After you’ve considered the model, bells and whistles and the price of a car, one of the most important features to compare when purchasing one is the warranty offered by the manufacturer. A powertrain warranty covers all or part of the powertrain of a vehicle, which is made up of the engine, transmission and drivetrain. Essentially, the powertrain is the system that powers the car, and then transfers that power to the transmission, then finally to the wheels of the car. When a mechanical problem occurs with a covered part of a powertrain, the manufacturer or auto dealership will pay to have it repaired. What exactly is covered, and to what extent varies enormously.
The powertrain warranty is a powerful marketing tool used to entice buyers in the auto industry. Where a 10-year powertrain warranty was once considered a great warranty, companies like Chrysler are now offering lifetime powertrain warranties with most of their vehicles. It may make all the difference when considering which car to buy, and with the highly competitive nature of the industry, buyers are benefiting from the competition.
As with any contract, the fine print makes all the difference. Make sure you carefully examine the powertrain warranty when comparing different options. If you don’t have a lot of technical knowledge concerning the innards of a car, it’s a good idea to consult someone more knowledgeable, such as a trusted mechanic, or research the terms on the internet. The definition of what a powertrain actually is can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. For instance, one definition of an engine can be referred to as a “long block,” meaning everything on the engine that cannot be removed, or another can be a “short block,” meaning only the part of the engine below the cylinder head, without the oil pump.
After you’ve determined what is covered on the engine, be sure to examine how the powertrain warranty defines the transmission and the drivetrain. If you have a manual transmission, the warranty may exclude an important part such as the clutch. It may cover the driveshaft, the axles or transaxle, but may exclude parts that typically wear, such as clutch plates or CV joints. One thing to remember is that any after market modifications may void or alter the powertrain warranty.
A powertrain warranty can vary in the maximum allowable miles and years that the coverage is in effect. Typically the powertrain warranty covers more miles than a general or “bumper to bumper” warranty. With a 10 year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty, a powertrain is covered for up to 10 years or 100,000 miles, or whichever comes first. Even if you only put 50,000 miles on a car in 10 years, your coverage will end at that point. Conversely, if you pass 100,000 miles before the 10 years is up, your warranty will lapse. Again, this varies with the manufacturer, or if the car is new or used. Companies buying fleet vehicles may also have very different powertrain warranty coverage than would a normal consumer.
Finally, be sure to check how extensive the warranty is in what type of work is covered. For example, some warranties will only cover the inspection and disassembly of the part, but not the reassembly and/or installation of the repaired or new part. You may bring in your car for a repair you thought was under warranty only to be slapped with a huge repair bill. Like with all things, powertrain warranties can come with frills, such as rental car benefits, towing and the ability to transfer it to a new owner.