What is a warranty worth? Good question. It’s like auto insurance; you really don’t know the quality of your insurance agent or insurance company until you have a claim. Until that day it’s just another expense. Well with auto repair it’s kind of the same thing, but a shop’s warranty says a lot about how much they believe in the quality of their repairs too.
Let’s think about a typical scenario we see frequently. A vehicle has a failed alternator. Often times this occurs between 100,000 and 150,000 miles. The repair shop offers a 12 month or 12,000 mile warranty on the repair. The question then becomes, shouldn’t the replacement alternator last as long as or longer than the original one?
That’s a good question. Let’s examine why it may not last and how it could.
Most items that fail on vehicles still have a maintenance service that goes along with the mechanical part. Proper routine maintenance service can and will prolong the life of the affected component. In the example of the alternator, the maintenance item is the battery and battery connections. When the battery gets weak or is replaced with a cheap quality replacement, the electrical system is stressed requiring the alternator to work harder ultimately resulting in premature failure. A properly trained technician will know this and recommend replacement of the battery if it is old or weak to prevent premature alternator failures.
When the maintenance is performed at the time of repair, often times the component being replaced will radically outlive the original one as long as quality parts are being used. Typically shops that operate using top notch certified technicians, quality parts and performing maintenance to prevent future failures have a much higher warranty too. Why not 3 years or 36,000 miles same as when the vehicle was new? Well there are shops that provide these kinds of warranties because they know the repair is good for a much longer period.
So when should maintenance recommendations take place? Each time the vehicle has an oil service would be ideal. This usually occurs between 4 and 6 months for the average vehicle. Unfortunately many people are using the convenient quick service outlets for their oil services instead of certified technicians. The end result is that proper maintenance is not recommended until it is too late. This cost’s the motoring public Billions each year in premature failures and the repair costs associated with them. Don’t let this be you.
How do you avoid these costly mistakes? First find a highly respectable garage in your area. Interview them to make sure they have certified technicians who attend regular continued education classes. Make sure they have a process in place to perform maintenance inspections on your vehicle at each service. This process should include a written report as to the condition of the vehicle including major fluid samples and test results. Often these inspections are free. It may seem like a hassle, but it could save you many thousands in repair costs over the life of the vehicle. More importantly you will have peace of mind that your family vehicle is safe and reliable.
Jeff Bain, AAM
ASE Certified Master Technician