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Is my warranty void if someone other than dealer repairs my car?

It's a great feeling when your car is under warranty. A warranty is a manufacturer's promise to stand behind its product -- or as much of it is covered by the warranty. Vehicle warranties are often limited to the power train or limited in other ways.

One limitation automakers can't place on their warranty is a restriction on who can perform any needed repairs. Attempting to void a warranty or deny coverage because someone other than the dealer performed the repairs is illegal under the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. Any shop or mechanic -- or you -- can perform routine maintenance and repairs on your vehicle without voiding the warranty.

Naturally, there are some limitations. Not every repair may be covered by your warranty. Also, if the warranty service is to be performed free of charge to you, the manufacturer can require you to go to a dealership or a specified repair shop.

What happens if a non-dealer repair shop damages my vehicle?

Suppose a mechanic performs a warranty service incorrectly and damages your car. That wouldn't void your warranty, but the damage from the improper service wouldn't be covered. The manufacturer or dealer would, however, have to prove that the mechanic's mistake caused the damage in order to deny you warranty coverage. The mechanic who damaged your vehicle may be liable for repairing it.

Does using aftermarket or recycled parts void the warranty?

No. The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act prohibits denying warranty coverage or claiming a warranty is void because you used an aftermarket (manufactured by someone other than the original equipment manufacturer) or recycled part.

Again, if the warranty service is free to you, your dealer or automaker can require you to use the parts they select. And, your warranty won't cover damage that a defective or improperly-installed part causes, although it is up to the dealer or automaker to show the damage was caused by the part. The shop that installed the aftermarket or recycled part may be liable for the damage.

Tips on making the most of your warranties

Read your warranty and understand what it covers. It's typically in the "owners" section of the automaker's website or bundled with your owner's manual.

Anticipate the end of the warranty. Get any potential issues checked out before the warranty expires.

Keep all your service records and receipts. If your manufacturer's warranty won't cover an issue, a shop's or mechanic's warranty might, but you may need the receipt to make a claim.

Do the routine maintenance recommended in your owner's manual. It's a good idea and it can help you avoid warranty disputes.

Have a dispute? Consider contacting a consumer protection attorney.

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