Steps to Take When a Dealership Refuses to Honor a Vehicle Warranty

Car ownership comes with its challenges, especially when dealing with warranty disputes.

If you find yourself in a situation where a dealership refuses to cover a vehicle problem under warranty, here are comprehensive steps and legal insights to navigate the issue effectively.

Dealership Refuses to Honor a Vehicle Warranty

Step 1: Stay Calm and Communicate Effectively

  • Politeness is Key: Approach the situation calmly and respectfully. Aggressive behavior rarely yields positive results.
  • Speak with a Manager: If the initial service agent is unhelpful, request to speak with a supervisor or manager at the dealership.

Step 2: Leverage Your Loyalty

  • Mention Your Brand Loyalty: If you have been a long-time customer of the dealership or have bought multiple vehicles of the same brand, mention this. However, remember that your past business has limits in swaying the decision.

Step 3: Do Your Research

  • Educate Yourself: Search online to see if others have faced similar issues with your vehicle model. Look for any technical service bulletins (TSBs) or service bulletins related to your problem.
  • Contact Manufacturer’s Customer Advocacy Line: Reach out to the automaker’s customer service for assistance. Explain your situation and ask for help without framing it as a conflict.

Step 4: Understand Possible Outcomes

  • Variety of Manufacturer Responses: The manufacturer might cover the full cost, offer to pay partially, or refuse support. Consider partial support as a win in ambiguous situations.
  • Always Save Your Receipts: Keep all maintenance and repair receipts. They are crucial in warranty disputes and might be useful for refunds if the manufacturer later acknowledges the issue.

Step 5: Know Your Legal Rights and Steps

  • Request Denial in Writing: If your claim is denied, ask for the reason in writing. Provide supporting documentation like repair records to dispute the denial.
  • Consider a Second Opinion: Take your vehicle to another authorized dealer for an assessment.
  • Contact the Vehicle Manufacturer: If the dealership is uncooperative, contact the manufacturer's warranty department directly.
  • Lemon Laws: For new vehicles with persistent problems, check if your state has lemon laws that offer additional protections.

Step 6: Explore State and Federal Consumer Protection Programs

  • State Programs: Many states have programs to assist with automotive issues, offering mediation for dealer disputes.
  • Federal Trade Commission (FTC): You can file a complaint with the FTC, which enforces automobile warranty laws.
  • Legal Action: If all else fails, consider legal action. Be aware of any pre-litigation requirements, like filing a complaint with an administrative agency.

Understanding the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act

  • Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act: This federal law provides remedies to consumers for manufacturers' failure to honor warranties. It covers both express and implied warranties.
  • Key Requirements: To prevail under this act, you must demonstrate a valid warranty, that the product was presented for repair within the warranty period, and the manufacturer failed to conform the product to the warranty terms.
  • Damage Measure: Damages are calculated based on the difference between the value of the goods as accepted and as warranted.

In 2022, the small vehicle industry in the United States paid a record high of $9.42 billion in warranty claims, a 17% increase from the previous year. This was the first time the total exceeded $9 billion.


Major contributors to this total were Ford, General Motors (GM), and Tesla, which together paid out $9.07 billion in claims. Ford alone paid $4.17 billion, while GM paid $4.10 billion, with significant increases from the previous year partly due to ongoing recalls.

Common Reasons for Car Warranty Claim Denials

Reason for Denial Description
Coverage Limitations Denied if the part/component isn't listed under warranty, common with powertrain coverage excluding suspension parts.
Vehicle Misuse Denied for prohibited uses like racing, off-roading, or exceeding towing limits.
Unauthorized Modifications Modifications not disclosed/approved can lead to denial (e.g., oversized rims, altered exhaust systems).
External Damage Damages from natural disasters or road hazards, to be claimed through auto insurance.
Branded Titles Vehicles with branded/salvaged titles due to significant damage are often ineligible for coverage.
Odometer Tampering Inconsistencies in mileage reports can lead to denial.
Recommended Repairs Claims for parts that might fail in the future or for non-failed components are usually denied.
Unauthorized Repairs Repairs completed without prior policy administrator authorization can result in denial.
Lack of Maintenance Failure to follow manufacturer's maintenance guidelines can lead to denial.
Pre-Existing Conditions Parts failing before the purchase or during the validation period of the warranty can cause denial.
Continued Operation After Damage Operating the vehicle after identifying a problem, leading to further damage, results in denial.
Non-Compliance with Contract Not adhering to the auto warranty contract terms and conditions.
Use of Non-OEM Parts Aftermarket parts causing damage can result in claim denial.
Performance Parts Installation Indicates potential vehicle racing or abuse, leading to denial.
Unreliable Warranty Source Claims from warranties purchased from unreliable sources are likely to be denied.
Natural Disasters Damage from events like fires and floods generally voids warranties, leading to denied claims.

Truth is, navigating a warranty dispute requires a combination of effective communication, thorough research, understanding of your legal rights, and sometimes, legal action. Remember to document all interactions and keep all relevant receipts and records. If you face persistent issues or the situation escalates, seeking legal advice might be necessary.

When seeking legal assistance for denied warranty work, it's crucial to act promptly, as there may be time-sensitive statutes of limitations. These laws set deadlines for filing lawsuits, and the period varies depending on the jurisdiction and the specifics of the case. Generally, the clock starts ticking from the date the issue arises or when it is discovered. Delaying legal action can result in losing the right to sue. Therefore, if your warranty claim is denied and you have exhausted all other remedies, it's advisable to consult with a lawyer as soon as possible to understand your legal options and ensure timely action within these legal time frames.

Need help navigating your warranty claim?

Reach out to us with a message, and our team at MyCarVoice might be able to offer you the help you need.

"*" indicates required fields

I agree to receive marketing emails and understand that I can unsubscribe at any time.
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.