Mark Giammalvo specializes in driveability diagnostics at his family business, Sam Giammalvo's Auto Sales & Service, Inc. in New Bedford, MA.Mark, who has been with the business for over 20 years, is an ASE Master Technician and Parts Specialist. He also holds the ASE L1 certification, and has an associates degree in business management.
Mark is also a writer for Motor Age Magazine and is the past secretary of the Alliance of Automotive Service Professionals, (AASP).
(Printed in the Journal of The Alliance of Automotive Service Providers, AASP)
If you think your car's battery is under a long term warranty just because the decal on it says so, you'd better think again. Recently we had a customer come in with a 1999 Chevrolet Tahoe. The customer was having to jump start the truck for several days so he decided to come in to have us check it out. A routine test of the vehicle's battery, starting and charging system revealed a faulty battery. We noticed that the battery did not look that old and it had a AC Delco decal listing it as a 6 year battery. (See photo below) In calling the customer he mentioned that the battery should have some warranty remaining as he had it changed in March of 2001. I figured I would call the local Chevrolet dealer where he had it replaced in March of 2001 and ask them what the warranty pro-rate charge would be on this battery. (This is normally a fee that the customer pays for each good month of battery service. Typically it is around $ 1.37 per month).
Well, lets just say this is where the fun began. After researching the customer's history the dealership service manager told us that the Delco battery in this customer's vehicle did not have any warranty left. Being in the automotive industry for about twenty years now, I could not believe my ears. How could a battery that is just 22 months old and bearing a 6 year warranty label, not be under warranty? Just to make sure I was still alive and well I decided to call the parts manager of another local GM dealership. Unfortunately, he also agreed with the first dealer that the battery did not have any warranty left. A subsequent call to a relative of mine inside GM and the Delco 800 number yielded the same answer.
How could this be you are wondering? What is the catch? Where is the loophole? Ready for this? You'd better sit down. General Motors has a very interesting warranty policy procedure on certain Delco batteries and it is not a widely known policy. Normally, under normal retail purchase circumstances, Delco batteries do have an excellent warranty. Their warranty is similar to other battery manufacturers like Douglas, Decca and Interstate in that the batteries are pro-rate warranted for 5,6 or 7 year periods. Well, as long as there not installed while the car is under factory warranty. That's the catch. You see, if you purchase a Delco battery over the counter at a GM dealer or K-Mart store, the battery has the full term of whatever warranty is stated on the battery's label. However, when a battery is replaced by the dealer, during the new car warranty, the battery itself really has no warranty. When a battery fails in a GM car that is still under the 3 year 36,000 mile bumper to bumper warranty the dealer installs a new battery but the battery is only warrantied for the final balance of the term of the 3/36 warranty on the car. When the 3/36 warranty is over your new battery's warranty is over. Yes, even though the label is printed with a 6 year warranty. Actually that label should not really have been on this customer's battery. In the GM Dealership Policy and Procedures Manual there is a paragraph that's states that the technician must remove the warranty decals when installing a new Delco battery in a car that is still under the 3/36 warranty.
I can understand GM's methodology to some degree. Why should they be on the hook for a 6 year battery warranty if the customer did not pay for the battery in the first place? Still, it is a little unusual. Compare this corporate philosophy to our own policy here in our little facility: The majority of our vehicles come with a 90 day bumper to bumper warranty. When a customer's battery fails within that period we install a 6 year Douglas battery. The customer did not have to pay anything but we still give them a battery with the full term warranty. Oh well, go figure.