Car Tech 101: What you need to know about modifying your car
Cooley On Cars
We start with the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975.
It basically says you have freedom to choose where your car is worked on and what brands of parts, materials and fluids are used.
This applies to aftermarket parts, parts that improve performance and remanufactured parts.
Now beyond repairs, you're free to get your routine maintenance down anywhere as long as it follows factory intervals with substantially equivalent parts, materials and fluids.
Now, the gotchas.
If the repair is done poorly using lousy parts or incorrect fluids You can be denied warranty service on that part of the vehicle and any other parts of the car.
That might be damaged down stream.
The Onus is on the factory and dealer to prove that your nondealer repair caused the issue.
The dealer can charge you diagnostic fees while they dig into your car to prove that your nondealer repair Repairs caused a problem.
And when the factory is providing free service, like during a recall, they can direct which shop does that work.
Now quick reality check, if you show up at the dealer all of sudden one day out of the clear blue asking for a pricey warranty repair, and you've never been in there for maintenance, be sure you're carrying with you a tiny, thick meticulous folder of receipts and procedures.
They're gonna deny you You like Steve Jobs' daughter.
Also know that today, dealer service records are typically stored on networks that all the dealerships of that brand have access to.
Next up is CPE coverage.
This is customer provided equipment.
Things like running boards, custom tire wheel combos, trick suspension or exhaust, upgraded audio gear, even a custom paint job.
All this can fall under CPE.
That you likely have a base level of coverage for this kind of gear in your policy, perhaps a thousand dollars or so under comp and under collision, which, by the way, covers permanently installed equipment.
Not your smart phone claimed as a nav system because you use it that way once in a while in the car.
Custom equipment that is dealer installed is probably covered under your normal limits, not CPE.
You may wanna add additional CPE coverage to have your add ons fully covered.
Most insurance companies are happy to sell that to you, but of course at an additional premium cost.
Then there's the DMCA and your car.
This is the digital millennium copyright act.
Goes back to 1998.
A wide ranging piece of legislation that really isn't about cars.
But it does apply to vehicles in that they have electronics that contain software and that is proprietary intellectual property of the car maker.
A typical bone of contention when someone chips their car with new powertrain management firmware to get more power out of it.
That may also increase emissions Of which said owner may avoid detection by flashing the car back to the factory setting temporarily when they go to get a smog test.
Now the latest move in this area came in November 2015 when the US Copyright office declared that it is legal under DMCA To modify the code in your car, so long as it doesn't do so in a way that increases emissions.
This is roughly analogous to earlier rulings that made it legal to jailbreak your phone, so it could be used on other carriers than the one you bought it from.
However, there could be a Magnuson Moss intersection here.
If you mode your car and that causes damage Say sending too much power to the transmission.
It could put you out of warranty even though it was legal under DMCA to make the changes in the first place.
And don;t take for granted that the dealer's diagnostic gear is going to be fooled if you flashed you car in a way that damaged it and then flashed it back, thinking you left no trace.
Now I've just given you a lot of ammo to defend your car's warranty, but here are some ways to end up out of pocket real fast.
Some warranty killers: buy a salvage title or totaled car, that includes one that has flood records.
So before you buy used, title search three ways.
A commercial VIN check site, the government's NMBTIF site, and the NICB title check site run by the insurance industry.
Race it, even vehicles that are shown turning around in track in TV commercials are not covered if you do that.
There are even a [UNKNOWN] tales of dealing monitoring auto cross club websites.
To record license plate numbers for future warranty denial.
tampering with the odometer.
A huge no no.
If the factory or dealing cannot b competent with the car's mileage.
They have no way to know if your in warranty or not, and all bets are off.
Plus you've just broken state law, so the dealer's gonna feel pretty good about telling you to lump it and take it up with the DA if you're unhappy.
And as we mentioned earlier, aftermarket parts, if they are shown by the factory or dealer to have screwed up some part of your car.
In the end it comes down to a fairly simple set of rules.
Take care of your car, document that you've done so, and don't let maintenance slide.
Deferred maintenance can create a rat snap, Of layered problems in your vehicle which can make it harder for all parties to figure out who's on the hook to fix what because it's not so easy to figure out where one problem ends and the next one begins.
More Car Tech Venus Divide at CNETOnCars.com.
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