Welcome to Goof of the Month! Every month, we ask for stories from our technician pals which highlight the need to understand one’s vehicle, how to maintain it, and how it works.
This month’s story comes to us from John Kennard, an automotive technician in Mississauga, Ontario, who works at a popular used car dealership. His story illustrates the importance of maintaining your vehicle, in this case, to maintain your warranty in good standing.
Kennard recounts the case of a customer who bought a used Nissan Rogue from his dealership as well as an extended warranty add-on which they eventually needed to use.
“The customer bought a 2011 Nissan Rogue, and decided to add a used vehicle warranty package which we sell optionally, for an extra cost,” Kennard says.
Many used car shoppers purchase extended warranty coverage from an independent warranty provider through their used car dealer, adding confidence and peace of mind to their used vehicle purchase.
“These warranty packages are popular. The shopper can scale the cost and coverage of the warranty to fit their needs, and we can add it to most of the used cars we sell. Many of our customers service their cars here too, and some need to make warranty claims from time to time. Usually, we deal with the warranty provider directly. It’s an easy process.”
But, there’s a catch. Sort of.
Like all automotive warranties, whether factory or aftermarket, this add-on warranty coverage requires the vehicle’s owner to stay on top of vehicle maintenance, specifically fluid changes, which include oil changes. The owner is required to change their vehicle’s oil on time, and forward supporting documentation to the warranty provider for record-keeping.
“It’s like any warranty,” says Kennard. “Whether you buy a new Audi at the dealership, or a used Nissan from a dealer like us and add the warranty for an extra cost, you’ve got to adhere to certain simple maintenance requirements to keep the warranty active.”
The customer of the Nissan Rogue in question failed to do this, and they paid dearly for it.
When the Rogue was brought in to be checked out for an unusual noise a little over a year after its purchase, Kennard did some investigation.
“The Rogue came back in, probably 12 or 13 months later, because the customer was hearing an unusual noise from the front end from time to time. I had a look on my hoist, and determined that it needed a new front axle. This isn’t an uncommon problem, or a particularly big deal. So, I advised the customer of the cost of the repair, to the tune of a few hundred dollars, and confirmed that this work was covered by the warranty package they purchased with the vehicle.”
But Kennard had made an assumption that the customer’s warranty was still in good standing; as it turns out, it was not.
With the particular warranty company in question, often the mechanic or shop determines the source of the problem, then calls the warranty provider on behalf of the customer to have the repairs authorized.
During that call, Kennard was informed that the customer’s warranty was void. The reason? The customer hadn’t had the vehicle’s oil changed since its purchase, meaning that the supporting documentation required to keep the warranty valid was never sent in, and thus the warranty was no longer in effect.
The customer tried to blame Kennard and the dealer for not reminding them of the oil change intervals, and cited numerous excuses as to why the oil was never changed. They pleaded with the warranty company too – having now realized that the roughly $500 axle replacement bill wouldn’t be covered, and that they’d also spent over $1,000 on warranty coverage that was now void.
The rule? Every six months or 10,000 kilometres (whichever comes first), an oil change must be completed. But in this case, the customer had driven for over a year, and put just over 20,000 kilometres on the vehicle – therefore missing two oil changes in the process. Interestingly, the warranty provider even offers a short grace period for oil changes, understanding that sometimes, having one done right on schedule can be difficult.
“We got blasted,” Kennard recalls. “This customer was irate. She had family members call us. Things got pretty nasty. The customer accused us of being scam artists, and selling bogus warranty products. Thing is, this warranty coverage is totally legit and easy to deal with, and the warranty documentation even outlines the oil change requirements, in a big red box, right at the top of the form. I wonder if they even read it.”
Throwing a $1,000 warranty package out the window is only one part of the equation here. Missing two oil changes is another. In this case, failing to adhere to a simple warranty condition cost this customer no less than $1,500, not to mention any associated engine damage or reduced engine life that comes from skipping multiple oil changes. But the big takeaway? If you buy an extended warranty, be sure to carefully read the documentation.
“This was an expensive mistake,” Kennard says. “Going this long without an oil change is just plain stupid on most vehicles, and even more stupid when it wipes out an expensive warranty product in the process. The warranty package this customer chose was top-of-the-line. It would have cost over $1,000. It’s a shame they wasted it.”
To sum up: even if your repair isn’t affected by oil changes, not doing them voids your warranty and your repair won’t be covered.