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What you need to know about new car warranties and proper maintenance

When you buy a new car you, are sold a fantasy. The fantasy is that the manufacturer's warranty will save you lots of unpleasant expenditure and keep the car in good shape. To an extent, the warranty keeps its promise as you enjoy a trouble-free driving experience for three, four or five years. The trouble is that when the warranty expires, you may have a problem, and you may be surprised at the true condition of your car.

When your vehicle's manufacturer's warranty expires, you may be in for a surprise!

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The difference between warranty maintenance and maintenance derived from routine inspections by a qualified service technician

A manufacturer's warranty is a contract for replacement of major components, at no cost to the vehicle owner, only if they fail before the warranty expires. The terms of the warranty stipulate a minimum service by mileage or time that must be undertaken in order for it to be honoured - and not necessarily a moment longer.

Proper maintenance entails a proactive approach that helps prolong the life of all components and wards off major breakdowns, by routinely inspecting and adjusting the nature and timing of services, depending on how the vehicle is used and driven. A proper maintenance program may vary greatly from the manufacturer's warranty maintenance program that has only minimum service requirements and doesn't take into account many factors such as driving conditions, environment, driving style and usage, which all impact wear and tear in different ways. Also, by building a good relationship with your garage through a proper maintenance program you will be kept informed as to what is likely to be needed, in terms of maintenance, replacement parts and repair, in the future. This allows you to plan expenditure and gives you peace of mind.

The manufacturer's sales process is designed to encourage every new car buyer to buy a new vehicle every three to five years. If you were a manufacturer, wouldn't you want that? It's time to take the blinders off and understand what a warranty is designed for and what true maintenance is. They are not the same.

The new car warranty is designed to ensure that you buy a new car after three to five years with you, the owner, having little or no say in the matter. Proactive maintenance is designed to put you in control of your choices, and give you the opportunity to not only keep a car running in near-new condition for twenty years, if that's what you want, but to be able to sell it in good condition, at a good price, when you decide to part company with it. Not only that, but proactive maintenance is also the responsible choice, as you would be doing all you can to ensure the safety of the vehicle. Look at it this way, if you owned a commercial airliner, you would have no choice but to maintain it properly and proactively. Why would that be different for a motor vehicle? After all, you are taking the lives of yourself and others into your hands, every time you drive one.

The new car warranty is designed so you buy a new car after 3 - 5 years, with you having little or no say in the matter

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Beware the seemingly cheap deal

Doing proper maintenance can cost more in the short term, but it can save you thousands over the lifetime of your vehicle. (See our Real Cost Calculator for a sample explanation of how that could work for you). And it allows you to know your car better and drive with confidence.

Naturally, everyone wants the best possible maintenance deal, and the cheapest option often seems to be the most attractive. But this isn't necessarily so. Many repair shops and quick oil change companies, for instance, pander to this desire for cheap options. Some businesses are fearful of losing customers, and don't have the courage to tell customers what it really costs to keep a car reliable and safe. The customer always loses out in the long run. Here's why.

Some businesses fear losing customers, and won't tell the real cost of keeping a car reliable & safe

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If you get, for instance, a cheap oil change, you'll get just that. You may be pleased to have got a mundane task out of the way easily and at low cost. But you will be none the wiser about the true condition of your vehicle and if it is safe and reliable.

Proactive maintenance is more cost-effective, and gives you peace of mind

If you ask The Garage to do an oil change, it's very different. We look further than the oil change and not only make sure that your car is safe to drive, but also inform you of what may need fixing or replacing, and when. We do a visual inspection of your car and we will, for instance, let you know the condition of your air filters; let you know if we see any seepage of fluids; check to see if your brakes are in good working order and measure their wear; look at the steering etc. We email you pictures and a condition inspection report so you can see for yourself what needs attention and you can make choices as to when you would like to address any concerns. You will be able to see what is urgent and what can be left for a while and dealt with later. If you have questions about any technical aspect, you can talk directly to the technician who works on your vehicle.

In this way, you have peace of mind as you truly know the condition of your vehicle at all times, and you have a direct relationship with the person who looks after it for you and understands how you use your car. That's important because different types of usage have different effects on cars. Even under-usage can cause problems (see EGR valve failure in this blog, for instance). You also know when to expect to make another visit, so you can plan your time better. And you don't get nasty surprises when something breaks that you could have been alerted to previously through our process.

A cookie-cutter maintenance schedule that satisfies a manufacturer's warranty cannot and does not take any of this into account. Therefore, when the warranty is about to expire and it is time to make a decision to keep or sell the car, there can be some unpleasant surprises. After five years, a lot can have gone wrong with a car, but because dashboard warning lights are not necessarily flashing, the owner has no idea of the true condition of their vehicle. Modern vehicles are extremely complex, with computers that mask wear and tear until it needs urgent attention. That wear and tear is, nevertheless, always happening. It is only by having a good, trusting relationship with a qualified auto technician, that a vehicle owner can truly enjoy trouble-free motoring for many years, and have an informed understanding of the true condition of their vehicle throughout the time they own it.

New car? No problem

Many people don't realize that an independent shop like The Garage is fully qualified to manage the manufacturer's warranty on a brand new vehicle, without it being voided. Many of our customers choose to bring their brand new cars to us, knowing that, in the long term, they will have a safe, reliable and stress-free relationship with their vehicle and an honest and trusting relationship with a service technician for many years to come.

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Ronald Tremblay

Ronald Tremblay is the owner of The Garage, a fourth-generation family business in Vancouver, BC, specializing in vehicle maintenance and repair. Clients of The Garage enjoy a high-level of service whereby lifestyle and usage of their vehicles inform the service schedule and they are fully informed about the status of their vehicles. In this way clients can make empowered decisions, control their budget and save real money as the the life of their vehicle is extended long past the manufacturer's warranty expectations.

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