Don’t Panic! The Warranty-Voiding TSB Really Isn’t That Big of a Deal

So the big news Wednesday was that Ford issued a TSB telling its dealers how to check for aftermarket parts and/or PCM calibrations on 2011+ Mustangs. Every time something like this comes to light (and this is far from the first such bulletin from Ford or, for that matter, other OEMs), the various and sundry interweb fora erupt in dismay, and folks start trotting out the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975 and proclaiming “Ford can’t do that!”

Yes, Ford (or any other auto manufacturer) can do that. Magnuson-Moss was never intended to encompass modifications from factory specification. If you choose to modify your under-warranty automobile, you pays your moneys and you takes your chances. Muck with the PCM cal and you can expect the powertrain warranty to be void. I don’t know why people are surprised by this.

Some background: for 18-plus years, I was one of the guys at “the factory” (in fact, I worked in a succession of Herman Miller and Steelcase cubicles) who designed bits and pieces of the cars and trucks you buy and drive. One of our jobs was to look at all the warranty return parts and determine root cause of failure (if possible), so we could fix them. I’ve got time in at all of the US “Big 3” and a supplier who sold to pretty much everyone.

Back in the day, we’d get people trying to warranty the then-brand-new 4.6L 4V Cobra motors with broken piston ring lands or #7 con rod bearing pounded into mulch and the owners would deny, deny, deny, they’d had a blower and/or nitrous on it until we showed them how we knew they were lying (hint: everything attached to a car leaves a witness mark, and the OEMs know what the fasteners look like after the initial installation – and what they look like after someone’s undone/reinstalled them). Even underdrive pulleys were enough to make one of those engines cook when run hard in a hot climate — yeah, you’d get 6 hp, but you’d drop coolant flow from 58 GPM to 36 GPM at peak engine power, just as it needs all the flow it can get. Oops. Oh, and to the guy who called and asked if we could just pull those high-flow injectors and the aluminum flywheel he’d installed on the destroyed engine but forgot to remove before towing the broken car to the dealer, and ship them back to him via UPS? Yeah, not gonna happen.

But the main thing here is very simple: the manufacturer warranties the car as they produced it. Change the car, and the manufacturer is no longer responsible for the configuration of whatever you changed — you are. The Magnuson-Moss Act was not, and is not, intended to cover aftermarket parts that deviate from factory specification. Its intent then and now is to cover things like oil, filters, bulbs — common maintenance items — and preventing the OEM from requiring their captive brand of maintenance part in order to maintain warranty coverage (see §2302(c) for this section of the Act). You can use a Fram or Purolator or Mobil oil filter that’s equivalent to the OEM filter, for example. M-M does not, and has never intended that the OEM can’t void your powertrain warranty if you put a blower on it and pop the motor, or flash an aftermarket cal into the ECM that doesn’t have the OEM cal’s detonation protection strategy, leading to holes torched in piston tops.

Lots of aftermarket hot-rod companies hide behind Magnuson-Moss. They’re wrong. The better aftermarket companies warranty their product. The best warranty the downstream systems on the car from the consequences of using the product, effectively replacing the now-voided OEM warranty. They do it in writing, up front.

I ran into this all the time with the 4.6L 4V crowd, and the PowerStroke crowd. Folks just couldn’t grokk why Ford wouldn’t warranty their blowed-up engines and driveline parts after they’d increased power output by at least 50%, and often 100% or more over the stock value. They’d trot out Magnuson-Moss like it was some kind of magic shield.

Um, no.

Take a look at US Code Title 15, Chapter 50, § 2304(c). That tells you how an OEM can deny a warranty claim or outright void the related warranty, in the event of modification or abuse of the product, damage caused by the consumer, or failure of the consumer to properly maintain the product.

So why do people think it’s the OEM’s fault that their engines, transmissions, etc. cannot reliably handle power outputs well beyond the OEM power/torque rating? There’s this perception (and yes, I’m aware that perception = reality for most folks) that the OEMs (and this goes for pretty much all of them) somehow build a lot of extra power-making capacity into their engines, and “detune them” for [insurance, liability, cost-cutting, fuel-economy, emissions, some combo of the above] reasons, and all one needs to do is, say, put some bigger injectors on it and flash the ECM and voila! You’ve unlocked the hidden potential of the engine The Man doesn’t want you to have.

There’s another reason OEMs don’t sell production vehicles with engines tuned to the bleeding edge of their power capability: reliability. Let’s look at a connecting rod. You’re an OEM. There’s a core set of parts that you are required by law to warranty for as much as 15 years/150K miles (California’s PZEV warranty — and it doesn’t make economic sense to make 2 different specs of engine internals). You have a target power output that your marketing requires. Thus, the connecting rod must be able to safely manage S psi of stress from the combination of cylinder pressure and mechanical loading through N cycles without moving into the nasty part of the S-N fatigue curve. You size the connecting rod and choose its material/manufacturing process accordingly, also keeping in mind the price point marketing requires and the mass targets necessary to meet overall vehicle mass targets that effect emissions/fuel economy testing inertia weight class as well as other performance parameters. Do you see the tap-dance involved in keeping all these — and more — parameters met? The rest of the engine and driveline is specified similarly.

Now some aftermarket guy with a PC and a scan tool “unlocks the hidden power” of the engine and increases output by, say 25%. If you’re a 5.0L Coyote engine, in Boss 302 trim and with the TracKey, that’s upping the power from 444 net bhp at the flywheel to 555ish net bhp at the flywheel, and let’s say it’s at the same RPM to take that part out of the equation. How does that happen? Well, you have to make more torque at the given RPM. That means the amount of force imparted to the crankshaft by the connecting rods increases by that same proportion — in other words, the cylinder pressure increases by that amount. This increases the stress on the connecting rod, also by that same proportion. Result? Increasing the stress reduces the number of cycles that connecting rod can take before it fatigues to the point of failure. Depending on the material and design of the rod, and how close to the “knee” in the S-N curve they were to begin with, this could mean the rods only make it 80K miles, it could also mean the rods only make it 24K miles before you’d expect to see failures.

Who gets blamed when guys with blowers, nitrous, aftermarket tunes, etc., start popping the bottom ends out of their engines? Why, not the aftermarket! It’s Ford’s fault that somehow they didn’t design their engine to produce double its OEM rated output without modification.

Regarding the 2011+ Mustang and the TSB released Wednesday, and knowing what I know about the folks involved in the Coyote engine (there are SEVERAL licensed racers, ranging from SCCA and NASA types to NHRA/IHRA drag racers, involved with that engine and with the car), I’m comfortable saying there’s a reasonable margin baked into the engine — and you can see it in the Boss 302 and TracKey tunes above and beyond the base GT tune. But it’s REALLY easy for the aftermarket to exceed that margin — all it may take is a hot day, a “small” 150hp shot of nitrous, and a partially-clogged fuel filter to make it go boom.

This TSB isn’t really different from other statements issued to dealers on previous performance versions of the Mustang, or other models (PowerStroke diesels, for instance) — to be aware of aftermarket modifications that may have adversely affected the reliability of the system they’re being asked to warranty. A K&N filter element in the stock airbox or the Ford Racing cold-air kit (that’s standard on Boss and GT500 models)? No problem. PowerDyne blower? Problem, even though it’s “just a mod to the air intake”.

Anyway, even though I’m not in that business anymore, it’s frustrating that people who wouldn’t think twice about building the bottom end of their Windsor motor with quality parts to support the 15 psi of boost from the Vortech T-trim they intend to install will, at the same time, bitch about how it’s Ford’s fault they can’t double the HP of their PowerStroke tow vehicle without popping the head gasket or scattering the bottom end. And it sounds like some of those same folks are starting to do the same with Coyotes.

Folks, when you have something under warranty, and you choose to modify it for more performance, don’t expect the OEM to honor the warranty on the modified parts or systems (downstream systems included: if you mod the engine, don’t expect warranty relief on the clutch, transmission, or final drive). As I said at the beginning of the article, you pays your money and you takes your chances. And if you’re one of those who will try to pull one over on the OEM, understand that 1) you’re committing felony-level fraud, 2) the OEMs are able to figure out both hardware and software changes have happened, even if put back to stock before hauling the smoldering mass back to the dealer for the standard “I don’t know what happened, it just started running rough and making a knocking noise” claim.

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52 Responses to “Don’t Panic! The Warranty-Voiding TSB Really Isn’t That Big of a Deal”

  1. July 7, 2011 at 9:48 am #

    Excellent stuff, Jim. Should be required reading on every enthusiast forum.

    • David
      July 10, 2011 at 9:53 am #

      Enthusiast Forums, now are generally not much different then Magazines, the need for profitability is overwhelming! I stated almost the exact same thing 2 weeks ago on the S197 Forums and was banned for a week! The Aftermarket Mfgs. don’t want the hard truth to be broadcast, they would rather the Myth of the MM act covering failure due to unapproved parts live on forever!

  2. July 7, 2011 at 10:36 am #

    [TCL] …"but…. but…. but… Magnuson-Moss?!!?!?!" [/TCL]

    Smart article, shame many enthusiasts will continue to ignore the facts.

  3. Jeff Dahn
    July 7, 2011 at 12:16 pm #

    Right on, Jim. I fought the same battle at GM.

  4. July 7, 2011 at 12:27 pm #

    Very good, interesting read. People that try to pull one off amaze me. Seriously, dealers see this stuff day in and day out. You are not going to pull one over on them.

  5. July 7, 2011 at 12:51 pm #

    So funny what people think they're entitled to, warranty-wise.

    The hilarious flipside being that most OEMs have got cars dialed enough to minimize major warranty work on an unmodified powertrain.

    The grey area comes around the issue of denying warranty coverage based on how a vehicle's used. Stories of denied coverage on auto-x'ed cars or muddy Jeeps are pretty disappointing. No, OEMs aren't responsible for every foreseeable abuse of their product, but when it's built and marketed for relatively abusive applications…

    …like I said, grey.

    • July 7, 2011 at 5:30 pm #

      True enough. Because the dealer is an independent business who acts as an agent for the OEM (at least in the US), there's a lot of leeway in how some things are interpreted. In general, if you have a good relationship with the dealer, they'll not care that the Jeep is muddy, or there's a dust shadow where the magnetic class number was on the door.

      But… there's always someone trying to pull something. Back in the early 4.6L 4V Cobra days, one guy brought the busted car back to the dealer with the Vortech blower, big injectors, headers, cat-less H-pipe, NHRA 4-point rollbar, and BFG Drag Radials still on it and tried to get a warranty replacement engine. Dealer red-flagged the car's VIN in the computer system, denied him a warranty claim, and sent him on his way. He tried for *weeks* at different dealers to get a fresh engine under warranty (having removed all the tell-tales in the meantime) before someone explained the VIN was flagged.

      We also had a dealer principal in a SW state putting blowers on dealer-stock cars and trying to push warranty claims through for his customers — about the 6th or 7th blown engine in as many weeks from the same store, FCSD sent a rep down there to find out what was going on. Dealer pitched a fit when all the claims came back rejected, threatened legal action, etc. — until his lawyer reminded him that warranty fraud was one of the two or three things that would violate the franchise agreement enough to allow Ford to yank his franchise, and Ford was letting him off easy…

    • Maymar
      July 15, 2011 at 8:05 am #

      Didn't Subaru give early WRX buyers SCCA memberships, and then proceed to deny the warranty claims of anyone who used that membership?

      • July 18, 2011 at 8:28 am #

        @Maymar – A lot of that was dealer-dependent. IIRC, Subaru made it right with a few folks who were autocrossing their stock WRXen after Subaru of America got wind of it. There were some folks who were running rally stages like they were Petter Solberg… those folks had warranty problems.

  6. July 7, 2011 at 1:28 pm #

    Well written article. You explained this very well.

    • July 10, 2011 at 1:38 am #

      You might explain to the folks on the other forum you posted a link to this article on that S:S:L isn't selling aftermarket products. It's a automotive news site. :) At least one guy over there seems confused on that issue.

  7. Shinobu
    July 7, 2011 at 4:10 pm #

    And that's why I would never buy a used Evolution, WRX, Supra, or Mustang GT.

  8. David
    July 9, 2011 at 6:25 pm #

    The real problem is Hype, A lot of people bought into the 5.0 killer of the GT500, a lot still do! Ford did a great job with the new 5.0 but at the end of the day it's a 302ci N/A engine that puts out 444 hp in Boss trim. Those are huge numbers for a 302ci N/A engine. 40 years ago prostock engines barely made 1.47hppci. The new 302 Boss released by Ford is at about 70% of maximum theoretical power N/A. Going beyond that is risky at best for something that you drive to work and has a payment on it!

  9. Chris
    July 11, 2011 at 6:39 pm #

    The reason people often quote the Magnuson-Moss act is not so that they can get their engine which has had a blower installed warrantied when the blower damages the engine. They quote it because for example they install a blower and then the transmission shifter linkage is found to come undone because of a defect. This has absolutely nothing to do with the blower, yet some dealers will idiotically feel the need to not address these sorts of warranty claims. The problem is that the idiots that run the warranty department try to void warranties in a blanket policy instead of claim by claim. This is against the law, and this TSB is promoting actions that are against the law.

    • July 11, 2011 at 7:47 pm #

      The onus is on the dealer/OEM to prove that the aftermarket mod caused the problem. In your example, a shift linkage defect that shows up in unmodified vehicles, the OEM would not necessarily be able to do unless they can prove that the modifications upstream in the powertrain overstressed the part. Synchros? Good luck. Linkage came off in your hand? You may have a case.

      M-M was, as I stated, never intended to provide blanket coverage to modified vehicles. It's function was to prevent OEMs from locking consumers into OEM-branded/sourced maintenance items like filters, oil, belts, as a condition of warranty coverage. Paragraph 2304(c) is where M-M specifically excludes consumer-performed modifications from factory spec.

  10. Chris
    July 11, 2011 at 6:39 pm #

    The blanket warranty void is an attempt to oversimplify appropriate denial of warranty coverage and oversimplifying the process to this level is terrible, stupid and bad for everyone. If the blower breaks the motor, so be it, but if the vehicle is designed or built in a faulty way there should be no issues bringing an unrelated warranty claim. That is the real problem people have. Nobody's warranty can be legally "voided" and any such claims are procedural labels by the manufacturer which are against the law to enforce. Unfortunately this confuses dealers and makes them void reasonable warranty claims.

    Yes it's difficult to track if a certain mod caused a certain failure, especially with the horribly uneducated dealership staff, but a blanket void is not the answer. Blanket voids confuse the idiots working at dealers.

    Yes some people do try to take advantage of the system and get the blown improperly tuned modded engine warrantied, and they should be denied… they should get what they deserve and nobody disagrees with this. The problem people have is that dealership policy is a stupid oversimplification which hurts customers on unrelated issues. Companies need to stop this crap of thinking they can void warranties.

    • July 11, 2011 at 7:55 pm #

      Chris, the M-M Act cuts both ways. Power windows go out on your Vortech'ed Mustang? Shouldn't be an issue getting warranty coverage. Whiny differential on the same car? Good luck.

      Blaming the OEM for the actions of the dealers (who, under franchise law in the US, are independent businesses, and the OEMs have EXTREMELY LIMITED control over what they can enforce in the way of policy) is common, of course, but the problem doesn't lie with the OEM — it's with the franchise laws of the USA.

      That said, and as I said in the original article, don't expect powertrain coverage if you mod the engine. Shouldn't impact the coverage of, say, the power seat controls or similar unrelated-to-powertrain systems. Most dealers, particularly if you bought the car there, and aren't a dickhead with the service staff when you bring it in, will work with you.

      In my experience, most of the "dealer attitude problems" with selling dealers come down to someone walking in with a Breathless Sense of Entitlement and being a total jerk to the dealer service personnel. If you've modified your under-warranty vehicle, it's in your own best interest to be nice, and be honest. Most dealers will work with their customers that way. But if you come in with a chip on your shoulder and a P1000 code in the ECM, might as well write the check now.

  11. Steve
    July 11, 2011 at 6:47 pm #

    So, Mr. Jim Crider, you expect Ford to exercise perfect ethical judgment in the exercise ot this policy?

    I don't think that's too likely, considering Ford hasn't even fixed all the Mustang transmissions that broke by themselves, or even showed up on the dealer lot broken.

    This policy may just provide dealers with a framework for refusing honest warranty claims.

    "Maybe the extra 5 hp that the Ford Racing cold air kit provided was just the straw that broke the camel's back … and that is why we can't warranty your defective-upon-arrival, improperly assembled, metallurgically flawed transmission … and, by the way, the warranty is void for the rest of the car too."

    • July 11, 2011 at 8:14 pm #

      Steve, let's use a bit of common sense here. Let's say for a moment that I've just bought a new Mustang. It's got a clunky transmission. What makes the most sense as a sequence of events:

      1) Report clunky transmission. Get it fixed/replaced. Verify it works right. Then consider open up the FRPP catalog.

      2) Go ahead and throw all the EO-number-equipped parts from FRPP catalog at car. Report clunky transmission. Go 15 rounds with the District Office as to causal factor for the clunky transmission, with the full knowledge that you FUBAR'd yourself in light of 2304(c) of M-M the instant you modified the car from factory spec.

      Again, it's really simple: M-M pertains to the car in OEM spec. It does not cover modifications or damage provably caused by modifications. Is this fair to the consumer? Actually, I think it strikes a pretty reasonable balance. The OEM has control of their production specification, and thus have a responsibility to honor the warranty — the car and its parts should perform according to specification. The OEM has zero control over aftermarket modifications performed by the consumer, however, so is it reasonable to expect them to cover systems impacted by those modifications? This is like asking you to be legally and financially responsible for that guy over there's actions. (Which guy? Doesn't matter. Pick a random guy. Or girl. Your choice. Doesn't matter. You're responsible for their actions now.)

      Again, you want to play with your under-warranty car? You pays your moneys and you takes your chances. Last new car I bought, I effectively voided any suspension warranty in the first week of ownership when I ripped off the OEM shocks and upper strut mounts for camber-caster plates and Konis. I knew it, dealer knew it (Hell, the OEM mothership knew it…), and I didn't try to play any games with them — so the *rest* of the car got warranty work as needed.

  12. 86lx5.0
    July 11, 2011 at 7:10 pm #

    The chinese parts manufactures love you Jim Crider.

    • July 11, 2011 at 8:17 pm #

      Huh? Please, elaborate as to what mods and warranty coverage have to do with the price of tea in, well, China.

      If the stuff breaks, the manufacturers of parts make money regardless of whether or not it's a warranty replacement or a retail sale. The only difference is who paid for it and how much markup the wholesaler and retailer got.

  13. July 11, 2011 at 10:53 pm #

    I'd like to say "hello!" to all the folks coming over here from the Jalopnik article. Some of you have chosen to comment, and I will say I'm not terribly surprised that some of the comments sound like my generic descriptions in the main text hit a little too close to home for comfort.

    Just one more thought: Do you think that, in 1975, a couple of Congresscritters would introduce and get passed a law that benefited the (then-unorganized, and in the fuel crisis era, decidedly unloved) high-performance aftermarket parts makers? SEMA barely existed then, and certainly wasn't spending money on lobbying.

    Um, no.

    The only consideration Magnuson & Moss (& Moss, and every Congresscritter who got an amendment attached to it) gave to the aftermarket was the OEM replacement part business — typically OEM suppliers who sell stuff at retail under their own brands, and Big Oil, who wanted to make sure you could get your oil changed at one of their company stations without voiding the warranty. Also, at the time, you were fortunate if you got a 12 month/12,000 mile warranty on a new car. Some were only 90 days.

    That's what Magnuson-Moss is about. It's not about forcing the OEM to warranty your car (or certain subsystems of your car) if you've added, removed, or replaced parts with the intent of changing the car's performance (even if said parts come with a CARB EO number or their *own* warranty coverage that may or may not replace the OEM coverage on the affected subsystems), or changed, through electronic code, the operating parameters of the car away from that specified by the OEM.

    Would you change the gas jets in your stove or grill and then expect the manufacturer to warranty the smoldering remains when it goes foom? Would you shoot more refrigerant than required into your home AC system and expect the manufacturer to replace the slugged compressor? Overclock the CPU in your new computer (despite the "don't do that" warning in the documentation)? Jailbreak your smartphone? These examples aren't really any different than modifying a new car.

    Why is it that a car purchase carries with it a greater sense of entitlement than one of these other examples? It's still a consumer good, purchased from a manufacturer who has spent tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars developing the product to meet not only the marketing wants, but the regulatory requirements (and automobiles are subject to more regulation than just about any other consumer product you can think of) that say the manufacturer is not only responsible for the performance of the product as it leaves the assembly line, but also for as much as 15 years/150,000 miles *after* the manufacturer last has control of the product? (X% of failures of emissions parts, even at high mileage, can trigger an automatic recall, at the manufacturer's expense, of course.)

    Effectively, and particularly with regard to emissions controls, the OEMs *are* responsible for the behavior of that other guy over there.

    So is it any wonder that the OEM is going to want to either verify that the vehicles they are covering under warranty are indeed still compliant with OEM spec, and if not, they're flagged accordingly?

    It shouldn't be a surprise at all, actually.

  14. Paul
    July 11, 2011 at 11:46 pm #

    I have to say, I think Jim is really hitting the nail on the head with this one. This should be mandatory reading for anyone who has ever bought or considered buying a new car.

    And I also want to echo the sentiment that legally, I think it provides a fair balance between the rights of the consumer and the responsibilities of the manufacturer. To do otherwise would unfairly burden the manufacturer – are we to ask them to flameproof their cars as well, because someone might bolt on an aftermarket flamethrower? Of course not. Sure, it may work with OEM equipment – it might be tons of fun, but if it burns the car to a crisp, don't come crying. Why does the same logic not apply to something like a turbo which adds literally atmospheres of pressure where it didn't exist before?

  15. Evo IX Driver
    July 12, 2011 at 8:09 am #

    Quality from the public's perception is how close to that SN fatigue line the parts are.

    I have no respect for a sports car manufacturer who makes a motor able to handle an upper limit of 450hp while selling to the public at 430hp. That's just overly abusive cost cutting without respect for what the car is built for.

    I drive an Evolution IX, a near $40K AWD Turbo 4 cylinder with one hell of a motor and drivetrain. I traded in a 97 DOHC 4.6 Cobra which felt horrid after test driving the Evo. Never in my life had a small motor car that even remotely interested me before this car.

    You know why? The stock motor is a 2.0, yet it comes with 290 horsepower stock. Even that rating is off, because it dynos about 260 to the ground which is more like 320 after drivetrain losses for AWD.

    You would think, wow that's a lot of power from 2 liters, can't be reliable. Surprisingly this motor is able to hold over 500 horsepower for long periods of time. The reason is that the same motor was released in a car called the FQ400 which had 400hp from the 2.0 and a rather long warranty.

    So that means the company built this motor to the gills. It has forged rods from the factory. People still ruin them with bad tuning or part selection but they can safely hold some serious power. After building the motor with fully forged internals, people achieve over 700-1000 horsepower from that 2.0 I4!

    When you chince out and build a motor with cheap cast parts, you are alienating the very people who want to buy your sports car. We know how well the motor was built, and we flock the those that allow us our horsepower without failing.

    Somewhat funny this article mentions my very car, the DOHC 32 valve 4.6 Cobra from 96-98. It was smooth but made less power than the stock 4 cylinder and the handling was horrid in comparison. Now with AWD I can put nearly 400hp down without tire spin even in the rain. No Mustang can do that.

    • July 12, 2011 at 10:32 am #

      Trying to grok how the Cobra made less horsepower than the stock Mustang engine from '96-'98, which was a 6-cylinder… when I know the numbers are quite different.

      That said, you've pointed out one of the differences between automakers. Note that the later supercharged Cobra 4.6Ls had forged rods, different pistons, etc., to take the stress of forced induction, are considered under-rated at 390 hp from the factory (with people regularly getting 380+ at the wheels out of a car with a 20% driveline loss), and folks regularly and reliably double or more the output of those engines with stock bottom ends. The original '96-'01 Cobra 4.6L did have a forged crank (vs the cast crank of other 4.6Ls), but similar sintered rods and hypereutectic cast pistons — which were (and are — I spin the daylights out of my '99 when autocrossing or tracking it) perfectly fine for a normally-aspirated application. When it was necessary, Ford spent the money on the premium bits. When it wasn't, they didn't — which is how the Cobra came in at a price point $10-15K less than your Evo. They very deliberately worked to a $25-30K (coupe/convertible) price point for the Cobra. It's all part of the tap-dance of (often conflicting) product requirements all automakers have to deal with when developing a new product. Evo = low-volume homologation special for World Rally. Mustang Cobra = low-volume grand-tourer/boulevard bruiser package building upon the base car. The former says to me "Lancer in appearance only, mildly-detuned race car". The latter says "prize-winning pig in a dress". (Before you flame me, Mustang people, I own 2 of 'em: a '65 I've owned for 28 years and the '99 Cobra in my icon. I love 'em. But I also know they're mutts.)

      All that said, I know Mitsubishi has been one of the more vigilant automakers in terms of policing their warranty, particularly on the Evos. The various fora are chock-full of "Mitsubishi voided my warranty" stories (often with "all I did was put a bleeder valve in the wastegate line!"), and I've seen more than one show up at an event with the license plate and VIN blocked from view in an effort to evade the warranty police.

  16. Jon
    July 19, 2011 at 1:57 pm #

    This is all the more reason that Ford SHOULD NOT have speed limited every new V6 Mustang at such a slow speed! I was forced to flash my PCM just to get rid of the ridiculous 113MPH speed limiter. I have the pony package with 149MPH+ Z rated Pirelli performance tires and it was very troubleing for me to know that Ford decided to speed limit the new Mustang at a SLOWER speed then it's new Fiesta and Focus!!!! (122MPH) That just doesn't seem logical to me, no matter what the excuse, sorry! The Mustang is a sports car! Especially the new one with 305HP! Now the internet forums are all lit up with V6 owners flashing their PCM to make the same change, so more folks will also be messing with other parameters of the PCM. I thInk Ford should adjust the speed limiter on the cars that are equipped with high performance tires, performance package models, pony package models, etc…

    • David
      September 12, 2011 at 7:57 pm #

      That’s a valid reason not to buy a V-6 Mustang.
      But you did buy one. And then you decided to alter it to fit your expectations.
      Which is also fine. But if it breaks because you altered it, that’s your problem, not Ford’s.

      That said, a flashed PCM shouldn’t void the warranty on power seat motors and trunk latches, but that doesn’t mean they won’t try. Give a dealer or manufacturer an excuse to avoid warranty obligations, and in my experience they take it. Not for nothing, but the flow chart above does not end with “deny coverage for mod-related failures.” It says “Initiate warranty cancellation process.”
      Also, while we’re getting all righteous about engineering specs and tolerances, manufacturers and dealers are none too quick to extend coverage when their design, materials and execution was sub-par to begin with. (Chevy runs deep? No. Sometimes. Chevy dealer? Always.)

  17. Briel
    July 20, 2011 at 10:19 am #

    Very well-written article, with one caveat: The blanket warranty voiding OEM's do in cases where modifications have absolutely nothing to do with the failures is utter, and complete hog wash. As was mentioned previously, if an owner does something to the truck and adds an aftermarket engine part, and as a result, Ford voids the powertrain warranty in its entirety, thereby denying the owner's claim on some broken tranny linkage, that's BS.

    The area where things get a little dicier is in the area of emissions controls. Diesels, specifically, very much benefit from the removal of some forms of emission equipment in the way of efficiency, power, and fuel economy. I realize the OEM's have to protect themselves from liability from the powers that be, but if a guy takes off his DPF filter or deletes an EGR system that causes the engine more harm than good, why does the OEM refuse to fix some issue with the oiling system or fuel delivery systems, which have no connection or correlation to the aforementioned removed systems? This is the part I have a problem with.

    • Clark
      July 31, 2011 at 12:19 am #

      You clearly have no understanding of how complicated modern diesel engines are, and any "benefits" of emissions system removal, are also "illegal".

    • August 2, 2011 at 12:23 pm #

      In the case of emissions controls on diesels, Briel, the OEMs have a *legal* obligation to enforce the warranty — as a condition of meeting the legal requirements to sell that vehicle in the US, they are responsible for the emissions performance of that vehicle throughout the required warranty period (which can be 10 years, 150K miles in the 12 or so states that require California emissions specs).

      It's in the OEM's best interest, therefore, to discourage owners from mucking with the emissions components on the vehicle. Once they've flagged that VIN as "modified" in their system, if, later on, it fails an emissions test, it then doesn't count against their life-of-vehicle emissions performance requirements.

      Most of the diesel shops are acting like the gasoline engine guys did in the early days of emissions controls back in the '70s: "Pull that cat/DPF/EGR off there and make it how it was 20 years ago and you'll be happier". They'd be better served spending the time and effort to figure out how to make the systems in place work better rather than just pulling them. There are a couple of aftermarket outfits doing that, and while they don't have the huge dyno numbers a lot of the rip-it-all-off guys claim, they're going to be in a much better position for the future. Those emissions controls aren't going away. Ever.

      As to your first point, it comes down to the owner's relationship with the dealer (who is NOT the OEM but an independent business), who is the first pass at "legit" or "void". I won't rehash what I've said elsewhere in this thread on that subject, but it comes down to playing it straight with the dealer.

  18. Keith
    July 25, 2011 at 1:11 pm #

    So what you're saying is…is that all OEM's build in some extra power to be unlocked but sometimes the aftermarket goes beyond what was built in by the OEM and problems happen. :)

    • August 2, 2011 at 12:29 pm #

      No, Keith. OEMs build in reliability. Sometimes by detuning from what the potential max output of a particular engine may be, sure, but the goal is ultimately a balance between enough grunt to do what it needs to do, fuel economy, emissions, cost, and reliability.

      Given a certain amount of money, you can build a monster-high-output grenade (see: Formula 1 qualifying engines in the 1980s 1.5L turbo era, or any NHRA Top Fuel/Funny Car engine), or you can build something that will do alright power-wise, but last the life of the vehicle with nothing more than routine maintenance and stay clear of emissions and fuel economy regs.

      Ever seen someone juggle 5 chainsaws? On fire? While on a tightrope above a tank of mutant sharktopi with laserbeams on their heads? Yeah, production vehicle development is like that.

  19. Bob
    July 25, 2011 at 1:20 pm #

    Further to some other's comments, the problem is exactly what others have said where the OEM voids the ENTIRE warranty for a performance part that is completely unrelated.

    Its when dealership's do things like tell their customers that their CATBACK Exhaust created a failure in their coolant pump that pisses off enthusiasts.

    Sure, if the PCM cal kills the engine in the examples you used, great, the enthusiast should pay but when the OEM uses a performance part to get out of a legitimate warranty is where the problems lie. They do that all too often.

    Its get's even worse sometimes though regarding clarity in what one should pay for:

    For example, VW offers a DSG transmission rated to 245 lb ft of torque and an ECU upgrade that delivers 255 lb ft could break that trans. However, VW later uses the exact same DSG, all parts numbers internally and externally identical in a different vehicle and rates it at 265 lb ft. Wouldn't you expect VW to change the torque rating for all uses of that trans and honor warranties whereas 265 lb ft wasn't exceeded?

    • August 2, 2011 at 12:36 pm #

      Bob, how is VW to know what the aftermarket tune produces? For that matter, how is the aftermarket tuner to know what their tune produces? Sad but true, many don't go much beyond a couple pulls on a DynoJet chassis dyno and pronounce it fit to ship. VW isn't going to say "Oh, this is SchnellScheisse's 93-Octane Tune that makes 244 lb-ft at the flywheel, that's not going to be the cause of the DSG failure." They're going to say "Hmm, checksum doesn't match the OEM code. Claim denied."

      And as I've said elsewhere, it comes down to the car owner's relationship with the dealer (who is still NOT the OEM) when it comes to things like cat-back exhausts, spring/shock packages, even oversized wheels/tires and warranty on unrelated items. If you're up front, polite, and educated about it, you can usually come to some sort of arrangement. If you violate Wheaton's Law, well, they're gonna stick it to you — and deservedly so.

  20. KC8RXQ
    August 3, 2011 at 1:38 pm #

    I appreciate Jim's well-written article and agree with it wholeheartedly. I do, however have a question/thought that may be worth considering. The 2011 Ford PSD was initially designed/built/marketed to produce X-Horsepower and Y-Torque at which time was an industry leading rating. Then GM began marketing their new model Duramax which exceeded Ford's ratings, albeit marginally. Then for all intents and purposes as a marketing ploy, Ford tweeked the ratings on their offering to values higher than GM's. I don't advocate individuals modifying their vehicles to get "more power" above and beyone what the manufacturer design levels allow but I find it curious that a manufacturer can "at will" do what they want. Granted, I'm sure that Ford's engineering people were heavily involved in the upratings but how much did marketing play in the decision too?

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  22. Karl
    December 2, 2011 at 11:31 am #

    Will axelbacks void my warranty?

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