Aftermarket part voided my warranty after an insurance fix?

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 16, 2010 10:29 am   Post subject: Aftermarket part voided my warranty after an insurance fix?  

Hello! A year ago, my 2007 Avalon was in an accident that required extended repair, including replacing the radiator. Since the accident was not my fault, I had Geico repair my vehicle to pre-accident conditions, and asked them to use all Toyota parts.



A year later, I realized my car was overheating and took it into a toyota dealer. The dealer told me that I needed about $4200 worth of repairs, including a new headgasket, but it wouldn't be a warranty fix because the radiator was an aftermarket part. Geico is denying my claim because the aftermarket radiator is still functional when the damage adjuster checked it out, and said that they don't know if the radiator directly caused the damage to the engine.



Neither Geico nor Toyota has told me that the aftermarket part would void my basic powertrain warranty. What would my legal options be in this matter if I wanted to sue Geico for not restoring my vehicle to pre-accident conditions? Is there a better way to do this? I have spoken to almost everyone at Toyota, including a case manager at corporate and the general manager at the dealership. They are limited by their policies.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 16, 2010 1:56 pm   Post subject:   

I can't see how Toyota can pin the failure on the radiator. But if they can, and GEICO used an inferior part, then GEICO would be on the hook for your "contingent" claim.



You have to get a determination, in writing, from the dealer or the manufacturer that the radiator was the cause of the overheating.



Now, here's a twist. It could be that the ANTIFREEZE that was used following your radiator replacement was not TOYOTA antifreeze. There are certain Toyota models, Avalon is likely one, that requires the "RED" antifreeze, not the "GREEN". Substituting the green for the red is known to cause internal corrosion in some Toyota engines, thus leading to a head gasket failure, which probably preceded the overheating issue (exhaust gasses passing into the coolant, heating it higher than normal).



The whole blame could rest neither on Toyota nor GEICO, but on the auto body repair shop that completed the work. If they used the wrong antifreeze, the liability for your "contingent" loss is probably theirs.



You need to do more detective work on this one.



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PostPosted: Thu Dec 16, 2010 2:08 pm   Post subject:   

Thank you for your reply.



The general manager at the dealer is specifically not giving me (or toyota corporate, or my insurance) any additional information regarding the root cause of the damage to the engine and headgasket. Their only reply is that it is impossible to determine whether or not the aftermarket part is up to "toyota spec." Essentially, without the root cause of the damage to the engine, the general manager effectively leaves the liability in a state of limbo. He understands this, however he continues to state that he cannot provide me with further information on how the damage occurred.



Additionally, the original work done to the car was done at a Toyota dealership also, and not a third-party body shop. All of this has been documented with Toyota corporate, and they know which parts were used during the repair. This was done in PA where the original accident occurred.



Yes, my car does require the red antifreeze - however I'm not sure if that is what caused the damage. I do have a friend who is a mechanic who is going to help me by checking out the car at the dealership. Yes, it is as ridiculous as it sounds! Smile



The last ditch effort would be to tow this car back to PA to the original dealer that did the repairs...

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 16, 2010 9:35 pm   Post subject:   

Quote:
Their only reply is that it is impossible to determine whether or not the aftermarket part is up to "toyota spec."




If they cannot tell the difference, it is unlikely that any difference exists.



If that's true, then the law is probably on your side. In insurance and contract law, there is a concept known as ADHESION. When one party writes a contract (as in the case of Toyota's warranty, a form of insurance) and the other party has no option but to "take it or leave it", the contract is known as a contract of adhesion.



In a dispute caused by an "ambiguity" in the contract, the tenets of contract law require the court/arbitrator (your warranty probably requires arbitration in lieu of a civil suit) to rule in favor of the party who did not write the contract. In the absence of positive proof that the aftermarket part was the direct cause of another failure, then the warranty should apply to your repair.



The ambiguity in your situation is this: if the non-Toyota part caused the failure of the cooling system, and that voids the warranty, then the repair is at your expense. But because no one can be certain that the part caused the failure, then no one can argue against your contention that the part did not cause the failure. The impasse would have to be decided in your favor according to contract law.



Now, on top of everything else, you add that the collision repairs were performed at a Toyota dealership (apparently not the same one where your vehicle currently is), so I would think that Toyota would not permit a dealer to effect a repair that would void the warranty.



You may be at a point where a complaint to the PA Dept of Insurance would not be of much value, and you would need an attorney to, if nothing else, write a VERY STRONGLY WORDED letter to the dealership and Toyota, stating that if they did not honor the warranty, you will be pursuing other legal recourse. (You should read the MFG Warranty to determine if civil court is the proper venue, or if the dispute has to be submitted to arbitration.



You should not delay in this. And you probably don't want to allow the dealership to continue to hold your vehicle if they are not going to repair it under warranty.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 17, 2010 4:36 pm   Post subject:   

Bottom line, in my non-legal opinion, the installer of the part, the shop that chose to use the insurer criteria of installing the aftermarket radiator, would be liable for the damages since third party insurers pay damage settlements and they are not contractually liable for your repairs as per an insurance policy.



The shop can not claim, we fixed it the way the insurer paid for and they specified the a/m radiator. Insurers pay for losses they do not repair cars, or that's what is had been stated before in numerous court cases.



If the damage can be traced to the a/m part, the distributor of that part may have to compensate the bodyshop for damages they incurred. Get ready for more run a round though. The distributor will likely ask if the system was flushed and new coolant used and prove it to us on your invoice before they will warranty the part. Most likely their warranty only covers replacement of the radiator if it was damaged and not the results from the defective part. Poster, do you have a copy of any gurantees with your invoices to show what warranty the shop offered or geico offered? Was this service done through their concierge program or a direct repair program or did you choose the repairer?





This would be a great court case on product liability, contract law between the shop and the consumer, and whether the insurer had any right specifying and sourcing parts on a repair that they were not contractually liable for. It would have been interesting to see what geico's position on the part would be if they had to be held liable for the aftermarket parts they claim they only owe for.



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PostPosted: Fri Dec 17, 2010 4:49 pm   Post subject:   

Quote:
This would be a great court case on product liability, contract law between the shop and the consumer, and whether the insurer had any right specifying and sourcing parts on a repair




I wholeheartedly concur! (But who wants the expense?)


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 17, 2010 5:05 pm   Post subject:   

Here is some of the warranty language used on some insurer estimates on which payments for losses are made.



Quote:
Repairs are covered by a lifetime warranty. This warranty covers the owner at the time of repairs and is for workmanship. This warranty does not cover damage that occurs after repairs or rock chips and or abuse.
Wow, workmanship does that included sourced and specified parts? Hmmmmm!



another guarantee form a different major insurer,,, well it's on a Geico estimate,,,,, you may need an attorney to interpret this one. A lot of if's involved.



Quote:
We are prohibited by law from requiring that repairs be done at a specific automotive repair dealer. You are entitled to select the auto body repair shop to repair the damage covered by us. We have recommended an automotive repair delaer that will repair your damaged vehicle. If you agree to use our recommended automotive repair dealer, we will cause the damaged vehicle to be restored to its condition prior to the loss at no additional cost to you other than as stated in the insurance policy or as otherwise allowed by law. If you experience a problem with the repair of your vehicle, please contact us immediately for assistance.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 17, 2010 6:08 pm   Post subject:   

Here is how most insurers dump the problem on the body shop with the following language found on an insurer estimate that was prepared for a third party claimant.



Quote:
“This estimate has been prepared based on the use of one or more crash parts supplied by a source other than the manufacturer of your motor vehicle. Warranties applicable to these replacement parts are provided by the parts manufacturer or distributor rather than by the manufacturer of your vehicle.”




So, lets think this through logically…..Someone makes a copycat part and states that it is as good as the original and will perform like the original part was intended. There is even an entity that claims these parts are equal to the original parts and you will be satisfied that they are so. But wait, radiators and condensers do not carry this guarantee that they have been certified. Insurers may only specify parts that are equal, like, kind, and quality. The only guarantee on these parts is a replacement of the part if it fails. Has the shop and insurer used a part that was not certified to be of like kind and quality and insisted that they will guarantee the part? Wait they can’t do that; they can’t guarantee a part that they do not manufacture. All they can guarantee of this part is that you will like it and it will work. Have they voided the warranty of your manufacturer because the manufacturer specified that no a/m part be a part of the system that cools the engine or the use of that part will void the entire system? But someone guaranteed that it would not affect your warranty did they not? Or did they? Oh what a tangled web we weave when we try to save money and cost control repairs by using parts made by someone other than the designer of that part.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 17, 2010 7:02 pm   Post subject:   

Oftenrtimes aftermarket radiators require flushing with clean water prior to installation to remove an anticorrosion shipping material and come with instructions in the box to that effect. As most aftermarket parts are of an unknown original origin this may difficult to asertain if this was a necessay installation procedure with your particular radiator and if it was omitted. If the antifreeze was not mixed with distilled water the salts and metals in tap water can plug things up. Just imagine what heavily salted sea water would do to an engine. Electrolysis at its worst.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 18, 2010 2:36 am   Post subject:   

Toyota says....



Quote:
COLLISION REPAIR INFORMATION

FOR THE COLLISION REPAIR PROFESSIONAL

TITLE: Use of non-OEM Parts on Toyota Vehicles

SECTION: BULLETIN #

MODELS: All Models

DATE: 11/30/2010

Toyota Lexus and Scion vehicles are engineered and manufactured as an integrated

assembly of carefully designed and manufactured parts working as a system to provide

predictable performance, safety and durability.

To help preserve the performance of Toyota/Lexus/Scion vehicles, Toyota Scion and

Lexus publishes detailed repair procedures and produces and sells Genuine Toyota/Lexus

Parts, which are manufactured to the same specifications and tolerances as the parts

installed on new Toyota, Lexus and Scion vehicles. Repairing a vehicle using Genuine

Toyota/Lexus/Scion parts and procedures can help return Toyota vehicles to pre-loss

condition following a collision.

The use of Alternative Parts

Due to the sensitive nature of the safety and performance systems and lack of testing to

determine their effect on vehicle crashworthiness, Toyota, Lexus and Scion do not

recommend the use of alternative parts for the repair of Toyota vehicles. This includes:

§ Aftermarket Parts: Parts manufactured and branded by a company other than

Toyota, Scion or Lexus

§ Rebuilt Parts: Exterior sheet metal parts (including bumpers and wheels)

removed from a damaged Toyota, Lexus or Scion vehicle and refurbished for resale

§ Salvage/Recycled Parts: Parts removed from a previously damaged vehicle,

cleaned up and then installed on a different vehicle.

Overall Body Structure

Genuine Toyota, Lexus and Scion Parts are constructed using metals with specific

properties, thicknesses and stamping structures built to perform in a consistent and

predictable way during a collision event. The use of non-OEM structural components

may compromise the overall crashworthiness and occupant safety of Toyota, Lexus or

Scion vehicles in a subsequent collision.

PLEASE ROUTE THIS BULLETIN TO YOUR COLLISION REPAIR CENTER

MANAGER AND COLLISION REPAIR TECHNICIANS

00408-03000-XXX


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 27, 2010 3:54 pm   Post subject:   

To the original poster, there may be some legal precedents on your situation and people that might be able to help you that are representing others with similar warranty issues. Please contact me via the private message if you are still monitoring your post.



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PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 2:52 pm   Post subject:   

Quote:
The use of Alternative Parts

Due to the sensitive nature of the safety and performance systems and lack of testing to determine their effect on vehicle crashworthiness, Toyota, Lexus and Scion do not recommend the use of alternative parts for the repair of Toyota vehicles.




Although the language states "do not recommend" and the preceding language talks about safety and performance, it does not appear to be so exclusively used as to cause non-OEM parts to void a warranty. This is one of those AMBIGUITIES in a contract that would be governed by the principle of ADHESION. You and I read "do not recommend" as allowing non-OEM parts. Toyota probably reads it as "Use of non-genuine Toyota parts voids all other warranties." In a courtroom, I think Toyota would lose.



Mike is still correct . . . this could be the breeding ground for another massive legal action -- something Toyota would certainly not be in the mood for these days. Without absolute proof that the design of the part used caused the new damage, they are on very thin ice when it comes to denying the repairs under warranty.



I would encourage you to stick to your guns and demand coverage under the terms of the original manufacturer's warranty. You can also file a complaint with your state's Dept of Insurance, which might be all the prodding Toyota needs to get off the pot and settle the claim.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 10:17 pm   Post subject:   

Quote:
Although the language states "do not recommend" and the preceding language talks about safety and performance, it does not appear to be so exclusively used as to cause non-OEM parts to void a warranty. This is one of those AMBIGUITIES in a contract that would be governed by the principle of ADHESION. You and I read "do not recommend" as allowing non-OEM parts. Toyota probably reads it as "Use of non-genuine Toyota parts voids all other warranties." In a courtroom, I think Toyota would lose.




I think that oem manufacturers use the term recommend in the sense that they can not force anyone to use their services for any repairs. Kinda like your mother might tell you I recommend you not stick your finger in that electrical socket. She can forbid all she wants but may not be able to keep the child from performing the act. Once the property is no longer owned by toyota, all that can be required of the property owner is following manufacturer recommendations for service in accordance to the warranty. There is a letter circulating from an insurer stating that the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act prevents an automaker from voiding the warranty on OEM parts simply because non-OEM parts were installed on a car. The insurer claimed therefore that is all they owe for a loss (a/m parts). However, an attorney rebutted this argument by stating that if the manufacturer can trace the defect back to the use of the aftermarket part, then the automaker is not liable under the warranty to correct the damage. It was, after all, the insurers contractual agreement to place the vehicle owner in the position they held prior to the loss. The attorney further stated
Quote:
If the insurer is telling an insured/claimant that the manufacturer cannot consider the use of an aftermarket part in any denial of warranty coverage, the insurer is dead wrong."




Definately looks like the courts will have to resolve this issue in due time.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2010 12:46 am   Post subject:   

Of course they do not "recommend" someone else's parts. If I was selling merchandise I'd not recommend someone else's product either.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2010 5:26 am   Post subject:   

Quote:
manufacturers use the term recommend in the sense that they can not force anyone to use their services for any repairs




Yes, I agree, that issue was settled decades ago (1970s). I don't think it prohibits a vehicle warranty from explicitly stating something like "Failure to use genuine Toyota repair parts will void the warranty to the extent permitted by law." (Emissions warranties are specified under federal law and cannot be amended in such a manner). But I don't think Toyota has stated anything like that in their new vehicle warranty.


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