Legal Modifications, DOT, TUV, etc

Q: Does fitting aftermarket & performance parts void my car's factory warranty?

U.S. Federal law sets forth requirements for warranties and contains a number of provisions to prevent vehicle manufacturers, dealers and others from unjustly denying warranty coverage. Regarding to aftermarket parts, the spirit of the law is that warranty coverage cannot be denied simply because such parts are present on the vehicle, or have been used. The warranty coverage can be denied only if the aftermarket part caused the malfunction or damage for which warranty coverage is sought.

What to know:

Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (15 U.S.C. 2302(C))

This federal law regulates warranties for the protection of consumers. The essence of the law concerning aftermarket auto parts is that a vehicle manufacturer may not condition a written or implied warranty on the consumers using parts or services which are identified by brand, trade, or corporate name (such as the vehicle maker's brand) unless the parts or service are provided free of charge. The law means that the use of an aftermarket part alone is not cause for denying the warranty. However, the law's protection does not extend to aftermarket parts in situations where such parts actually caused the damage being claimed under the warranty. Further, consumers are advised to be aware of any specific terms or conditions stated in the warranty which may result in its being voided. The law states in relevant part:

No warrantor of a consumer product may condition his written or implied warranty of such product on the consumers using, in connection with such product, any article or service (other than article or service provided without charge under the terms of the warranty) which is identified by brand, trade or corporate name... (15 U.S.C. 2302(C)).

Clean Air Act Warranty Provisions (42 U.S.C. S 7541 (C) (3) (B))

The federal Clean Air Act requires vehicle makers to provide two emissions-related warranties -- a production warranty and a performance warranty. The production warranty requires the vehicle maker to warrant that the vehicle is designed, built and equipped so that it conforms with emissions requirements at the time of sale. The performance warranty requires the vehicle maker to warrant that the vehicle will comply with applicable emissions requirements as tested under state vehicle emissions inspection programs for the warranty periods specified in the law (for model year 1995 and later vehicles, the warranty is 2 years/24,000 miles for all emissions-related parts and 8 years/80,000 miles for the catalytic converter, electronic emissions control unit and on-board diagnostic device). The performance warranty is conditioned on the vehicle being properly maintained and operated.

Like the Magnuson-Moss Act, vehicle manufacturers may not refuse warranty repairs under the Clean Air Acts performance and defect warranties merely because aftermarket parts have been installed on the vehicle. The only circumstance under which the vehicle manufacturer can void the emissions warranties is if an aftermarket part is responsible for (causes) the warranty claim.

Valuable Additional Information:

Q: Is my car legal? What is DOT, What is TÃœV? Will my car pass inspection with ___ done to it?

TÜV is an independent body that is enabled to issue certifications of quality on commercially manufactured items (like auto parts).

The letters T.Ü.V. stand for "Technische Überwachungs Verein" basically translated into "Technical Inspection Association". TÜV sets manufacturing and safety standards for quality control purposes. If a product (say, a set of coilovers) in constructed and tested to meet the TÜVs guidelines, it can pass and have TÜV certification that is necessary for products fitted to road going vehicles in Germany & Austria. If you are in the US, this is a non issue, but this certification is an indication that the product is manufactured to a quality standard. Many quality products from Germany like H&R and KW-suspension are approved.

The US DOT is a government body in charge of transportation related laws and standards. Therefore they seek to assure that certain parts (brake lines are a popular example) meet requirements for safe use on US highways by applying a standard.

The only issue you are likely to face involving a component being Non-DOT compliant are headlights and taillights. Many more brands today are seeking to have a "D.O.T." stamp on their product, meaning that it conforms to DOT standards and is acceptable for use on the public road.

Other issues involving the US DOT and aftermarket parts are Stainless Steel-Braded Brake Hose kits. Many brands are not DOT compliant. D.O.T. MVSS-106 requirements for street driven vehicles involve a test of durability that most inferior stainless steel line kits fail. Here at VAC all of those sold are from Goodridge and are in fact made to be fully DOT compliant.

What modifications are legal?

Individual states have certain laws about emissions, vehicle inspection and safety (for example, California’s strict laws involving C.A.R.B. legal modifications vs. some states that have no emissions tests whatsoever). This does vary from state to state so to be 100% sure a product or modification is legal; its always best to consult your local law enforcement and/or state DOT.

Most of the time, this is really worth your while and can promote awareness among both local car enthusiasts and law enforcement. If things are a gray area, its better to get the ok from the local PD first then to get reprimanded or fined down the line.