Truck Warranty Survival Guide

Having ran a heavy tow truck for a number of years and now working at a dealership, I like to think I’ve seen it all when it comes to warranty.

Warranty can be one of the most difficult issues for anyone — drivers, owners, fleet managers, and, honestly, it can be difficult for dealers, too.

As a heavy tow truck operator for years, I’ve had my previous units in for repairs both warrantable and not. Now, as a service advisor for two significant brands, I’ve seen the manufacturer’s side.

Usually, I find drivers with full warranty coverage asleep in the drivers lounge on the plush couches — they haven’t even touched the complimentary coffee. I have to give them a poke when the truck repair is completed and as you guessed, not necessarily a highlight of my day. (I usually end up scaring them half to death.)

If it doesn’t have warranty, I have to provide a state of what we have gotten into so far, how much we think it will need, source parts from who knows where, and then wait for the parts to come in if we don’t have them.

If it is under warranty, the part is emergency shipped automatically and is covered by the warranty people. It saves me hours and the tech time. So I literally only have to make one phone call. It’s done. That’s it.

So without further delay, here are a few tips I’ve learned work best for warranty or extended warranty options:

1) Decide if warranty is for you. Let’s be honest. It’s not for everyone. Some drivers or fleets, through their own preventative maintenance or servicing have figured out that the added assurance just isn’t worth it. You need to decide what works for you and your truck. Mostly importantly, it has to balance your budget and work with your preventative maintenance program, not against it.

2) Pick components, provider and coverage. The possibilities seem endless when it comes to the combinations of warranty you can purchase. There are some tough questions to ask, including: do I need roadside and towing; just major component coverage — such as my engine and trans and after-treatment. Or do you stick to coverage with things that fail the most often, such as batteries and starters? What about wheel ends?

Also important to know is if it is a simple parts warranty or a parts and labour one.

Almost as equally important as what is covered is knowing who the provider is; Are you sticking with the truck manufacturer or are you going with the engine manufacturer? The coverage is not always the same.

Lastly, you need to determine the duration of coverage you need. Look at your history of ownership. How long you have had trucks in the past? Is it worth buying an eight-year warranty if you normally trade the truck in every four to five years? Some warranties are not transferable — something to keep in mind.

The coverage details can be the tricky part of the deal, so it brings us to the next step….

3) Research deductable(s) and No Fault Found (NFF) claims. Knowing what each warranty claim will cost can help determine the true cost of warranty.

What about NFF claims? NFF claims are when a customer brings in a vehicle for a defect or complaint and either the complaint cannot be reproduced or what claims to be a warrantable repair is not warranted.

A great example is if your check engine light (CEL) comes on and produces a code. Lets say the count (or occurs) is 8 times. Warranty may only change or repair a part if the count is, for example, over 10 times. In this case the repair would be deemed NFF.

Some warranties bill customers for NFF or will only pay a portion of time used during diagnosis.

4) Read the small print and exclusions. There is never too much research you can do regarding warranty. Is the water pump covered or just the water pump seal?

What about root-cause claims in which one component may be damaged by another? For example, if a high-pressure fuel pump and the fuel system fails, what is covered? The pump alone or cleaning and replacing injectors and fuel system parts?

What about towing and roadside? Sometimes, I read particular warranties on trucks in the shop and the list of exemptions or non-covered items are longer then the items included.

And let’s be honest, in this day and age if it isn’t in black and white, it’s not covered.

5) Ink the deal, save some cheddar. Most extended warranties have timelines for purchase. Some opportunities to extend warranty expire as little as a few weeks after purchase of the new truck, while others increase dramatically in price as time goes on. If you have made up your mind, now is the time to act. Not only will it save you a little cheddar but also a warrantable repair. You never know what tomorrow brings…

6) Follow up with service. The best way to get value out of your warranty is through regular service. You would be surprised how many warrantable defects are found during a simple service like an oil change or greasing. Even if you are doing a greasing yourself on Saturday morning, take your time and have a look around. This is the opportunity to notice anything you may have missed during a pre-trip or post-trip inspection.

Michael King is a service advisor with a Freightliner and Western Star dealer in Ontario. His experience includes over 5 years of certified heavy wrecker operation and logistics in both the military and private sector.

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