George Trosley
August 17, 2006
At Paramus Ford in Paramus, New Jersey, an inquisitive potential buyer looks on as sales rep Vic Piano and dealership owner Richard LoCurto explain the in's and out's of the Mustang powertrain warranty. Versed in Mustang performance, Paramus Ford builds its own creations such as this "Eleanor" replica and is an authorized Roush dealer.

Mustang enthusiasts drive their cars hard and modify them. How does that affect your new-car warranty? Imagine you're doing some top-down trolling in your red '05 Mustang GT convertible one warm summer day, soaking up sun and blasting GNR's Appetite for Destruction on your 1,000-watt Shaker audio system. Just as Slash is beginning the solo of "Rocket Queen," you suddenly discover that your air conditioning is no longer blowing cold. You start to stew under the baking rays of the sun, and for the first time since you purchased it on its release date in 1987, you aren't enjoying the best rock album ever made. What began as a day of Axl Rose sing-alongs and Camaro hunting has become a day of sweating and being ticked off.

But there's good news: Your Mustang is still within the factory warranty period, so you take it in to the local Ford dealership for an A/C system diagnosis and repair. Sitting patiently in the waiting room at the dealership, you daydream about centrifugal blowers, the hot chick on the cover of last month's Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords, and how much Velvet Revolver sucks. You are rudely interrupted, however, by a surprise visit from the service manager. He states that they have discovered an aftermarket cold-air intake on your vehicle, and therefore are refusing to perform the work on the air conditioning system under warranty

In addition, the dealership service manager says, because the intake renders your car "modified," he has voided your warranty altogether in Ford's main computer. Your vehicle no longer has any warranty coverage, and you're left staring in disbelief at the $540 repair bill in your hands.

It's a situation the likes of which one could never imagine encountering, but it's not a tall tale: One Mustang owner's warranty actually was voided because of a cold-air kit. Aside from being totally unjustified, that dealership's actions-both in refusing to work on the A/C system and voiding the vehicle warranty altogether-were completely illegal.

Though the above is perhaps the most extreme case of warranty denial that has ever occurred, this type of thing happens with disturbing frequency. All too often, Mustang owners bring their cars in for legitimate repairs under warranty and are forced to foot the bill, or-if they're really unlucky-have their warranty coverage forever cancelled. The fact that many dealership personnel simply assume that customers interested in high performance "beat on" their cars only makes matters worse, and in some cases they'll turn a Mustang owner away for that reason alone.

What we'll do in this story is, first, discuss the general concerns surrounding aftermarket vehicle modifications. Then we'll detail the actual language used in Ford's warranty and what it means. After this, we'll move on to the surprising in's and out's of the vehicle repair hierarchy set up between Ford Motor Company and its dealer-ships. After discussing the law on point, we shall give a synopsis of the business relationship between Ford, the dealerships, and you. We'll end with a discussion of what you the consumer can do when confronted with a warranty work refusal situation, both in terms of face-to-face negotiations and in regard to legal actions, as well as how to avoid these unpleasant situations altogether.

I also need to insert a disclaimer here. I'm an attorney, and since attorneys cannot give out legal advice without subjecting themselves to legal liability, the reader needs to be aware that what follows is not legal advice. This article is simply meant for informational purposes, as a starting point to enrich reader knowledge about what help is available. Legal counsel can be of immeasurable assistance to someone involved in a warranty denial situation, and the simple fact that one has retained legal assistance will help any individual to be taken more seriously by the opposing parties. The reader is therefore strongly advised to retain competent legal counsel for any problems he or she may have. Don't take the information in this article as a "last word" on the subject. Tax, title, and license fees extra. All rights reserved. Do not inhale . . . you get the picture.

Aftermarket Parts: A Way of Life
If you're reading this magazine, you're interested in high-performance Blue Oval action. This almost certainly means you've gotten involved in personalizing your car with performance-enhancing parts and accessories. If you're an intelligent reader, you probably don't expect Ford to support your racing habits. For example, you wouldn't anticipate Ford performing warranty work on, say, your slipping stock clutch sitting behind your 650hp supercharged mod motor. But what you should expect is for Ford to repair those things it is legally obligated to, provided something you did to the car didn't cause the problem. The aforementioned air conditioning system fix would be an excellent example of a repair Ford could almost never legally wriggle out of, as it is almost inconceivable that such a performance-enhancing part could in any way lead to A/C system failure. As another example, it would be almost impossible to argue that an after-cat exhaust system created any problem with any part of a car whatsoever.

Things aren't always so black and white when it comes to warranty work, though. Like it or not, there's often good reason for Ford and its dealerships to be concerned about the installation of aftermarket parts on Mustangs. Aside from worries about what they might deem the inferior quality of these non-Ford components, they can add stress to existing parts of the vehicle. Longtime MM&FF contributor Bernie Golick, who became a Ford employee in 1964 and was a former district service engineer in the New York district office, explains. "The lifetime of a vehicle goes down naturally as horsepower goes up. Though there's no mechanical reason a car can't come off the assembly line with many more horses under the hood-even while still meeting all applicable emissions laws-manufacturers cut their vehicles' power to extend engine life, let the transmission live longer, and so on. People can uncork this power that the manufacturer has left on the table with exhaust modifications, underdrive pulleys, and other types of personalization. But there's always another effect. Underdrive pulleys change your alternator and water pump speed; they can cause damage if there's already a defect in the cooling system, for example."

Theoretically, on the hottest day in Tampa history, and while sitting in stopped traffic for hours, a set of underdrive pulleys might contribute to inadequate cooling and aggravate the fact that the factory had poured an incorrect mixture of antifreeze into the vehicle, thereby causing overheating and a seized engine. This and many other mods fall into a gray area of causation, where it's often unclear whether the vehicle owner's personalizations have contributed meaningfully to the damage in question.

But without even making such an intellectual leap, some dealerships will look at a car with aftermarket modifications and simply assume the personalization could cause damage to totally unrelated parts of the vehicle. Theoretically, headers could end up melting a ring land if the owner didn't bother reflashing the computer and thereby allowed the motor to run too lean; and dealers have turned customers down saying they won't touch any part of a car that has headers on it. A blower pulley swap on a late-model Cobra could conceivably cause a problem with the supercharger or engine, due to increased stresses on the internals of each, but would it cause a leaking differential?

The link between cause and effect is what it all comes down to, and the trick is to prove there's no substantial connection between an aftermarket part and the problem in question. A tie-in can be made to the legal concept of "proximate causation." I'll spare you the exact details of this concept (go pick up a copy of Prosser's Torts if you must know more); just know that while an effect can have multiple causes-in-fact, there's generally only one true "proximate" or "legal" cause in a multiple-cause scenario-the others simply add to the inevitable.

This also leads to other gray areas: What if the dealership has an in-house "personalization" center and sells modified cars as new? Or, if like one person we know, paid extra for an extended warranty on a slightly used '03 SVT Cobra and then discovered the car was already modified with a blower pulley, computer tune, and after-cat exhaust. Could the warranty she paid extra for be voided by another Ford dealership if she needed to take it in for unexpected repairs?

But the blame isn't entirely with the dealerships. Ford proper also has a big hand in denying claims, as it keeps a close eye on dealerships' warranty repairs. More warranty work being done at a given dealership equals more money out of Ford's pocket, so when this starts to happen, Ford begins keeping a closer eye on that dealership. It'll demand more and more information for each claim that comes in, and oftentimes require that the dealership service personnel call and get approval from Ford before performing a warranty repair. In such cases, the blame for denying what should be a valid warranty claim would lie with Ford Motor Company and not the servicing dealership.

It's in Writing, and it's Right in Your GloveBox
Every person who buys a new Mustang receives a Warranty Guide booklet, and it's likely buried amongst your registration card, insurance card, and extra Wendy's ketchup packets. Reading it will reveal a great deal of information regarding Ford's legal obligations. Here are a few of the more important sections, with emphasis added.

Ford states that its warranty will not cover "damage caused by . . . misuse of the vehicle, such as driving over curbs, overloading, [or] racing . . . " Note that this does not say that Ford's warranty will not cover vehicles used for racing; it says it won't cover damage caused by racing. One should not expect Ford to warrant one's driveshaft when the owner slaps slicks on the car, takes it to a dragstrip, and drops the clutch at six grand-while spraying a 175-shot of nitrous. But that same person would want Ford to repair that same "used-for-racing" car when the weatherstripping on the driver-side window springs a leak.

Here's a key section: "The New Vehicle Limited Warranty does not cover any damage caused by:

  • Alterations or modifications of the vehicle, including the body, chassis, or components, after the vehicle leaves the control of Ford Motor Company
  • Tampering with the vehicle, tampering with the emissions systems or with the other parts that affect these systems (for example, but not limited to exhaust and intake systems)
  • The installation or use of a non-Ford Motor Company part (other than a "certified" emissions part) or any part (Ford or non-Ford) designed for "off-road use only" installed after the vehicle leaves the control of Ford Motor Company, if the installed part fails or causes a Ford part to fail. Examples include . . . performance-enhancing powertrain components."

    There are a few things to talk about here. First off, the entire section is referring to damage "caused by" modifications. Damage "caused by" tampering with the intake system would presumably refer to the modification adversely affecting, for example, sensors such as the MAF and IAT, and damage "caused by" tampering with the exhaust system likely refers to, for example, damage to the oxygen sensors.

    One Mustang owner found himself in a real fiasco when a dealership said his engine problem (from his description, a valvetrain tick) was the result of his cold-air intake sucking in water and "rust getting up in there." In light of the facts that plastic intake tubes, aluminum intake manifolds, and aluminum cylinder heads don't rust, the dealership personnel clearly were barking up the wrong tree as to causation here. Even more telling, the dealer hadn't even disassembled the engine, and yet had managed to reach the precise diagnosis that it was "all shot ta hell, ya know!"

    The last bullet point in the above-quoted text refers to non-Ford parts failing or "causing" a Ford part to fail. Of course we don't expect Ford to replace our rusted-out Brand-X headers under warranty, as they're clearly a non-Ford part. What we do expect Ford to do is to replace Ford parts, so long as any non-Ford parts we've installed haven't caused their failure. So would the header swap have led to, say, premature catalytic converter failure? Again, determining causation is tricky business.

    Finally, and this applies to unmodified cars as well, sometimes a dealer will make a last-ditch attempt to deny your warranty coverage based on maintenance issues: "Failure to perform scheduled maintenance as specified in the Service Guide will invalidate warranty coverage on parts affected by the lack of maintenance . . .

    "Ford Motor Company recommends that you retain all receipts covering maintenance on your vehicle, but Ford cannot deny warranty coverage solely for the lack of receipts or for your failure to ensure the performance of all scheduled maintenance." Here again, the use of "affected by" is causation language, and the final sentence about the lack of service records not being fatal is critical. After all, it's highly unlikely that you have a service receipt from the last time you changed your oil in your driveway.

    What Goes On at the Dealership: You'll Be Surprised
    "During the Bumper to Bumper Coverage period, your authorized Ford Motor Company dealer has the desire to ensure your complete satisfaction at no out-of-pocket cost to you." - Mustang Warranty Guide booklet (emphasis added)

    Or do they? You might already know that dealerships get less money for performing a repair under warranty (in which Ford pays them for it) than they do if the customer gets the bill. The main reason for this is that Ford Motor Company guidelines set the number of labor hours that a given repair job takes, and this time figure is often grossly unrealistic. For example, it's rumored that the time figure for pulling and replacing an F-150 truck engine was developed using a Roush Racing pit crew; Ford officials stood by with a stopwatch. Though the truth of this particular tale can't be verified, it's common knowledge within the automotive community that many repairs performed at the dealership end up taking longer than Ford says they should.

    Conversely, when a dealership's service department performs repair work with the customer footing the bill, there is no such Ford-specified limit on the amount of hours that can be written up. Dealerships have a monetary incentive to perform work on the customer's dollar instead of under warranty.

    If this doesn't surprise you, check this out: Thanks to the hourly system set up by Ford and its dealerships, the mechanics themselves end up getting paid less for doing the same exact repair job under warranty than they would if the dealership were getting paid by the customer.

    "It all starts with the mechanic," says Golick. "They are piecework people whose pay is graded on the amount of hours they produce. If they can sell the job at retail as opposed to the factory warranty rate, they have an incentive to do this, and sometimes they'll say they won't fix it under warranty."

    And this is where aftermarket parts come into play. If the mechanic sees something aftermarket on your car that he doesn't like, he can sway the dealer by saying this item disqualifies you from warranty coverage on the job. Since people in the service department often have no idea about the mechanical aspects of a car, they'll just write things up and take the mechanic's word for it.

    For a given warranty denial situation, then, the problem can be with a misinformed-or outright dishonest-mechanic who believes that aftermarket parts on a customer's car void warranty coverage. Whether or not this belief is genuine matters not, since either way he or she can conveniently get paid more for the fix by making the customer pick up the tab.

    The fault isn't all with the dealership and its personnel, though, as Ford is continually getting more and more strict in terms of what repairs it'll cover. According to Joe Amato of Downs Ford, an SVT dealership in Toms River, New Jersey, "Ford has it set up now where, say, a customer comes in with a ripped molding in the interior; we actually have to take a digital picture and e-mail it to Ford and get an approval before we even order the parts. God forbid you need an engine; you have to go through about 20 steps before you can get an approval for it. Ford wants to know if the pulleys have been changed, if the mass air meter has been changed; they want to know everything and get pictures of everything. Ford, with how many claims they deny now, is saving itself millions of dollars. It's getting so strict that anything you do to the car, you're taking the chance of having to pay the bill yourself."

    According to another dealership's warranty administrator, "If it's regular work, it's no problem. But if the car is having a transmission problem, or engine problem, then you have to call Ford on the phone and they ask you all kinds of stuff. It's enough if the rear tires are worn excessively-it's considered abuse, and they deny the claim. If you see something like this, it might jeopardize the claim, depending on whether Ford assumes it contributed to the failure or not. Most likely, if there is a chip in the PCM, or there are headers or pulleys, they'll most likely deny the claim because they'll say the car isn't being used as a regular car; it's being used for racing. They'll cancel the customer's warranty. They can also cancel the warranty on the engine only or the transmission only. They're very tight on money right now, so with all this new technology-computers, digital pictures, and so on-they can watch a lot of things from afar."

    Amato elaborates, "But then again, it still all goes back to the dealer. There are a lot of dealers that don't get into performance whatsoever and always blame the part you've changed before they even figure out what the problem is. They're more apt to blame a computer chip for the windows not working than anything. They get real nervous when they see performance parts on the car because they just don't know; it's not something they're used to dealing with."

    The Law: What You Need to Know.
    There is hope for the consumer, and it's called the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Improvement Act of 1975, codified as Title 15 of the United States Code, Sections 2301 through 2312. It is a federal law, so it applies everywhere in the United States. As with nearly all written laws, there's a lot of legal mumbo jumbo in this statute, but the important provision lies in Section 2302(c):

    "No warrantor of a consumer product may condition his written or implied warranty of such product on the consumer's 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 . . ."

    What this says is that the manufacturer (warrantor) can't refuse to honor its warranty if the consumer uses products made by third parties (i.e., aftermarket companies), unless the manufacturer offers the consumer an equivalent product for free. Since by all accounts Ford doesn't hand out free big-bore throttle bodies, we can safely take this to mean that one may install a Brand-X 90mm throttle body without it voiding one's vehicle warranty.

    Though the main intent of Congress here was clearly to promote competition in the marketplace for replacement parts (e.g., to prevent Ford from requiring you to only use Motorcraft oil filters), hop-up goodies also fall under the act's purview. Hard to believe, but it would seem the Feds actually care about hobbyists like ourselves. Although the reasons they give a damn may be rooted purely in antitrust and capitalism, we'll take what we can get.

    The Magnuson-Moss Act flies in the proverbial face of Ford and its dealerships that say your warranty has been completely voided because you've installed aftermarket parts. Indeed, this federal law states exactly what we've been stressing: that the warranty has not been voided, and Ford will have to repair the Ford parts in question provided the aftermarket part didn't cause the problem. This legal synopsis is easy enough to say, but it's also easy enough for it to come back and haunt you. Go into a dealership screaming and yelling "Magnuson-Moss" like it's bloody murder, and perhaps even throwing a copy of this article at them, and you've greatly increased your chance that the service department will continue to dishonor your claim, or maybe even go ahead and void your warranty in Ford's system-if they haven't done so already. We'll discuss some more appropriate procedures we recommend for going about such a confrontation-though we wish it would be so easy, simple mention of federal law generally won't do the trick.

    The Act also allows companies to set up informal dispute resolution mechanisms that must be pursued before going to court. We mean "informal" in the sense that while structured, these mechanisms aren't bound by rules of evidence, procedure, or legal precedent. Ford has taken full advantage of this in its use of the so-called Dispute Settlement Board (DSB). Administered in cooperation with the Better Business Bureau, this system essentially uses a third-party arbitrator to decide the case between you and Ford. If the decision comes out favorable to you, you can accept the decision, have it enforced, and give up any right to subsequently go to court on the issue. If the arbitrator's decision comes out unfavorable to you, you can reject it and are free to pursue other legal remedies, i.e., taking Ford to Federal Court.

    Although Ford can't force you to go through the DSB mechanism before taking action in a state court (for example, a small-claims action or a contract action), the corporation can make you do it before taking it to Federal Court under the Magnuson-Moss Act. This may be a good thing, though, because use of the DSB comes free of charge, and you just may get what you want before having to plunk down the complaint filing fee at the local United States District Court. Though Mustang owners we've spoken to say the DSB system is "stacked against you," anyone would have to agree that an imperfect system is better than having no system whatsoever-unless, of course, you're an anarchist.

    Ford, the Dealership, and the Customer: a Tenuous Relationship
    Ford and its dealerships are, of course, not one and the same. As their legal relationship is one of franchisor-franchisee, their interests aren't always in line. To this end, Ford sends factory represent-atives out in the field when a customer makes a complaint relating to a dealership, and these factory reps may or may not look at things the same way as the dealer. Though both parties know that making the customer happy is the avenue to making more money in the future, making dough on repairs now (the dealership's possible view) or saving money in not paying for a warranty claim (the factory view) may outweigh this in some cases-and lead to claim denial with little or no investigation as to the actual cause of the problem.

    Think about it from a business perspective: In general, Ford dealerships want you to come back and buy another car from them, have your car serviced there, and otherwise keep the cash flow coming. They're fully aware that the goodwill you spread will keep them in business. Golick explains, "When a customer has a problem and brings the car in to the dealer where he bought the car or where his family has bought a car, a bond of trust exists where the dealer is inclined to fix the car. In some cases, the dealership personnel will turn their heads to make the customer happy in order to retain him. The trick is to get dealer to look at your side. If the diagnostic scanner shows an incorrect program in the engine computer, or something out of parameters, they have the choice between ignoring it or putting it on file.

    "Similarly, imagine a car with otherwise normal computer readings but with a nitrous tap in the intake elbow. The dealership can choose not to see certain things in order to make the customer happy.

    "But if you go in there with a bunch of hop-up parts and say the clutch is slipping or a valve guide is bad, the parts may not be directly connected to the problem, so to speak; but it could be that a detonation condition that would have otherwise existed has been aggravated by the computer chip the customer installed. In such a case, the dealer may lay the blame on something other than what is really the true problem."

    As mentioned earlier, dealerships are on different levels of program control and authority on the types of repairs they can do. This determination is based on a dealer's warranty cost relative to its sales numbers overall, and depends on the number of people who come into that dealership for repairs and how many of those repairs are done under warranty. "So, depending on the level of repair, the dealership may need authority from the factory to do it," says Golick.

    The Magnuson-Moss act often comes into play in this factory-dealer relationship as well, and thanks to it creating the potential for expensive litigation, the dealership may wish to be more lenient with a customer than it would otherwise.

    "The dealership's neck is almost always on the chopping block one way or another," Golick says. "Often the dealers get the factory involved at their own volition so that the factory is the bad guy in turning off the warranty coverage. That is, the dealer will say they need approval from the factory representative to fix your car; then they'll go to the rep, and get the rep to say the car has been modified-even though they're the ones who told the rep to say it. The dealership wants you to think it's the factory that denied your warranty claim because when it comes down to a lawsuit-whether it be a Magnuson-Moss suit, a small-claims suit, or whatever-the dealer wants the company to be involved. But dealerships can't wriggle out of litigation so easily. Often the factory asks for dealer participation in the suit if they think there's some responsibility on their part, and the dealer will have to pay legal fees proportionate to their fault in the matter, as per the franchise agreement. So there's some good news for enthusiasts there: If the dealer wants no part in litigation-they have been sued before and know what goes on, for example-they'll try to avoid a suit from the get-go. As such, dealers sometimes by knowing the law and having had experience will just do the repair under warranty and not push it any further."

    As one can see, the complex relationship that exists between Ford, the dealerships, and the customers is one in which many conflicts of interest exist. But there's no changing it, and it must be dealt with for what it is.

    The lines get blurred even further when Ford creates something like the SVT Owners Association, which holds open track, autocrossing, and drag racing events. You get free enrollment in the organization. What if you snap a halfshaft drag racing at an SVTOA event? Is your part covered by your warranty, when all you were doing was par-ticipating in a Ford-sponsored event, as a member of an organization SVT and Ford enrolled you in?

    So Your Warranty Claim Has Been Denied: What You Should Do and How to Go About It.
    The Mustang Owner Guide reveals Ford's suggested procedure for challenging a problem with a dealership. It details a three-step process.

    "If you have questions or concerns, or are unsatisfied with the service you are receiving, follow these steps:
    Contact your Sales Representative or Service Advisor at your selling/servicing authorized dealer.
    If your inquiry or concern remains unresolved, contact the Sales Manager, Service Manager, or Customer Relations Manager.
    If you require assistance or clarification on Ford Motor Company policies or procedures, please contact the Ford Customer Relationship Center at 1-800-392-3673 (FORD)."

    The Guide goes on to say that if this three-step procedure doesn't lead to your being satisfied, the next step is to use the aforementioned Dispute Settlement Board.

    Whether it's the DSB or a full-blown suit (be it a state court suit or the federal suit one might need to file following an unsatisfactory DSB outcome), you'll need some tools in your arsenal to help combat Ford Motor Company and anyone else involved. Perhaps most importantly, competent legal counsel is indispensable in a court of law, and can also be helpful during DSB procedures.

    Once again, I'll have the learned Mr. Golick state his take on exactly what to do, starting from the point where your warranty claim has first been denied by a dealership. "Go to an independent shop and get a certified, experienced mechanic or expert to make a statement saying that the personalized items installed on the car did not contribute to the loss. Then, go back to the dealer and show them what this expert said; tell them you think they should reverse their decision on not honoring your warranty, and that you're aware of the Magnuson-Moss act and their responsibilities under it.

    "But don't be confrontational. You want the dealer to be sympathetic in the vein that you're his customer, and your goodwill is going to help sell another car to a family member or friend. Again, if you get at odds with the dealer, you risk the possibility of them going in and putting your warranty as voided in the computer system. The key is you've got to be smart in knowing that it's not like you haven't touched the car; it has, after all, been personalized. You can't press the issue and try to outsmart someone and get him or her angry at you. So, if things get touchy, simply walk away and take the car to another dealership; this is the very best thing you can do before getting Ford or the law involved."

    "If multiple dealers don't want to do the work, call Ford in Michigan via its toll-free number," Golick says. "Ask for assistance on your warranty claim. If Michigan is not responding quickly enough, the customer can call Ford's regional office directly. They'll usually tell you to go back to the same dealer, and will meet with you at the dealership and have you present your case. If the factory agrees with the dealer that the vehicle has been misused from its original design intent (abuse and/or modification), the customer then has no recourse other than to file a lawsuit."

    If you get to this point where things simply aren't working out, don't be afraid to use the legal system. We've heard many a Mustang owner complain that the Magnuson-Moss act and state law are meaningless unless you're willing to go to court.

    This might be true if one is dealing with a stubborn dealership that has no prior experience with such lawsuits, but if worst comes to worst, go to court (assuming you've already used the Dispute Settlement Board in the case of a Magnuson-Moss federal suit). The filing fee for a complaint and the attorney's fees to file surely aren't free, but the investment will pay off. It will force the dealer to get Ford involved, and since dealerships often must share in any legal fees Ford incurs, they'll have all the more incentive to settle. And best of all, the next time a warranty issue comes up, that dealership will be much more reluctant to wrongfully deny your-or any other customer's-claim.

    Being Smart: How to Avoid These Issues Altogether
    If you're buying a performance car, it's best to start off on the right foot. Buy from a dealer-ship that is knowledgeable, familiar with their performance product offerings, and can do what must be done to fix performance vehicles correctly. Usually, this will mean an SVT dealership (or what was an SVT dealer); after all, the SVT dealers sell and install performance parts for Mustangs, so obviously they are going to be more familiar with the cars, the law, and the needs and desires of customers. If you buy your car at one of these dealerships, you're pretty much guaranteed to be off to a good start.

    Joe Amato elaborates, "If you get a dealership that's not into performance parts at all, you can put different tires on there and they'll give you a hard time, because they'll always attribute the problem to whatever you put on the car. An exhaust system is a good example, too. If you go to a dealer versed in performance stuff, the way it should be is if you put a supercharger on the car and your power windows stop working, they have to fix it; but if you say blow a head gasket, it's your dime"

    And stick with that dealership, too whether it be for subsequent purchase or service on the vehicle you've already bough. This will help from a bond of trust, and they'll be much more likely to take care of you in the event of a problem.

    Finally, don't be unrealistic, and don't be flagrant, "We ve had people come in with slicks on the car and shoe-polish numbers on the window and expect us to warranty a blown transmission", Amato says.

    Given the right tools, the propects for success in a wrongful warranty denial situation are excellent, for the law is very much on your side.