Chances are, if you’re considering making modifications to your vehicle, you’ve noticed the wealth of aftermarket parts available. While aftermarket parts may be easier to obtain, cheaper or longer-lasting than OEM, or may have the performance you desire, are you risking voiding your warranty? The answer can be a bit more complex than a yes or no.
Can Car Manufacturers Require You To Use Factory Parts?
If you look in your car’s manual, you’ll likely see the suggested OEM part – usually complete with the part number – listed as the only replacement option for most parts. Some manufacturers even go so far as to list a brand of oil, brake fluid, and antifreeze they claim you should use to maintain your car. Many people take the manufacturers at their word, and insist on manufacturer’s parts, but can the manufacturers really void your warranty for aftermarket replacement parts?
According to the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act, a federal statute put in place to govern all warranties on all products regardless of their nature, the answer to this question is no. In fact, the Act specifically states that manufacturers cannot place conditions on your warranty that require you to use any certain brand of part, including replacement auto parts. In nearly all cases, you can use parts other than the manufacturer’s brand when replacing parts.
A few exceptions exist, but rarely ever happen. For example, if the manufacturer wants to provide you with name-brand replacement parts for free, they can require you to use them – which has never happened as far as we can tell. Another exception exists when the manufacturer can prove its part is absolutely necessary – this has also almost never happened.
Are There Ever Cases In Which You Could Void Your Warranty?
Auto manufacturers cannot require you to use their parts. However, you can still void your warranty by adding aftermarket parts in an attempt to tune or modify your car and increase its performance. If you add certain high-performance parts and then your car fails, you may risk voiding your warranty; this depends on what parts you modify and where the failure occurred.
The same Magnuson Moss Warranty Act that states you do not have to pay for manufacturer’s parts also states that the manufacturer does not have to pay for repairs caused by parts that are not theirs. The key, here is that the manufacturer must prove that your aftermarket part was the source of the failure, or caused some other part of your vehicle to fail, leading to the need for repairs. If the manufacturer cannot prove this causation, it will still need to cover the repairs under your warranty.
Consider an example. Say you want to install a cold air intake to boost your diesel performance. Later on, your brakes malfunction within the warranty mileage limit. Even though you have an aftermarket part on your vehicle, the part is not related to brake function, and the warranty would cover the repairs. However, if you install that cold air intake incorrectly and suck water into your engine, you are likely looking at a repair bill your manufacturer’s warranty won’t cover.
Are There “Safe” Parts?
Since any part, including manufacturer’s parts, has the potential to fail, there really aren’t any parts guaranteed safe from voiding your warranty. However, aftermarket rims and tires tend to have relatively little effect on surrounding parts. Similarly, purely aesthetic upgrades like paint, trim, chrome, and the like won’t have much effect on the overall performance of your engine. If you want to tinker with your vehicle, consider altering these or upgrading your interior.
Alternatively, manufacturers do offer upgrade options for some parts. Many of these upgrades take place at time of purchase, but you can add some after the fact. The manufacturer can customize items like superchargers and grilles and won’t risk your warranty.
What Does This Mean For You?
In general, replacing a part with an aftermarket part will never void your entire warranty. The risk lies in voiding the warranty for any repairs made necessary by the failure of the replaced part. Also, consider that one benefit of the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act is that in addition to the freedom to replace parts with any brand, you don’t have to take the car to the dealership for routine maintenance.
Before purchasing aftermarket parts, consider which parts you’re replacing and the reason you’re replacing them. Typically, if you’re considering replacing a routine maintenance part with another identical, off-brand part, you can feel comfortable looking for the best price instead of the manufacturer’s stamp of approval. However, if you’re looking to replace a part with another to boost performance, modify, or tune, failure of that part could lead to voiding your warranty.
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