troubleshooter: are tire problems covered by your vehicle's warranty?

Tires are an unavoidable expense for those operating any type of motor vehicle. If you drive it, they will wear out, plain and simple. But with automakers’ penchants for larger-diameter wheels and lower-profile tires — even on the most basic of products — comes a drastic increase in price when it comes time to re-shoe your ride. An individual tire exceeding the $400 mark is becoming more common than you might think, but for all that’s new where the rubber meets the road, there are still some old tire-consumer myths kicking around that need the air let out of them.

Not all new-car original-equipment tires come with road-hazard warranties

Sorry to burst this one, but if you pull off the dealer’s lot for the first time in your new $75K plus luxo-yacht or off-road SUV and blow a tire on a piece of road debris, your wallet is about to take a hit. Not only do carmakers not offer this as standard coverage, but they don’t even cover tire-makers’ defects (more on that later).

Some sympathetic dealers have been known to ‘comp’ a new tire in such circumstances, but that’s more of an exception rather than a rule. However, most dealership finance personnel do offer tire-protection packages at an additional cost for new vehicles (and, in some cases, pre-owned cars as well). When a full set of new boots on your vehicle might set you back north of $2,000, you might want to check the prices on these low-cost warranties.

Short life doesn’t mean your new tires were defective

Automakers hold a lot of sway when it comes to dictating the manufacturing specs on tires. Car-builders often want quiet operation, smooth running, and good pavement grip over value-oriented tread life. In many cases, the same size of tire on your new car can be vastly different in rubber chemistry than its twin from a tire retailer’s shelf. If you’ve had good success with the original tires, save your objection to their short lifespan, check that tire company’s website to find their tread-wear guarantees on the same model, or chat with a tire retailer. You’ll often get substantially more distance out of an identical replacement tire than the factory units.

Dealerships can’t always handle tread defects

Tires aren’t covered by the automakers’ warranties, but most dealerships can offer warranty services directly through tire manufacturers. Considering that most carmakers deal with at least six or more different tire manufacturers in any given year and that warranty issues are not as common with tires as with other vehicle components, many dealerships shy away from this due to lack of experience and instead refer their customers to a recognized tire retailer. That’s where the fine print gets interesting.

Before any warranty claim is considered, the vehicle owner has to provide proof of proper tire maintenance. Fortunately this is usually as simple as keeping them inflated to the recommended pressure and rotating them per the manufacturer’s specs. This may be different than the rotation schedule that the carmaker suggests, so if you want to be sure, most tire-makers’ websites provide these details.

Note that some tire manufacturers exclude certain coverages that they offer for retail-replacement tires, versus those specified and supplied by the automaker as original equipment.

Check tires prices before buying any ride

When you’re kicking tires on the dealer’s lot, take a closer look at what you’re kicking. Make a mental note (or snap a photo) of the tire size, load, and speed ratings on the tire’s sidewall and then do a little web hunting for replacement pricing. You might be surprised by the costs, so those numbers might give you more reason than you’d expect to check out any additional tire warranty the dealership might offer.

Keyword: Troubleshooter: Are tire problems covered by your vehicle's warranty?


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