Here’s how to easily void your auto warranty

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By Christopher Elliott

If you want to know how to easily void your auto warranty, just follow the lead of Thad Campbell and his rusty VW Eos.

Volkswagen won’t cover the damage because of a technicality. This is just as bad as another reader that was sent from pillar to post in the process of trying to find the Midas touch.

Try as hard as my advocates did, you’ll be surprised where we ended up. Or maybe not.

Campbell tried to treat the rust in question, in the process showing the world how to void your auto warranty. Seriously.

Campbell’s case is yet another example of corporate pigheadedness, this time courtesy of the good folks who brought you Dieselgate. But let’s back into this one to discover its rich lessons involving silly warranties, unrewarded DIY efforts, and my team of frustrated consumer advocates.

And advocacy team, if you’re reading this — I’m so sorry.

Void your auto warranty? It might be easier than you think

The car, a 2008 Volkswagen Eos, developed what Campbell called “severe rusting” of the driver’s side fender. His wife, who drove the car, asked him to examine it a few weeks ago.

“When I looked at it there were a lot of bubbles in the paint,” he recalls. “I pushed on one, and my fingers went through the fender, and a bunch of small pieces fell off. I broke off the rest of the loose pieces, and I kept them.”

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Then he did something he regrets. He sprayed rust treatment on the metal.

He explains what happens next:

I took it to Hunt Auto Body, the shop used by our local VW dealer. He checked it out and said he couldn’t repair it. The fender needed to be replaced.

Then he said to take it to the dealer as it should still be covered under the warranty. This never occurred to us as the car was 10 years old.

I went home and checked the warranty book — and sure enough, it had a 12-year corrosion warranty.

Campbell’s wife took the Eos to her car dealership, which took photos and told her they needed authorization from VW to do the warranty work.

“A couple of days later they called the service manager and told him they denied the claim,” he says.

Why? He’d treated it with rust spray. VW says that voided the warranty.

The squeaky wheel didn’t get a darned thing for this auto warranty

Campbell called VW and spoke to a customer service agent, who agreed to escalate the case to a regional manager. Four days later, he called back, but VW refused to budge. Campbell had tried to keep the fender intact when he treated it, and now VW was punishing him for it by citing a warranty restriction he didn’t even know about.

“I was only trying to keep it from getting worse, but that voided the warranty,” he says. “They knew that.”

Campbell contacted the VW executive contacts on this site. Silence. And that’s when he turned to us.

Another “nein”

My advocacy team wanted to help Campbell with this rusty bumper. They reviewed his paper trail of correspondence between him and VW. They studied his auto warranty.

Sure enough, Campbell had the coverage, but he’d voided the warranty by treating the car.

Interestingly, earlier this spring, the Federal Trade Commission staff warned six major unidentified companies, that it’s illegal to condition warranty coverage on the use of specified parts or service providers. Apparently, VW didn’t get that memo.

That brought our involvement on this “void your auto warranty” case to an end, unfortunately. VW was well within its rights to charge Campbell the full $1,600 for a new fender. Our advice? Take VW to small claims court and see if a sympathetic judge can reverse this unfortunate outcome.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Rio de Janeiro.

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