Win the warranty game

John Baxter | November 02, 2010

There’s no shortage of reasons for invalidating a warranty. Trump them all with proper PM and get your claim honored


 Once trucks are out the door, things happen that truck makers can’t control. That’s their argument when they deny warranty claims, and it holds legal water. That means buyers need to practice proper operation and maintenance. With newer trucks, that takes extra attention.

Changing fuel filters in a timely manner and using only those that meet factory specs is increasingly critical in preventing injector failure. When caused by dirty fuel, the failure would not be repaired under warranty.

“Many owner-operators just take their vehicle into a quick lube periodically for an oil change and figure they’re good to go,” says Michael Donnelley, service manager at MHL Kenworth in Little Rock, Ark. In reality, he adds, many warranty-related items you need to pay attention to aren’t covered in a quick oil change environment.

Basic preventive maintenance

“In the past five years, a lot of hoses, wiring, and piping, as well as new devices, have been added to meet the latest emission standards,” Donnelley says. “All these items need to be checked.” You need to keep wiring and hoses from contacting each other and the major components or you could easily experience a failure. This is an area of neglect that’s not warranted.

When a leak causes the lube level to drop below rear axle gears, they begin to run dry. Friction can make short work of the teeth on a pinion gear, not to mention all the bearings. Maintaining fluid level is the owner’s responsibility.

Another classic failure is assuming that by keeping antifreeze/water proportions correct you have adequately maintained your antifreeze, Donnelley says. “But you may have let the diesel coolant additives, which need to be continuously replenished, get out of balance. You then discover exhaust pressure in the radiator, take the truck in, and are told the cylinder liners are pitted. If that results from improperly maintained coolant, it’s not warranted.”

Peterbilt’s Rick Wood, customer service director, urges a check of the antifreeze nitrite level. “Information about the proper level is found in the owner’s manual,” he says. He also notes the need to keep the coolant level at or above the “MIN” level line on the surge tank, to check hoses and clamps, including clamp tightness, and to periodically pressure-check the radiator cap. “Failure to regularly check these items can lead to failures of the cooling system and possible internal engine damage, which may not be warrantable.”

A lack of supplemental coolant additives can produce this kind of radiator clogging. Once clogged, operating pressure rises and the radiator is likely to leak, leaving you vulnerable to loss of coolant and overheating.

Failure to perform prescribed PMs, such as routine inspection of hoses, belts, harnesses and other connecting components, can result in failures not covered under warranty, says Robert Correll Jr., service general manager for Daimler Trucks North America. Such problems could be avoided with practices as simple as replacing a tie-down, ensuring a hose remains routed away from nearby chassis parts, and avoiding use of fluids not approved by the manufacturer.

He warns against extending service intervals without lab tests and truck or component maker approval to justify the extension. And, always use engine oil that meets all requirements of the manufacturer; most have individual standards in addition to recommending CJ-4 for newer engines. Do the same with other fluids, such as antifreeze and trans and axle lubes.

Extending engine change intervals beyond factory recommendations is commonly feasible when the best oils are used and your application is easy on the oil. But it requires an oil analysis program and review of the data and approval by the engine manufacturer.

Correll also mentions a surprising glitch to a warranty – adding an inverter that is not properly designed, or failing to install the device properly. This can result in battery damage and starter issues, the latter since low voltage due to heavy discharge puts more amps through a starter even though you’ll get less cranking power.

Drivetrain issues

The use of proper fluids in drivetrain components “is important to maintain the product performance and maintain the component warranty,” says Rick Muth, manager of lubricants for Eaton and Roadranger. “For example, Eaton transmissions require lubricants that meet the PS 164 Rev7 specification and Dana components require a lube that meets SHAES 256 RevC.”

“ArvinMeritor does not dictate lube brands, but we strongly recommend characteristics,” says Global Service Director Charlie Allen. “Make certain that the product you select meets OE specifications and A.P.I. [American Petroleum Institute] standards.” Be cautious, he says, about a product that says “will meet” because that “usually means thorough lab testing is missing.” strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.