Educating Consumers on Their New Car Warranty Rights

Posted by Aaron Lowe on June 02, 2014

Consumer Reports (CR) recently published a blog that appeared on several prominent websites, including Yahoo, warning motorists against using non-original equipment oil filters on Kia produced vehicles. In the posting, CR cites a technical service bulletin (TSB) issued by Kia that states: “Customer concerns as a result of incorrect oil viscosity or use of aftermarket oil filter should not be treated as a warranty repair and any related damage is not warrantable, nor is changing engine oil and filter to isolate this condition.” CR recommends to its readers that:


  1. When dropping your car off for service, make sure you don't authorize the dealer to perform repairs without speaking with you first. This way you won’t get a surprise bill for an oil and filter change.
  2. If your Kia is still under the powertrain warranty, considering taking it to the dealer for oil changes. Yes, it probably costs more than the quick-lube store, but you’ll avoid any potential problems with oil- and filter-related warranty claims.
  3. Consider buying Kia-approved oil filters and either using them when you do your own oil changes, or have your mechanic or quick-lube store use the Kia filter and not their own.


Lost in the Consumer Reports article or the Kia TSB is the fact that the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act specifically prohibits the conditioning of a new car warranty on the use of an original equipment part or service. Put another way, the use of a non-original equipment part on a vehicle cannot by itself be used by the car company or dealer to deny warranty coverage. Further, the act places the onus on the vehicle manufacturer not the consumer, to demonstrate why the use of the non-OE part caused the problem which resulted in the need for a warranty repair.


Kia’s directives circumvent this process entirely: the mere presence of an aftermarket oil filter automatically voids warranty coverage for the oil change parts and services, as well as any damage Kia says “relates” to oil filter function. Making matters worse, Consumer Reports jumped on the bandwagon, urging consumers to adhere to the anti-consumer and anti-competitive TSB from Kia.


The Auto Care Association along with the Automotive Oil Change Association, Tire Industry Association and Service Station Dealers of America sent a letter in May to the FTC urging them to force Kia to withdraw the TSB and to issue a statement that use of aftermarket filters will not void a new car warranty. The groups further have called on CR to issue a correction to its readers on this issue. You can find copies of the letters on the Auto Care Association website.


Of course, Kia is not the only vehicle manufacturer to issue statements which mislead or scare consumers into thinking that use of a non-original equipment part or service will violate their new car warranty. Further, we constantly receive phone calls from repair shops and even consumers from time to time complaining that a dealer refused warranty coverage for a vehicle issue simply because the car owner patronized a non-dealer for maintenance. In most cases, the car owner gets caught in the middle between the dealer or manufacturer and the independent service shop. Often the independent takes the hit and pays for the repair fearing they will lose the business of their customer.


The auto care industry must take action to understand the current law and to educate their customers that car companies and their authorized dealers on the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act and car owner’s warranty rights under the law. A great resource for both industry and consumers can be found on the FTC website: http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0138-auto-warranties-routine-maintenance. The industry also should let us know if you or your customers are subject to misinformation or warranty threats by the dealer or vehicle manufacturer. Please email information on any warranty related issues to Aaron Lowe at aaron.lowe@autocare.org.