You’ve heard this word used a lot. It’s all over commercials and sales packages like it’s the next big thing. It’s a warranty on the powertrain.
At first glance, having your car covered for up to 100,000 miles or more sounds good. Why wouldn’t you like it? But what is a powertrain warranty, and how much are they worth? Just keep reading our guide, and we’ll tell you everything you need to know.
What is a Powertrain Warranty?
Powertrain warranties are limited warranties that the manufacturer or dealer may offer. They give you some protection, but not as much as the comprehensive warranty.
Most powertrain warranties cover a certain number of miles and years. For example, you might have a powertrain warranty for 10 years or 100,000 miles. You’re still covered as long as your car is less than ten years old and has less than 100,000 miles on it. But for your car to be covered, BOTH of these things must be true.
What Does a Powertrain Warranty Cover?
A powertrain warranty covers your engine, transmission, driveshafts, differentials, and transfer cases, which are the most durable parts of your car.
It may seem like that will cover a lot, but it doesn’t even cover all the parts of those systems. Not everything that is attached to your engine or transmission is always covered. This includes the emission controls on top of your engine, your intake, brake boosters, and anything else.
Powertrain warranties only cover the big metal blocks and how they work on the inside. It’s not covered if you can take it off your engine. Also, warranties on the powertrain won’t cover “wearable” parts like spark plugs or glow plugs.
What is a Powertrain?
The powertrain of your car is everything that sends power from the engine to the wheels. If you know how everything connects and works as a mechanic, this makes sense. Everyone else can find it hard to understand.
For those who don’t understand mechanics, here’s a quick summary:
Your engine generates power. Your engine then sends the power to your transmission, which turns your driveshaft. Your driveshaft sends that power to your differential (and transfer case, if your car has all-wheel or four-wheel drive), and your differential sends that power to your wheels.
All of these parts have something to do with how your car moves, so they are all part of the powertrain.
Are Powertrain Warranties Worth It?
How much you pay for it makes a big difference. When you buy a new car, it usually comes with a warranty on the engine and transmission. In this case, getting a little extra protection for nothing is a good idea.
But let’s say you’re in the financial office of the car dealership and they’re trying to add an extended powertrain warranty to the purchase of your car. If that’s the case, the answer is that most of the time, the extended warranties aren’t worth it. This is especially true if the warranty is only for the engine and drivetrain.
Your Engine and Transmission Rarely Break
A powertrain warranty is hard to put a dollar value on, but it’s pretty low. That’s because it’s pretty unlikely that your engine or transmission will break down on a car that still has a powertrain warranty.
Manufacturers are getting better and better at making these important parts last for a long time. The engine or transmission of a newer car rarely breaks down before 150,000 miles. After that, most dealerships or manufacturers won’t offer a warranty on the engine or transmission, especially not for a reasonable price.
Differentials and Transfer Cases are Even More Durable
We’ve talked to a lot of mechanics, and none of them have ever seen a differential break in a way that would be covered by a warranty. Most of the time, these kinds of damage happen when you try to pull a vehicle out of a mud pit or when you tow it the wrong way.
Normal wear and tear is not covered by warranties. These kinds of damage are not normal wear and tear. Even though transfer cases are easier to break, most of the time the damage isn’t caused by something that a warranty will cover.
That’s because shifting gears wrong or towing a car the wrong way is by far the most common way to break a transfer case. In either case, the manufacturer or dealership will probably say that you caused the damage by being careless, which will void your warranty.
The truth is that if you drive your car normally, it’s pretty hard to break your transfer case or differential. They’re made of solid metal, and if you do everything right, it’s not easy to break solid metal.
The Only Way to Break Your Driveshaft Is in An Accident
Seriously. It is a metal rod that goes around and around. If you’re not in an accident, the only way your driveshaft can break is if the bearings that hold it in place fail, and they don’t fail overnight.
This means you’ll notice it long before it does any damage. Your driveshaft is covered, but the bearings that hold it in place may or may not be, depending on how your extended warranty is written
Still, there isn’t much chance that these bearings will break, and they aren’t expensive to replace.
There are Tons of Hidden Fees
A lot of warranties say that all maintenance has to be done at the dealership. And the truth is that getting maintenance done there is a lot more expensive than getting it done elsewhere. So, instead of paying $30 at Wal-Mart for an oil change, you’ll have to pay $100 at the dealership.
Even worse, dealership warranties often require you to get extra preventive maintenance done, even if the manufacturer doesn’t recommend it. The more work they get to do on your car, the more money they can charge you and make.
Since you’ve already paid for the warranty, the dealership knows you’ll pay for the extra maintenance, even if you don’t think you need it. So, when you look at the price of an extended warranty, think about how much extra money you’ll have to pay over the years to keep it.
The Final Verdict – Is It Worth It?
Most of the time, the dealership will charge an extra $1,000 to $2,000 for a longer powertrain warranty. Also, you’ll have to keep going there for maintenance as long as the warranty lasts.
If your car is covered by a $2,000 warranty for another five years or 50,000 miles, you’ll need about 16 oil changes to keep the warranty valid. At $70 more per oil change, the real cost of your warranty is $3,120, and that’s if they don’t try to sell you any extra maintenance fees on top of that.
How much does a new engine cost on average? Between $3,000 and $4,000. So, is it worth it to pay for a powertrain warranty? Almost always, the answer is no, even if your engine breaks.
What You Should Do with That Money Instead
Save the money you would have spent on the warranty’s first payment and keep it for future repairs. You should also set aside a small amount each month to cover the costs of preventive maintenance and a little bit more to cover small repairs that may come up.
If you start this fund when your car is still new, you should have more than enough to pay for repairs when they become necessary, which is usually after your warranty has ended.
Dealership Warranties vs. Manufacturer Warranties
The difference between a warranty from the dealer and one from the manufacturer is like night and day. Most people don’t know the difference until they need to, but boy, is there a difference.
The Dealership Warranty
Most of the time, a “dealership warranty” is what is meant by “extended warranty.” If that’s the case, not every dealership will be able to recognise it. In fact, that dealership is usually the only one who can recognise it. Even worse, the dealership is the only one who can decide what the warranty says.
They can ask for anything they want and hide it in the warranty’s legalese. Most likely, you’ll have to take your car to the dealership for all routine maintenance and repairs, and you’ll have to use OEM parts for any repairs you need to make.
Most of the time, you’ll need to take it to that dealership, not just another one that sells the same brand of car. If you don’t, your warranty might be void, and if you do need it, dealerships are known for trying to get out of them.
That’s because when a car with a dealer warranty comes in for repairs, the dealer pays for them, not the car manufacturer.
The Manufacturer Warranty
Even though a manufacturer’s powertrain warranty only covers your car’s engine and transmission, all dealerships for that brand will honour it. They use the same words all over the country and are usually easier to honour.
That’s because the manufacturer is paying for the repairs and then giving the dealership money to cover them.
You’ll still have to keep a full record of the car’s maintenance, and most of the time, you’ll have to take it to the dealership for repairs. But since manufacturers make their warranties the same all over the country, it’s easy to figure out what you need to do for a dealership to honour them.
What Voids a Powertrain Warranty?
There are a lot of reasons why a dealer or manufacturer might decide to void your powertrain warranty. Most of the time, it’s because the maintenance history isn’t complete. It could be that you changed the oil yourself and never kept a receipt, or it could be that you haven’t been keeping up with your routine maintenance.
Either way, this is the most common reason why the dealership will void your warranty. Putting aftermarket parts on a car is another common thing to do.
These could be performance upgrades, like turbochargers or superchargers, or aftermarket sensors. When you buy OEM parts, manufacturers make money, but they don’t know when you use aftermarket parts. If you don’t pay for repairs that aren’t covered by the warranty, they have no problem voiding your warranty.
Also, some of the upgrades might have been the reason your car broke down in the first place. If you push your car beyond what it can handle, the manufacturer or dealer won’t honour the warranty.
Will I Void a Powertrain Warranty If I Do My Own Oil Changes?
Sometimes, but not always. If you bought your car from a dealership, chances are you will. When figuring out how much it will cost to sell you an extended powertrain warranty, dealerships take preventive maintenance costs into account. They lose this money if you do your own preventive maintenance.
But most, but not all, manufacturer warranties will let you do preventive maintenance as long as you keep full records of the work.
This means you’ll need to keep track of what services you did and at what mileage, and you’ll need to keep receipts for all oil filters and fluids. If you don’t have this information, the dealership is likely to think that your maintenance records aren’t complete and will not honour your warranty.
Does a Powertrain Warranty Cover Sensors?
It depends on the exact language of your powertrain warranty, but most powertrain warranties do not cover sensors. Sensors are like a filter or a set of tyres in that they are a part that wears out over time.
Don’t worry about the fact that sensors shouldn’t break down in less than 100,000 miles. If they do go bad, you will have to pay for new ones. In fact, warranties on powertrains don’t cover very much. You’ll really only be able to use it if you need a brand-new engine or transmission.
Powertrain warranties are as bad as an apple that has gone bad. They look good on the outside, but when you look deeper, you see how useless they really are.
Still, it is important to know exactly what they are and what they cover. So, if you have a powertrain warranty, you’ll know when you can use it, and if the dealership tries to sell you one, you’ll know to avoid them.