The Importance of Car Maintenance Records

We had a Car Pro Show caller last Saturday who had a serious problem with a Kia. He purchased it pre-owned, but it was factory certified so had warranty up to 100,000 miles. At about 42,000 miles, the engine seized and stopped running. The dealership tore into the engine and found it completely sludged up. When the dealer called the factory for authorization to repair the engine, it was denied.

The caller said he had the documentation to prove he changed the oil as he was supposed to, but Kia said the wrong oil was used. This one is going to end up in court, but most likely that could have been avoided with proper maintenance records and closer attention to factory specifications.

Automakers will deny coverage of any repair if it appears neglect or abuse are factors. In cases like this, the owner of the car must prove they performed all the prescribed services. If that cannot be proven in detail, the warranty claim can be denied. In the case of our caller, the dealer did all they could do to help, but to no avail.

Step one is to know what you are required to do.

  • Generally, the information is in the ownerís manual or maintenance guide in the glove box. When buying a used vehicle, sometimes that information is missing. If it is, contact a dealer to help you get the information for the exact year and model of your car. Check online too, some automakers put the information on their website where it can be printed out.

Next, choose electronic or manual logs.

  • I prefer electronic because it is easier to read and most likely will not get lost or destroyed. No matter what your system, the most important thing is to record all the information. Dates and mileage are critical, and just writing down or logging what you do is not enough, you must have a receipt to back up the information.
You may be required to change your air filter at certain intervals, so be aware of all the things required. Make sure you do those and are able to prove it.

  • If you do your own maintenance, the same rules apply and I think it is a good idea to snap some pictures, just as another backup. You canít protect yourself enough when comes to a $10,000 engine replacement.

History tells us that engine sludge is generally caused by a lack of oil changes or improper oil. Automakers know this too, and that is the first thing they look for when there is a catastrophic failure, especially in a low mileage vehicle. They donít really want to turn down a claim, they know it will most likely cost them a customer. On the other hand, they donít want to pay a dealer to replace an engine because the owner did not do what was required.

Keep records like you are going to have to present the evidence in court, you may well have to.

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