worth noting that many parts manufacturers supply to both the vehicle assembler and the aftermarket. So the part you get in the box from a Motor Factor, is often what you get in the box from the main dealer.

The independent aftermarket in the UK have work tirelessly to protect and promote these regulations in order to offer the consumer maximum flexibility and choice, and to safeguard the employment of the thousands of people that work within this industry.