How Can You Learn if Your Car Warranty is Good?

Dear Driving for Dollars, I bought a 2011 model year car with 30,000 miles on it about six months ago, and it's been stalling unexpectedly while I'm driving. The dealership keeps telling me the car is no longer under warranty, but I thought I was covered. How can I tell if my factory warranty is still in effect and if the repairs they've performed are covered? -- Janine

Dear Janine, Open your owner's manual and read the car warranty section to find out about the warranty coverage from the manufacturer of your car. For example, a common car warranty is a three-year 36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty combined with a five-year 60,000-mile powertrain warranty, but some automakers offer longer warranties. Car warranties expire when the vehicle reaches the age or the mileage specified, whichever comes first.

A bumper-to-bumper warranty covers essentially everything on your car except wear-and-tear items such as windshield wipers and brakes, while the powertrain warranty covers most repairs related to the engine and the other components that power the car. There are some exceptions and they can vary from one manufacturer to another, so check your owner's manual for specifics.

Assuming you are under the mileage limits, check the "in-service" date of your car to see if you are within the time limits of the warranty. The in-service date is usually listed on any vehicle history report that you performed when you first bought the car or is sometimes listed in the purchase paperwork if you bought the car from a dealer. If you are unsure, get your car's vehicle identification number located on a silver plate on the dashboard near the windshield. Next, go to the automaker's website for your car's brand and do a search on "check factory warranty status" to be directed to the applicable page. Then, enter your VIN and follow the instructions on the page.

Based on the age and mileage of your car, you are most likely covered under the powertrain warranty and possibly the bumper-to-bumper warranty as well. Since the problems you briefly describe are almost assuredly related to the powertrain, they should be covered under the warranty.

If you have already paid for the repairs, then ask to be reimbursed and, if the dealer gives you a hard time, contact the customer service department for the manufacturer to make the request. You can find the number in your owner's manual.

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