Norman Taylor & Associates we see many cases where the vehicle owner’s modifications have created
serious warranty problems after purchase. In some cases, modifications
have disqualified consumers from seeking recourse under the
California Lemon Law. There are three categories of modification that come immediately to mind.
- Lift kits installed on pickup trucks and 4-wheel drive vehicles
- Electrical/electronic modifications to entertainment/communication systems
- Trucks and cars with other than original tires and rims
Mechanical & Electrical Issues
Let’s talk about lifts on trucks first. Getting everything to align
will take some skill and patience, and these are just the mechanical problems.
Before you even consider these installations, think about how the all
the suspension components fit together, even the slightest variance may
cause serious damage and uneven wear. Some installations may include features
that adjust the vehicle’s ride height electronically. These additions
may conflict with electronic and or software components within the vehicle.
Let’s briefly discuss electronic media systems, these include sound
systems, blue tooth systems, lighting systems, and much more. Inevitably
the installer will need to power these components and often times this
may include tying it in to the existing wiring system often referred to
as “splicing.” Some of the fellows who do this work are very
skilled and you’d be hard put to tell the difference. Other third
party installers may do very poor work. You cannot assume that the
manufacturer always makes these modifications prior to the sale, and therefore you
cannot assume you have any warranty coverage at all. When the dealer installs
certain items, it is highly likely that a third party to which they may
sublet the vehicle to installs these items. Note: most dealerships use
a variety of third party companies to perform tasks they have neither
the time nor equipment to perform. Upholstery is a good example.
Finally, it is not uncommon at all for people buying a new car; especially
those buying a sporty model to ask for fancy rims and wider ones perhaps.
Some vehicles will come equipped with modified rims and tires. What the
seller usually will not discuss is the potential risk to the basic alignment
or unusual wear to the tires. Some buyers make the purchase and these
modifications are undetected.
For all of these examples, the sales person at the dealership very rarely
volunteers anything about warranty coverage and how it is affected by
modifications. If you do ask whether your warranty will be affected or
voided, especially before you have purchased the vehicle, they will usually
promise that there will be no affect whatsoever so they can close the
deal. Seldom do they provide this promise in writing.
What Manufacturers Say
Here are a few relevant warranty statements from the
2011 Ford New Vehicle Limited Warranty. The section called “What is not covered under the New Vehicle Limited
Warranty?’ states damage caused by alteration or modifications are
not covered. Examples include the following:
alterations or modifications of the vehicle, including the body, chassis,
after the vehicle leaves the control of Ford Motor Company (emphasis added)
- tampering with the vehicle, tampering with the emissions systems or with
the other parts that affect these systems (for example, but not limited
to exhaust and intake systems)
the installation or use of a
non-Ford Motor Company part (emphasis added) other than a certified emissions part) or any part (Ford
or non-Ford) designed for off-road use only installed
after the vehicle leaves the control of Ford Motor Company, (emphasis added) if the installed part fails or causes a Ford part to fail.
Examples include, but are not limited to lift kits, oversized tires, roll
bars, cellular phones, alarm systems, (emphasis added) automatic starting systems and performance-enhancing
powertrain components or software and performance ‘‘chips’’
This is just an example of a typical warranty exclusion. What’s the
bottom line here? If your salesperson promises you that your modifications/upgrades
are covered by warranty, realize that there is serious risk to you. Remember,
most manufacturers’ warranties were carefully prepared; with regard
to the California Lemon Law it may not matter what the dealer
TELLS you, usually it’s what’s in writing that counts.