Whether you are buying a new or used car, you need to know about its powertrain warranty or lack thereof.
Warranties vary greatly from one car manufacturer to another. This is true of full warranties (bumper to bumper) and powertrain warranties. These are the two guarantees that form the backbone of vehicle protection.
There is also a corrosion warranty on most new vehicles and a separate hybrid battery warranty on hybrid vehicles. The tires also have their own separate warranty.
Yes, that’s a lot to follow. However, the powertrain warranty is the cornerstone of protection as it covers the most expensive components in your car: engine, transmission, etc.
Let’s take a look at powertrain warranties, what they are, what they cover and how long they last.
What is a powertrain warranty?
A powertrain warranty typically covers the components responsible for creating and transmitting engine torque (power) to the wheels. Basically anything that starts with the engine and ends with the drive wheel axle (s) is covered.
Each warranty ends on an expiration date. Its shelf life is expressed in years and kilometers. Hyundai, Kia, Genesis and Mitsubishi offer the best 10 year / 100,000 mile new car powertrain warranties on the market.
This means the powertrain will be covered for 10 years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first. In other words, powertrain coverage does not extend beyond 10 years if that milestone is reached first or 100,000 miles if it comes first.
Several automakers offer powertrain coverage with no mileage limit. Their warranties will expire after a certain number of years, but it doesn’t matter how many miles you drive. Cadillac, Lincoln, Infiniti and others offer such warranties.
As long as the powertrain warranty is active, if any covered component fails, the automaker will repair or replace it free of charge.
What does a powertrain warranty cover?
As noted above, typically the powertrain begins with the engine and ends with the axle (s), in the case of all-wheel drive (AWD). But let’s be a little more specific.
The powertrain warranty generally covers:
- Transmission: The second most important powertrain component after the engine, it translates the engine’s power into motion that it transfers to the driveshaft. Twenty years ago we would have described it as a gearbox and we would have called it a day, but not today. Many front-wheel drive cars (FWDs) today use a continuously variable transmission, which uses pulleys and belts to accomplish what a traditional transmission does with a clutch and gears.
- Transfer box: For all-wheel-drive (AWD) or four-wheel-drive (4WD) vehicles, the transmission transmits engine torque to a transfer case, which in turn sends that output to the front and rear axles via the drive shafts.
- Drive shaft: A rod-shaped component that carries engine torque from the transmission (or transfer case) to the differential on the drive wheel axle.
- Differential: A gearbox seated on the rear axle controlling the rotation of the wheels. In a bend or in a bend, it is important that the outer wheel spins at a faster rate than the inner wheel. It’s the differential’s job to make sure that happens. On front-wheel drive vehicles, this box sits next to the transmission and is called a transaxle.
- Axle: This is the rod-shaped component responsible for the actual rotation of the wheels.
The engine and its parts
Several parts make up the engine. It is the most expensive of the powertrain components. Usually, a powertrain warranty will cover almost all of its parts. These include:
- oil pan
- Cylinder block
- Valve train
- Fuel injectors
- Timing belt
- Gasoline, water and oil pumps
- Seals and gaskets
- Other internal parts
For the most part, the warranty covers major failures of powertrain components.
What powertrain warranties typically don’t cover
A powertrain warranty does not cover anything that is not directly involved in propelling the vehicle. For example, the air conditioning system is not covered by the powertrain warranty. Neither did the steering system.
Here are other components and instances that the automaker’s powertrain warranty does not cover:
- Wear parts such as spark plugs, air filter, oil filter, fuel filter, clutch, brake pads and constant velocity joints.
- Problems or damage caused by aftermarket components.
- Any alteration specifically prohibited in the warranty.
- Damage caused by accident or collision.
- Misuse or abuse of the vehicle.
- Acts of nature.
- Use of contaminated or poor quality fuel.
- Failure to follow the vehicle manufacturer’s maintenance schedule may void the warranty.
Is a powertrain warranty right for me?
When buying a new car, you don’t really need to ask yourself this question. A powertrain warranty is part of the whole new car. However, what you need to consider is, how long do you plan to keep the car? Some powertrain covers are simply better than others because they provide longer term protection.
Here’s the truth about your car’s powertrain: it will fail at some point. The older a vehicle gets and is used, the more likely a powertrain failure.
Most warranties on new car powertrains are valid for five or six years and 60,000 or 70,000 miles. If your plan is to turn that car over before the powertrain coverage expires, don’t worry. However, if you plan to keep it for a longer period of time, you have to consider whether you want longer powertrain protection.
You can get this longer protection by purchasing a vehicle with a longer powertrain warranty or purchasing an extended powertrain warranty. If you choose to go the route of the extended warranty, we recommend that you get a manufacturer-backed warranty.
If you choose to shop for third party warranty companies, you are encouraged to do your homework. Read the fine print carefully and check their customer satisfaction ratings.
Typically, whatever is left of an automobile manufacturer’s powertrain coverage is transferable to another owner when you sell or trade in your vehicle.
If you’re shopping for a used car, some Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) programs include some form of extended powertrain coverage. It’s your best bet for reliable protection.
If you are buying a used car that is not CPO, there are also third party companies that take out powertrain warranties, depending on the age and mileage of the car. Again, this is the buyer, beware. Take the time to research a third-party warranty provider.
Powertrain Warranty Versus Bumper-to-Bumper Coverage
We’ve already established that powertrain and bumper-to-bumper warranties are the most important parts of your vehicle’s protection network.
The main differences between the two are what they cover and how long they last.
We use “bumper to bumper” as a shorthand for a car manufacturer’s full warranty. In many cases, it’s not exactly bumper to bumper. That is, it may not cover everything that is wrong with your vehicle while it is in effect.
However, the bumper-to-bumper warranty covers pretty much everything the powertrain warranty does not. It still does not cover wear components like tires, bulbs, and fuses.
Powertrain warranties outlast bumper-to-bumper warranties. We mentioned Hyundai and others with that sweet 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty. Hyundai’s bumper-to-bumper warranty is 5 years or 60,000 miles. Ford’s bumper-to-bumper warranty is 3 years or 36,000 miles, but Ford’s powertrain coverage is 5 years or 60,000 miles.
Powertrain warranties almost always last longer than bumper-to-bumper warranty.
Lifetime warranties vs limited powertrain warranties
Lifetime warranties on the powertrain? Who wouldn’t want that? Well, it’s not just about ticking the “Yes” box and pouring in some extra money.
Lifetime warranties on the powertrain
This is because some dealerships offer lifetime coverage, but there is no free meal. This is separate coverage from the manufacturer’s powertrain warranty. It is supplied by the dealer and all warranty repairs covered by the lifetime warranty must be performed by that specific dealer.
Additionally, maintaining this warranty coverage may require a very strict scheduled maintenance regime beyond what the automaker requires. In addition, the lifetime warranty may include one or two restricted use clauses prohibiting towing and other miscellaneous uses.
Unlimited powertrain warranties also generally do not cover engine components such as gaskets, gaskets, and other parts.
The good news, however, is that you don’t have to worry about the terms of an unlimited warranty until the automaker’s limited warranty expires.
Limited warranties on the powertrain
These guarantees work exactly as the name suggests. They are in effect for a fixed period or a fixed number of kilometers traveled. For example, Toyota’s 5-year / 60,000-mile powertrain warranty offers very defined coverage limits.
There are components that these powertrain limited warranties do not cover like CV joints, but they tend to provide a wider range of parts covered than unlimited warranties.