Are You Getting the Most Out of Equipment Warranties?

Are You Getting the Most Out of Equipment Warranties?
Ed Wodalski

You do a good job of maintaining your equipment. But what happens when something breaks? Fortunately it’s under warranty. But is it?

Let’s look at the three basic warranties: factory, emissions and extended service.

Terms of a factory warranty are typically outlined in a document issued by the manufacturer referred to as the Warranty and Limitations of Liability. Generally considered a legal document, it outlines the responsibilities of the manufacturer, dealer and customer.

Federally mandated emissions control warranties are intended to ensure equipment meets federal emission standards for a given period of time. Federal emissions guidelines are two years or 1,500 hours of operation (whichever comes first) for engines less than 19 kW/25 hp or five years/3,000 hours of operation for engines greater than or equal to 19 kW/25 hp.

Extended service or third-party warranties typically don’t cover the same components and materials as a factory warranty, and allow purchasers to choose what is and is not covered. An extended warranty might be a consideration if you don’t rotate equipment every two years.

So, who’s responsible when something goes wrong? The quick answer is: It depends.

COVERAGE QUESTIONS

Factory warranties cover defects in material and/or workmanship. Generally, these defects appear in the first year of use. Factory warranties do not cover failures caused by poor or improper maintenance.

With advances made in equipment manufacturing and customer expectations, companies such as Case Construction Equipment have increased their length of coverage with ProCare to three years/3,000 hours. This trend of extending the factory warranty means maintenance becomes a critical factor in determining whether the failure is warrantable or not.

“If you’re sitting at 2 1/2 years and you have a component failure, such as a hydraulic pump or rear axle, I assure you there’s going to be a look-see at the maintenance that was done,” says Bruce Reader, regional product support manager for Case.

Key contributors in the changing dynamics of vehicle responsibility include fault codes, error codes and telematics.

“Any time you have an ECU (electronics control module), VCM (vehicle control module), TCM (transmission control module), CCM (chassis control module), there’s almost always a built-in fault code history,” Reader says.

Telematics simply makes it easier to see what happened to components over the lifetime of the equipment: How many times did an engine lose oil pressure because it was working on an incline?

How many times did the transmission overheat? How many times did the engine restriction light come on because the air filter wasn’t properly maintained?

FLUID ANALYSIS

Reader says to get the most out of equipment warranty, be sure to incorporate fluid analysis — engine oil, hydraulics, transmission and fuel — in your maintenance program.

“I’m going to go out on a limb, I don’t have any data on this, but if you do find people who have a pretty good fluid analysis program, I bet fuel is not part of it,” he says. “I think it’s probably one of the most neglected. With all the additives, Tier 3 and Tier 4 and the cost of components on fuel systems now, fuel needs to be part of that fluid analysis program.”

With the advent of Tier 4 and high-pressure, common-rail, direct fuel injection, failures brought on by contaminated fuel — fuel from a dirty can — are not cheap.

Take an injector. In the 1970s, a mechanical injector was about $75. Today, an electronic injector can cost $2,000 — with four or six in an engine.

“If a fuel system goes down because of contamination, that’s not a warrantable failure,” Reader says. “That doesn’t even qualify for an emissions warranty failure because a failure due to the contamination of fuel is not a defect in material or workmanship. It’s a failure on the customer’s end. From the standpoint of protecting your warranty, I think customers today need to be ever vigilant about their fuel and their fuel practice.”

Be sure to follow all manufacturer recommendations for fluids and filters. As equipment has become more technically advanced, machine tolerances have drastically changed. Many components, such as axles with limited slip and transmissions with different clutch pack material, require tight fluid specifications to run properly.

GO BEYOND MANUAL

The operator’s manual is your guide for maintenance intervals and requirements, but it might not be enough.

“Sometimes you have to do more than what’s in the operator’s manual,” Reader says. “For example, if you are operating in an environment in which there are extremely high amounts of dust, that air filter probably won’t make the first interval in the manual that says, replace the air filter. One must have ‘situational awareness’ with respect to their job site conditions and adjust accordingly.”

Keep in mind that some modifications will void a factory warranty — especially when the modification requires any type of welding involving structural integrity. This could include modifying a bucket for increased capacity or utilizing attachments, such as thumbs, that are not suited for the size or type of machine. And be aware of your environment. When working around septic systems and drainfields, be cautious about acids from waste that can harm wiring harnesses and other components.

“You have to be cognizant of the application and adjust your maintenance accordingly,” Reader says.

Proper operating practices and techniques also impact warranty coverage as well as component wear. The advancement of telematics and electronic diagnostics can tell the difference between a smooth operator and a “bucking bronco.”

Operators need to be properly trained and well informed about maintenance requirements for most new Tier 4 machines and have an understanding of the different types of after-treatment systems associated with them.

LIMIT DOWNTIME

To get the most out of your warranty, you’ll also want to limit downtime. Excessive idling not only wastes fuel, it also adds wear and wastes warranty hours — 30 percent idling over a 3,000-hour warranty adds up to 900 operating hours lost.

“I have this little saying: The best warranty is the one you never have to use,” Reader says. “But, when you do have to use it, you want to make sure you have done all your due diligence and it doesn’t come back on you that the failure was the result of you not taking the appropriate maintenance measures.”



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