Ask The Consumerists: Can Hyundai Drive Over My Warranty?

Dennis wonders, (we’re paraphrasing here):

Gasket blows on 4-year-old car with a 10-year warranty, and Hyundai denies the warranty repair. The garage says that for Hyundai to reconsider their decision, they need a copy of every maintenance and repair record. Are they within their rights to do this? And more importantly, how do I get my car out of the shop?

Ok research monkey and car heads, what’s the inside track on this hubcap of ill-fate?

Backstory, inside.

    “A friend who drives a Hyundai Elantra that she bought new four and half years ago. While driving this past week she had a coolant leak and ultimately the head gasket went south. So having the 10 year/100,000 mile warranty she was told to have use the Hyundai roadside service and had the car towed to the local Hyundai dealer. Initially she was told that the warranty would likely cover the repair but by the next day the service manager or maybe one of the service desk lackeys informed her that Hyundai would not be covering the repair. She was told that she would have to supply maintenance/repair records for the past 4 plus years before Hyundai would reconsider its decision. Of course, then to add insult and injury the service desk lackey curtly responded to her despondent query, “what shall I do?” by telling her she could either get them the paper on the car, cough-up $1500 or get the car off the lot pronto.

    The residue emitted by car salesmen is only exceeded by those working the service area.

    I can kinda see Hyundai’s point: show us that the car has been maintained. On the other hand, do a lot of people actually keep all their service records? Shouldn’t car buyers be told that in order to use the warranty they would have to keep copies of this stuff? I looked through one of the books that came with the car and buried in there was a recommendation to keep service records. But it was listed under tips. Not requirements.

    She called the dealer from whom she originally bought the car – another dealer about 40 miles away – in order to get copies of whatever service paper they had on the car. She was told they only keep records for a couple of years! That seems odd for a dealer that has to field long-term warranty repairs.

    Can car owners really take advantage of a 10 year warranty? I mean really, do car owners really continue to keep detailed records for cars nearing a decade old? Something tells me that the time length (as opposed to the mileage) of these warranties is really bogus. The dealers/manufacturers can easily dismiss warranty claims over things like wear/tear and lack of maintenance.

    Anyone else raised this issue before?

    By the way, this single mom friend of mine is currently driving my car. Any help you could provide will hasten the return of my car!”


Edit Your Comment

  1. Triteon says:

    Here’s where I would start: What does the warranty say? Is there any language that states the warranty is not enforceable unless maintenance records can be supplied? Is there anything that precludes the owner from changing his/her own oil, for example?
    What does the warranty cover, and for how long? Some 10-year/100,000 mile warranties are valid only if certain milage restrictions are upheld, usually about 10,000 miles per year.
    Fair? Yes– but only if you knew about it up front; because many people don’t read what they sign they find themselves stuck in these situations. I’m not saying it’s happened here, but without more info it’s difficult to offer too much advice.

  2. Falconfire says:

    Yep they are in their right. Thats the fun thing about car warrantees, there are all those nice addendum and notes you need to read too.

    Car manufacturers wont honor your warrantee unless you have a clear maintenance record of your vehicle. This is why many actually give you a book to keep this record in. Infact my girlfriend just bought a Honda Fit and they told her not only does she need all the maintenance records, but even all the oil changes because if she doesnt even put one down, the whole warrantee is void.

    The whole point of those 10 year warrantees is to get you to spend money while they shrink the warrantee coverage more and more each year to the point it barely covers anything come the last 2-3 years.

  3. humphrmi says:

    A couple of points.

    First, unlike a battery going out, a blown headgasket doesn’t happen very often, it’s pretty rare in new cars. It can happen, yeah, but Hyundai is right to question why – because that can be the direct result of poor owner maintenance.

    Second, whether you have to keep records of the maintenance or not is in the warrantee, which your friend read when she bought the car, right? So ask her. ;-) Seriously, I bought a GM with a 5-year and had dozens of warrantee repairs done and they never asked any questions, on the other hand my Dodge Caravan’s owners manual and warrantee clearly states that I’d better have those receipts on hand if I make a claim.

    Finally, it’s not really that hard to keep these. You get a filing cabinet. You save them. You put them in. Ten years from now, you throw it out.

    Believe me, I’m on your side, if your friend’s warrantee doesn’t require proof of maintenance, you should press forth and discuss with consumer attorneys and state agencies. But I bet it does, and I bet they “told” her that, somewhere along the line, when she bought it.

  4. Itch says:

    Well, I’d go ahead and that paperwork. Even if it doesnt go back to the begining it should be a good start for the Hyundai service folks. In fact that alone should show she has been “in good standing” recently. Also that is a ‘delaying’ tatic in which she maybe able to find other options if things dont go her way.

  5. Triteon says:

    I read through the Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs) issued for the 2000-02 Elantras and can’t find anything regarding coolant leaks. (Check via But your friend needs to ask anyway if a TSB has been issued on the car for her particular problem. If there is a TSB, the service record issue goes out the window.

  6. winnabago says:

    The 10k warranty is a joke. Back before the golden age of social networking and corporate accountabilty we are in now, my Hyundai Santa Fe lost its transmission at about 38,000 miles, and the part – a clutch plate – was not covered, becuse it’s on the list of “maintainance items”, meaning I should have, what, checked up on it weekly? Anyway, they refused to pay and screwed me over on the labor. Lesson learned.

    On my other car, an American coupe, the clutch is still grabbing strong at 140,000. After doing some more research, I was pretty sure that the transmission was designed for the smaller sonata and couldn’t handle the extra weight of the SUV. They wouldn’t admit to it, and shortly after I paid the $1200, I got rid of it before it happened again at 80,000.

    If this had happened today, I would register and contact a class action lawyer. Hm.

  7. Spoondizzle says:

    The Magnusson-Moss Warrantty Act. Know it, love it.

    Basically this is the federal lemon law and includes what a car maker legally can and can’t require you to do under warrantty.

  8. thrillhouse says:

    Yeah, std faire for a car warrenty – from the mfr or aftermarket. I had an aftermarket warrenty years ago, and once the repair bills overtook the initial price of the warrenty, the company started getting pissy. And rightfully so. If they issue a warrenty on my car and I let it go to shite then the problems may be caused by my neglect.

    Anywho, I had to provide proof of oil changes (at least every 6k miles) + a few other things. Had to call around to about 6 different places to get copies of work orders faxed to me. Pain in the ass. From now on, every single receipt for car work goes straight into the glove box.

    Yeah, they are totally within their right. Time to get your shit together.

  9. latemodel says:

    I work at a dealer. We dont require maintenance records unless we think a prior repair may be involved but you should really just read your warranty agreement for the specifics. There is really no maintenance issue that would impact the head gasket unless it was run low on coolant. Head gasket replacement on your car takes 6 hours and 150 in parts. You should also replace the timing belt and water pump for another 100.

  10. LTS! says:

    I suppose it’s just adding on but the details of the warranty are what is agreed to. Failure to read the details is nobody’s fault but the buyer.

    The other nice part of Hyundai offering the long warranty is the idea that if you used the dealer with whom you purchased the car for all your maintenance you’d need not retrieve the records. Of course, the dealer will make their money on the service…

  11. d0x says:

    Hell I keep detailed service records on my car and it has no warrenty. Its good for your records so you know what has been done to it. Its good for a mechanic so they know what has been done to it.

    The best thing though, when you try to sell the car and you show the person buying it that it has been taken care of and serviced they are more willing to spend a few extra bucks instead of trying to hardball you into dropping $500 off the price.

  12. When I got my American made pick-up truck I got the best extended warranty the manufacturer offered so I’d be covered until I was done financing the vehicle. I take my vehicle to a dealer for all service that way a factory trained technician works on my vehicle and all logs are kept by the dealer and they issue me a line by line copy of the work done. As a matter of fact, the only time the service manager does any actual work is when my truck is there.

    With my warranty there were no stipulations about service records, mileage or any of that bunk. There are alot of good foreign cars out there but I haven’t heard anything good about a hyundai yet.

  13. grovberg says:

    Everybody bagging on Hyundai needs to relax. Hyundai used to make piles of crap, but around 2000 or so they decided they wanted to be a top 5 car maker and sell decent cars instead of crap-mobiles. That’s why they spun off Kia to make the crap cars. I have a 2002 Santa Fe that has run strong for 98,000 miles (in four years no less) with no notable problems (I had belt rotor replaced because it was squeaky and the warranty covered it with no hassle). My wife put 160k on her Elantra before we sold it and it was never in the shop for anything more extensive than an oil change, and we didn’t even take care of that one.

    Also, my local Hyundai dealership has been nothing but good to me. I’m not discounting other’s bad experiences, but I thought I should speak up since solareclipse2 says he’s never heard anything good about Hyundai.

  14. Nancy Sin says:

    As a person of limited income considering buying a Hyundai (mostly because of the good warranty), this has been eye-opening! I think I’ll have to download a .pdf of it somewhere and pore over it this weekend over a cup of coffee.

    Hyundai used to make piles of crap, but around 2000 or so they decided they wanted to be a top 5 car maker and sell decent cars instead of crap-mobiles. That’s why they spun off Kia to make the crap cars.

    Not anymore. Kia has a similar warranty to keep up with the competition. And correct me if I’m wrong but even my beloved Honda and Toyota were junk back in the 70’s but had to improve to stay competitive. History repeating itself…

  15. Nancy Sin says:

    Sorry, I also meant to say that Kia’s cars have vastly improved within the past few years and now have actually gotten some decent reviews.

  16. factotum says:

    Threaten to sue. What cooling system maintenance is specified in the manual during the first 4 years? Likely only visual inspection if the coolant is rated for 100K miles, as most are. Maintenance records can be generated by anyone (wink, wink). Microsoft Office has some modifiable templates that would look nice.

  17. dwneylonsr says:

    I think I’d get a lawyer for this one. It’s unlikely that a head gasket failure is related to required maintenance. As factoum has stated cooling system maintenance is usually limited to visually checking levels.

  18. 00Goat says:

    “Maintenance records can be generated by anyone (wink, wink). Microsoft Office has some modifiable templates that would look nice.”

    Yeah, and then you hit the courtroom and some attorney looks at the file attributes to see who created it, and the whole thing blows up in your face…. nice idea, but never fight fraud with fraud.

  19. Bryan Price says:

    As a brand new Hyundai owner (OK, six months ago), I find this interesting to me. Then again, I tend to drive cars into their grave anyway, and I tend to keep pretty good care of them, up until somebody hits me, and then they tend to get totalled, because they are so old.

    I trust Hyundai better than I do Saturn, which is what my wife’s car is. 3 year, 36K warranty, and everything started to come apart at that point. Brakes (! on a manual no less!), timing belt, clutch, air conditioner, and currently the slave cylinder of the hydraulic clutch. No more Saturns (or GMC products as far as I’m concerned) for us! I guess I’m more pissed at the dealership, because they have shown absolutely zero respect, despite that fact her picture with the “new” car is still up on the wall in the waiting room.

  20. Bryan Price says:

    ooGoat – There are no file attributes on printed paper. I’d like to see the subpeona that would get your hard drive for that.

  21. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    All this talk about maintenance records, but remember, you’re still allowed to work on your own car. How exactly would Hyundai prove that you hadn’t been changing your own oil for the last four years?

    As for other maintenance..what, is Hyundai legally allowed to weasel out of their warranty because you can’t prove you’ve had the door locks greased every year for the last four years?

    I, for one, smell a rat.

  22. robonline03 says:

    “Maintenance records can be generated by anyone (wink, wink). Microsoft Office has some modifiable templates that would look nice.”

    It’s easy to “generate” maintenance records. If you are claiming that someone else (a professional) has done the work and not yourself, you run the big problem that the first thing that Hyundai will do is call the people who are mentioned at letterhead of these “maintenance” records. Either these people don’t exist or they are out of a phone book and will not back up those records. Either way, your goal of getting Hyundai to pay for the repairs get flushed. If Hyundai is feeling kindly, they will just make you pay for the repair. If Hyundai is not feeling kindly, they will hand off the “maintenance records” to the local Sheriff’s department who tend to run these things down.

    Not only is it immoral, but also illegal, and stupidly easy to detect.

  23. Anonymous says:

    I bought a 2005 elantra brand new. 10 yr 100,000 mile warranty with an extended warranty. The thermostat stuck causing the car to overheat and melt the radiator and cracking the block. My oil was changed 3 weeks before this happened. sticker is on the window. dealership refuses to cover anything because there was not enough repair and service documents. I gave the latest oil change paperwork and a few others, and all my inspection reports. still no coverage. car needs engine, radiator and thermostat. what do you think about this?