Car Audio Warranties

The time to think about a warranty is not when you have a problem. You need to be looking at equipment warranties when you're doing your shopping. Warranties are your insurance against defective equipment and can vary greatly between brands.

Factory Warranties

There are many parts of a warranty to know. The first and most obvious is the length of the warranty. The shortest period is usually ninety days. A much better warranty is one year or longer. These are pretty common factory warranties. Some factory warranties will increase their length if the equipment is installed by an authorized dealer. This benefits the manufacturer in two ways. First, the dealer will appreciate the additional installation business brought by this warranty clause. Second, the manufacturer can be reasonably certain that any damage to the unit was not caused by a faulty installation. In turn the manufacturer passes these advantages on to the consumer by extending the warranty period.

The second part of the warranty to know is what's covered. Sometimes there will be a different warranty length for parts and labor. It's important to understand what the difference is. Talk with your dealer about what the manufacturer covers in the event of failure. They can (or should be able to) explain the difference between each manufacturer's warranty. Have them explain what will happen if warranty service is required. Write down the answers they give you. Here's some important questions to ask:

  • Who will do the repairs on the equipment?
  • Who will remove and re-install the equipment? Is there a charge for this? (NOTE: Some manufacturers require that an authorized dealer remove the equipment. Depending on your dealer's customer service policy they may charge you.)
  • Will the equipment be replaced or repaired?
  • Is there an over-the-counter exchange or will I have to wait for the equipment to be sent off and returned?
  • Who will make the warranty claim? Will I be able to or will I need to go through you?
  • What's covered under the warranty and for how long?
  • What's not covered under the warranty?

What To Do When You Need Service

The most important thing to have when you make a warranty claim is your receipt. This will establish when you purchased the equipment and from what dealer. Keep your receipt in a safe place with other important documents. Your dealer may not keep good records and without your receipt you may be on your own. I'd recommend keeping the factory box as well. Make sure you get the box and all manuals from your dealer, especially if they installed the equipment. Sending your equipment back in the factory box lets the manufacturer know that you take care of your equipment.

When You're Not Covered

There are a few things that will void most factory warranties. The first is abuse and misuse. This applies to all sorts of equipment but will most often be seen in amplifiers and speakers. Here are a few examples:

  • Operating your amplifier into a lower impedance load than it was designed for
  • Overheating your equipment by not installing it in a well ventilated area
  • Improper wiring that will cause overheating, under voltage and shorts
  • Driving speakers with more power than they are designed for
  • Driving speakers with "dirty power" caused by a clipping amplifier
  • Driving speakers (especially tweeters) without the proper crossover points

There are more but those are pretty common. If you do one of these and your equipment is damaged don't expect it to be covered under warranty. And don't try to make up a story to fool the repair person. They've heard them all and what's more, they can tell by looking at the equipment what caused the problem. They'll be more likely to fix it for free if you tell the truth than if you insult them with a lie. Honesty is the best policy.

Another reason, and one many people aren't aware of, is that not all sellers are authorized to sell the brands they carry. This is especially true of Internet and mail order companies. Make sure that you are buying your equipment from authorized sources. If you don't then the chances are good you won't be covered by the factory warranty. It should be noted that some mail order companies will have their own warranty on the equipment they sell. This can be tricky if you don't understand the terms of their warranties. Your best bet is to always buy from an authorized dealer. Check with the manufacturer if you are unsure if the seller is authorized. Some companies will not warranty equipment purchased through the Internet/mail even if it is purchased from an authorized dealer. In fact the dealer agreement with these companies will state that the retailer may not sell the equipment except through a retail storefront.

Extending Warranty Coverage

What do you do when the warranty period is over? There are a couple of ways to extend the coverage period for your equipment. The first is fairly well known and the second is not as known but is free.

Anyone who has purchased equipment, especially from a mass merchant, will know about the extended warranty. Basically it is a way to cover your equipment, for a fee, for a period of time past the factory warranty. You'll have to make your own decision as to whether this extra coverage is worth the price. Keep in mind that most consumer groups advise against extended warranties. They're also a very good profit center for the dealers. Why? Because there are so few claims. Usually a piece of equipment will fail in the first ninety days if it's going to fail at all. Still, if you drive your equipment hard you may want to invest in an extended warranty. You'll want to ask the same questions about the extended warranty as you did for the factory warranty.

The second way to get extra coverage is by using certain credit cards. Many gold and platinum cards will have a warranty extending feature built in. Typically this will double the warranty coverage on any equipment you buy, usually up to one extra year. This may be all of the extra coverage you need and will come at no extra charge to you. Check your credit card provider to see if they offer this feature. They may even be able to upgrade your account to provide this. Just like any extended coverage, make sure you understand the details. NOTE: Your card, in some cases, may also offer a price match guarantee.

Magnuson-Moss Act

The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act is the federal law that governs consumer product warranties. Passed by Congress in 1975, the Act requires manufacturers and sellers of consumer products to provide consumers with detailed information about warranty coverage. In addition, it affects both the rights of consumers and the obligations of warrantors under written warranties. You have specific rights as a consumer under the act. The link below explains what is required of sellers and what is not allowed.

FTC Guide to the Magnuson-Moss Act

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