New Car Warranties are BS

How does a replacement part have a better warranty than an original?

December 11, 2021

Over the last few years I have saved thousands of dollars by taking advantage of warranties on car parts. Parts manufacturers have realized that nobody should have to buy a part twice if it didn't work the first time, so nearly every car part that I've ever bought had a lifetime warranty. Some of these warranties had conditions, for example when I got a new water pump the coolant had to be flushed before installation (something you do anyways for that repair) and when I ordered an AC compressor I had to order a few more parts along with it for the warranty to go in place (parts that if not replaced would have likely broken the new compressor), but for simpler things, like an alternator or a radiator, the warranty just comes with the part, no strings, no extra fees, just an honest warranty because, if installed correctly, nearly every part on a car should last longer than the average person keeps a car. The only exceptions to that fact would be the things we obviously expect to wear out like tires, batteries, brake pads, and rubber belts.

So then I got to thinking, if I can go into any parts store in the country and ask for an alternator for a 2022 Ford F150 and leave that store with a part should it break ten years from now I'd be able to take that alternator back to the store and leave with a new one for free, why is it that if I walked into the Ford dealership and bought a brand new F150 (the practical kind of course, not the stupid kind) I'd have to pay for a new alternator if the alternator in that truck broke ten years from now? Of course new cars do come with warranties but none last as long as the warranties on individual parts, when you think about this it shouldn't make any sense. How is it that the warranty on an alternator installed by skilled technicians and precision robots in a billion dollar factory does not last as long as the one that I installed in a MacDonald's parking lot with thirty dollars worth of Harbor Freight tools? (And yes that is something I've done)

The only explanation for this that I can think of (other than the fact that car manufacturers probably can't afford to have lifetime warranties on things) is that the parts you get at the parts store are better than the parts that come into the factory. In the case of performance parts this is obviously true since those are different parts but I think that it may also be the case for regular parts as well because those aren't quite the same either. When you buy from a parts store you will almost always have the option to buy a remanufactured part (and if your car is even half as old as mine that will likely be your only option). The term "remanufactured" has a negative connotation to it because it is related to the word "used" but if we think about it that negative connotation is not deserved. Let's say you have a 2010 Dodge Charger, Dodge was in a pretty rough spot during this period so let's assume that one in ten alternators put into Chargers that year had a particular defect and end up breaking sooner than they should. Broken car parts aren't thrown away, they are sold to remanufacturers who are experts in fixing parts, and when they see a ton of the same part coming in they'll figure out what is wrong with that part pretty quick and become quite good at correcting factory defects, so while the factory has no idea that they're pumping out bad parts, the remanufacturers see the problems the factory has and will practice much better quality control making their parts more reliable.

Now that scenario was completely hypothetical and I have no actual data to back my claims there, but, oddly enough, the term "tractor mechanic" is something I could get away with putting on my resume (although it wouldn't be useful) and a few times I've visited a shop where they remanufacture parts and the guys at that shop are the sort of guys you'd trust to do a good job, you can't say the same about a large factory that doesn't even let their employees breathe freely because they can't trust them not to come to work sick. And again, is there any other reasonable explanation as to why an alternator I install in a MacDonald's parking lot with cheap tools has a better warranty than an alternator installed by a technician in a billion dollar factory?