If you’ve ever changed or modified your new vehicle, you might have been warned that these changes could effect your warranty coverage. For instance, some people believe that adding a simple performance part (like a custom exhaust or after market air intake) will somehow endanger your warranty. However, in my years of experience in the car business, I can tell you this is rarely true. In fact, federal law prohibits auto manufacturers from denying warranty claims in most cases. Adding after market parts to your new car shouldn’t effect your warranty (within reason, of course).
There are a couple basic rules of thumb when it comes to determining how an after-market part might effect your warranty.
- First, does the part substantially alter the function of your vehicle?
- Second, if the part is removed, can the vehicle be returned to the way it was before?
If the answer to either of these questions is yes, than the part you’re considering will effect your warranty somehow. It’s also important to note that any after market part that’s not designed for your vehicle or improperly installed could definitely hurt your warranty. So, if you’re not sure how to install a part (or if you’re trying to rig something together), it might be wise to get some professional help.
Here’s a list of after-market parts that won’t hurt your warranty:
Most exterior “dress-up” parts: Bug shields, chrome grille guards, spoilers, or any other part that effects the appearance of your car only should NOT impact your warranty. The same goes for bed liners, tool boxes, roof racks, tonneau covers, and the like.
After market wheels: Provided they’re sized, mounted, and balanced correctly, they will not effect your warranty. Get professional help when selecting wheels and you should avoid any problems.
Custom exhaust systems: Provided the custom exhaust is “cat-back” (behind the catalytic converter), you’ve got nothing to worry about.
After market air intakes: Adding a new air intake to your car or truck will not effect your warranty, provided it is designed for your vehicle and installed properly. Stick with name brands (like K&N, aFe, AEM, AirRaid, etc.) and you’re good to go.
Consumer electronics: Adding an after market stereo, satellite radio, DVD player, radar detector, speakers, or any other normal consumer appliance to your vehicle will not effect your warranty, provided that it’s designed for vehicle use and professionally installed.
Work equipment: Adding normal work equipment to a vehicle – like installing a winch, a special tow hitch, a hydraulic lift, or snow plow will not effect your warranty provided it is designed for your particular vehicle and professionally installed.
Here’s a list of after-market parts that could hurt your warranty:
Suspension modifications: Installing new springs or spacers to drop or raise a vehicle does not substantially alter the geometry of the suspension system, so in most cases the warranty is in effect. However, dramatic changes to the suspension system – like raising or lowering a vehicle more than a couple of inches – could effect the warranty. The best advice here is to make sure whatever change you make to your suspension is reversible.
Performance computer chips and programmers: As long as your new computer chip or program is 100% removable, you’re OK. However, some older vehicles require you to crack open the vehicle’s ECU to install a new chip. If you have to open up something that should be sealed (like a computer), your warranty is probably going to be effected.
Here’s a list of after-market parts that will hurt your warranty:
Turbocharger or Supercharger: Adding an after market turbocharger or supercharger to your car is a great way to go fast, but you can kiss your factory powertrain warranty goodbye if you install one. The good news is that some manufacturers (like Ford Racing, TRD, Mopar, etc.) offer their own after-market units that come with their own warranty.
Nitrous Oxide: The movie “Fast and Furious” made nitrous oxide look cool, but the truth is it’s a great way to destroy an engine if it isn’t used properly. Unless you’re serious about drag racing, it’s probably best to stay away from this system as most manufacturers will deny warranty claims out of hand on vehicles with nitrous.
Racing Modifications: Adding a roll cage, a special racing seat or safety belt harness, and even something as innocuous as a fire extinguisher are all tell-tale signs that a vehicle is being used for something other than “normal” use. Most manufacturers will invalidate a vehicle’s warranty if they suspect it’s been raced, so stay away from these type of parts.
The bottom line is this – use a little bit of common sense when adding parts to your vehicle. If it’s not permanent, and if it doesn’t really effect the way your vehicle works, it’s probably just fine.