Like all Americans, the auto manufacturers have tightened their belts over the past few years. Most automakers remember the big profit losses of just a few years ago, some recall the devastation of bankruptcy. I do not know of a single manufacturer that is not watching their bottom lines closer. For most people, they would not know the difference nor would they care. That is unless you have a warranty claim denied by the manufacturer.
I got an email recently from a listener who had a Nissan that was within the warranty period. He had an engine knock that could be of the serious nature. The dealer asked for his maintenance records to show the factory he had done what was required. He changes his own oil and keeps a log, but didn’t save the oil receipts. The outcome is unclear at this time, but technically, and according to the owner’s manual, they can deny the claim.
This is much more common than you think. None of the auto manufacturers will turn a claim down without cause, but the burden of proof is on the consumer to prove they have kept up their end of the bargain. This is especially true when the evidence points to a lack of following the manufacturer’s scheduled maintenance.
I’ve talked to a number of listeners who swear they changed their oil every 5000 miles, but used a lot of different quick lube type places and never kept their receipts. This can be an expensive lesson, but hopefully others will learn from it. This is the reason for today’s topic.
In the event you are called upon to prove you have maintained your car, you need good, old-fashioned bookkeeping. I suggest a log or something similar with one entry per page. If the car company perceives you as organized, you have a much better chance of getting the claim paid.
The key thing is to prove what you did, when you did it, and at what mileage the service was performed. I suggest you find the same place for routine maintenance where they can duplicate receipts should something happen to your copy. Be sure to check every receipt you get for mistakes, items left off, or discrepancies in the date or mileage, this can really mess you up.
If you are a do-it-yourself oil change person, that is fine too, but requires even better records. On your log, record the date you change your oil, the mileage that day, and staple the receipt for the oil and filter to that page. This is perfectly acceptable.
Go to the factory maintenance schedule of your car. There are things there that are key to keeping your warranty valid. Air filters are a big one, especially with diesels. If you have a major failure and they find dirt in your engine, you’ll be asked to prove you changed your air filter according to the guide. If you cannot, you may end up with a huge bill.
None of the manufacturers want to deny a claim, but they also do not want to be out thousands of dollars because you did not do what you are required to, and it is hard to blame them. Make your 2012 New Year’s resolution to keep really good records on your maintenance. It can save you money!