Before prejudicing your warranty – make an informed choice

Posted on September 27th, 2011 by Rob Marshall

With our country’s fiscal and financial belt-tightening continuing, motorists appear to be more proactive in cutting their motoring costs than ever before and I have been approached by an increasing number of GEM Motoring Assist members, who are looking for advice on how this can be achieved, while avoiding measures that would result in either false-economy or prejudicing the safety of their vehicles.

While I welcome any decision to open up the marketplace and encourage competition, in the arena of car repairs and servicing, in particular, I find it intriguing that a new organisation, Right To Choose (R2C) has sprung-up, shortly after the European Block Exemption laws had been overhauled. Established by aftermarket parts suppliers and repairers, R2C’s aim is to widen public awareness about warranty claims against car manufacturers that might otherwise be rejected automatically, were the owner to have his (or her) new or nearly-new vehicle serviced at a non-franchise outlet.

The organisation highlights that many people are still unaware of this and that, as of June 2010, European competition rules have ensured that a car manufacturer cannot make a warranty conditional on all servicing and maintenance tasks being performed at a franchised dealer’s workshop. R2C argues that the introduction of the latest statute means that motorists can shop around for the most competitive prices and convenient locations for servicing their cars.

However, imagine that you are the car manufacturer. Would you honour a warranty of at least three years (or more) duration, if you were unsure that the correct maintenance procedures were being carried out? It would be unlikely. Therefore, if a warranty claim is raised and the car had been serviced outside of the dealer network, it is reasonable that a warranty provider could insist that the owner proves that the car has been serviced according to the manufacturer’s schedule and using the correct parts and lubricants. Therefore, if you have your car serviced elsewhere, ensure that the correct procedures are followed and that the garage documents all work performed carefully.

A further issue is that, just as some home computers require the occasional software update in order to correct certain ‘bugs’, the same is true of the many ECUs that a modern motor car contains. In the franchised dealership’s workshop, minor software flaws tend to be corrected, when the car arrives for a service. This saves the manufacturer the expense of issuing an expensive recall, when recalls are only really necessary for serious faults.

It is possible that either car manufacturers do not share sufficient information to the independent repairer or that many aftermarket workshops do not have the equipment necessary to download and apply these updates to every car model. Therefore, should you decide to have your new or nearly-new car serviced by an independent garage, you might wish to enquire at your local dealership, if your car is due for any ‘updates’.

Therefore, if you do choose to venture from main dealer servicing for a car model that remains within its warranty period, ensure that you make an informed choice and be aware of any potential consequences to your actions.


Before prejudicing your warranty – make an informed choice

The rules, referred to above, are the new European Regulation 461/2010 (Motor Vehicle Block Exemption). The new Regulation contains a list of restrictions applicable to the motor vehicle aftermarket – specifically repair, maintenance and the sale of spare parts – which came into force on 1st June 2010.

In order to retain the vehicle warranty, the car manufacturer’s service schedule must be adhered to and full records of the vehicle’s service history must be retained by the owner, including details of any parts fitted or consumables, even such as lubricating oil or engine coolant, to refute any allegation by a dealer that the warranty has been invalidated.

Dealers cannot tell motorists automatically that servicing vehicles outside of their official dealer network has invalidated their warranties.