CARS.COM — Many owners wonder if they must take a vehicle to the dealership for maintenance work. If they take the vehicle to an independent shop will the car's warranty still be honored?
The answer is: Absolutely. As long as you have records of routine maintenance (such as oil changes) and have not altered your vehicle with non-factory parts that could be blamed for causing problems (such as an aftermarket high-performance engine computer calibration or a suspension lowering kit), your factory warranty coverage should remain in effect at the dealership.
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Depending on what the warranty issue is, you may not have to produce any evidence of maintenance or repair. For example, if an air-conditioning compressor conks out in your new car while under manufacturer warranty, does it matter that you only changed the engine oil once in two years? The engine isn't what needs fixing.
For most new cars today, the only maintenance recommended by the manufacturer during the first three or four years is changing the engine oil and filter, and rotating the tires periodically. Just about any independent shop or garage that offers these services can do this type of service work — and often for less than a dealer charges. They also can check your brakes, suspension, engine and cabin air filters, and other components, the same as a dealership's service department would.
There are exceptions, of course. For example, Toyota provides free scheduled maintenance for your vehicle for the first two years or 25,000 miles, Volkswagen for three years or 36,000 miles and BMW for four years or 50,000 miles, so it makes sense to take advantage of that at the dealer. Why such generosity for new car owners? The manufacturers want to get you in the habit of taking your car to a dealer for service, and it gives dealers a chance to sell you additional services (such as brake-pad replacement, windshield wiper blades, air filters, tire rotations).
Some cars may require specialized services such as periodic fuel-filter replacement that all repair shops may not perform, and if we bought a $75,000 Mercedes-Benz, the nearest Super Duper Quick Lube may not have all the right fluids, tools and know-how, so going to a dealer may be advisable, if not necessary. Check the maintenance schedule for regular maintenance for your vehicle (it's in the owner's manual or a separate booklet) to see what the manufacturer requires. Chances are everything you need could be done at a competent repair shop that is more convenient or less expensive than a dealership.
Don't assume, however, that a dealership will always be more expensive. They may charge $40 or less to change the oil, rotate the tires, inspect the vitals and throw in a car wash. Check the websites of dealers, often in the service department section of the dealer's site, and manufacturers for discounts on routine service.
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