What Does Your Powertrain Warranty Cover?
Last year the check engine light came on in my car. I was on my way to band rehearsal, so I figured I would just continue on my way and take the car to the garage tomorrow.
While I was trying to pass an 18-wheeler, the engine lost power. Seriously.
I took the next exit heading back for home. I stayed on the backroads, as my car wouldn’t do more than 60 mph.
The repair bill? $1,019.
The culprit was a censor that I’d never heard of before going bad.
Cars Are Expensive
Beyond the sticker price of any car that you buy, there are added and not so obvious expenses that you’ve got to think about. Registration and insurance for starters. Typically, your vehicle will cost between $1000 and $2000 per year in gas alone.
Routine maintenance is another expense that adds up over time. Oil changes and tire rotation are just two of the many expenses to consider before buying any vehicle.
Then you’ve got the biggies . . .
Why You Need a Powertrain Warranty
While most of us can bear to think about the expenses of routine maintenance, replacing our car’s transmission falls into a whole new category of Holey Moley!
For this reason, your vehicle’s warranty, but most importantly the powertrain warranty, emerges as one of the most essential considerations when purchasing a new vehicle.
Warranties, however, can be confusing and misleading.
There are warranties that cover the following:
- Vehicle sound system
- Electrical components
- Comprehensive (“Bumper-to-Bumper”)
- Many, many others
Probably the most important warranty that comes with your new vehicle is the powertrain warranty. It’s almost always the warranty with the longest term coverage.
If you’re purchasing a used car, chances are the powertrain warranty is still in effect.
What is the Powertrain?
Simply put, the powertrain is a collection of your vehicle’s parts that cause your vehicle to move. They include:
- Drive shafts
- Transfer case (AWD & 4WD Only)
In addition to the parts listed above, different manufacturers may also choose to include or exclude as part of your powertrain warranty the following:
- Wheel bearings or hubs
- Axle shafts
- Exhaust manifolds
- Other parts
Major Components of Your Powertrain
Probably the most obvious part of the powertrain is the engine itself. The engine burns fuel and air to generate power to cause the wheels to roll and move the vehicle.
The engine is typically defined as the engine block and all the stuff that’s inside of it. Sometimes manufacturers will consider certain sensors, belts, hoses, or other component as part of the powertrain, but not always.
To make sure your powertrain warranty is valid you need to maintain your engine according to the manufacturer’s guidelines. Failure to do so may mean your powertrain claim is denied.
The transmission functions from input from the rotating crankshaft. It then causes the crankshaft to shift gears or even change direction.
The case and the internal parts of the transmission are covered under the powertrain warranty. However, sensors, wiring, and other smaller components are usually not covered.
Under normal circumstances, the transmission doesn’t need a lot of maintenance but, for the powertrain warranty to remain in effect, maintenance must be performed according to the manufacturer’s specifications.
The transfer case pertains only to vehicles that have All-Wheel Drive or 4-Wheel Drive. It functions by transferring power to the appropriate set of wheels, either the front or the rear.
The transfer case attaches to the transmission, sending rotational power to the front or rear differential via drive shafts. To ensure the transfer case is included in your powertrain warranty, fluid changes and other maintenance must be performed according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
The differential has 3 basic jobs:
- Aims engine power at the wheels
- Acts as a final gear reduction in vehicle by slowing down the rotation of the transmission before power hits the wheels
- Transmits power to the wheels, allowing them to rotate at different speeds. This is how the differential got its name.
If a vehicle is Front-Wheel Drive or All-Wheel Drive, the front differential is almost always included in the transmission. If it’s a Rear-Wheel Drive or 4-Wheel Drive vehicle, the front differential is external. The same is true with the rear differential on an All-Wheel Drive vehicle.
If the differential is inside the transmission, the maintenance is usually performed at the same time as the transmission. If external, the fluid needs to be changed regularly or the warranty could be rendered invalid.
Axle Shafts and Housings
Engine power is transferred from the differential to the axle shafts, and then on to the wheels. The axle shaft is a simple, solid metal rod that fastens on each end.
Some axle shafts are external and make use of CV joints, while others are contained inside the axle housing itself. With the exception of CV joints, axles rarely cause problems.
Because of this, if an axle snaps you can bet the manufacturer will suspect abuse. This may mean your powertrain warranty becomes voided.
Why is the Powertrain Warranty so Important?
So, what’s the big deal about having a powertrain warranty? Well, almost none of the parts listed above can be repaired or replaced for less than a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.
Also, offering a solid powertrain warranty shows a manufacturer’s commitment to quality. It’s the manufacturer is saying to you, Our product is solid and we stand behind it.
How long do most powertrain warranties last?
The typical powertrain warranty today lasts 5 years or 60,000 miles, whichever comes first. Some performance vehicles, however, offer much shorter powertrain warranties.
Some manufacturers, however, offer considerably longer powertrain warranties. These guys manufacture a quality product and put their money where their mouth is.
If you’re wealthy and can afford to pay thousands of dollars to repair a powertrain issue, having a long term powertrain warranty might not be that big a deal. For the rest of us, however, a powertrain warranty should be at or close to the top of our list of priorities when choosing a new vehicle.
Click here to find out which vehicle has the longest powertrain warranty in the industry.