How Does Car Tuning Impact Your Warranty?

Here are some key things to know before modifying your vehicle.


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Modifying your car or truck for specific performance — otherwise known as tuning — can be as simple as getting larger wheels and grippy performance tires or as complex as installing a turbo or supercharger, changing the electronic control unit’s software, or lowering the suspension. Before you go about making any modifications, however, it’s smart to consider your vehicle’s warranty. If you’re not careful, you could render it void.

What Is a Warranty?

A vehicle warranty is a contract in which an automaker agrees to service or repair a car, truck, SUV, or van due to a manufacturer defect or malfunction. The length of a warranty and its specific terms vary from model to model. Whether it’s bumper-to-bumper coverage for a brand-new car or an extended powertrain warranty for a certified pre-owned model, it’s essential to understand what is and is not covered in terms of manufacturer-backed maintenance and repair work. Read the fine print.

When in doubt, ask your local dealership if your intended tuning work could risk the vehicle’s warranty.

DIY Considerations of Tuning

Thanks to the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act, automakers can’t automatically void your warranty if you decide to use aftermarket (instead of manufacturer-installed) parts on your vehicle. However, should those parts cause a mechanical issue, the automaker could hold you responsible and refuse to pay for the repairs.

Let’s say you upgrade the stereo in your brand-new SUV and, a few thousand miles later, an unrelated mechanical defect means you need to have the vehicle’s exhaust system replaced. The automaker couldn’t refuse to cover the repair simply because you made this aftermarket change to your vehicle. On the other hand, had you reprogrammed the ECU or added a turbocharger to the powertrain, it’s possible these tuning modifications could be linked to our hypothetical exhaust system defect. A dealership could refuse to honor the warranty if it detects a substantial amount of tuning has been performed.

Company-Backed Performance Modifications

Many car companies offer their own line of aftermarket tuning parts for customers looking to personalize their vehicle. Dodge has its lineup of Mopar accessories, BMW offers tuning options via its M Performance parts program, and Chevrolet provides several enhancements via Chevrolet Performance. These manufacturer upgrades shouldn’t risk your vehicle’s warranty, but always read the fine print for exceptions.

If you want to enhance your vehicle’s performance but are worried about losing your coverage, consider taking it to the pros. Established tuning firms such as Lingenfelter, Roush, and Dinan have spent years making vehicles go faster and handle better, and they offer their own warranties (some of which are transferable) on the upgrades they make.

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Nick Kurczewski
Nick Kurczewski is a freelance automotive journalist based in the New York metro area. With approximately 20 years of experience, he has covered all aspects of the car world, from the pit lane at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, to car shows around the world, and a Zamboni lesson in Lower Manhattan. He’s also adept at providing helpful car advice and steering people towards the ideal car, truck, or SUV for their driving needs.