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Monday, March 15, 2010

Aftermarket Modifications and Your GM Warranty

Last issue, Joel Paynton wrote about aftermarket power modifications on the Duramax diesel and their potential affects on your GM warranty. Shortly after, on August 4, 2009, GM posted Bulletin #08-06-04-006D which contained this statement:
Important: In order to process ANY driveability/engine/transmission/drivetrain WARRANTY CLAIM, you MUST photograph the required Tech 2® screen information BEFORE servicing or removing any engine/transmission/drivetrain components from the vehicle.
This had broad implications, requiring a technician to do all the groundwork to ensure there is no power program in the truck before doing any powertrain warranty work. It could be interpreted to mean that even minor and completely unrelated powertrain issues, for example, leaky seals, an electrical failure, a failed sensor and so on, would obligate the technician to investigate and document if there is a power program in the ECM. GM seemed to be launching an all-out campaign to find and stamp out anyone running aftermarket calibrations in their ECM.

The documentation procedure includes getting a photograph of the CVNs as listed by the Tech II scan tool, printing them out and stapling them to the hard copy of the work order. It also includes comparing all CVNs with the GM listing to determine if there is an aftermarket program in the ECM. GM also had to be informed by email whenever an aftermarket calibration was discovered. This whole process seemed like an extensive paper chase to endure for minor and typical repairs. It also takes time – who would pay the technician and the dealer to get this done with every Duramax that came into the shop? A good question. Even more confusing, several important steps referred to in the bulletin were completely missing. What prompted GM to attempt this kind of logistical nightmare – confusing to technicians and dealers, with the apparent idea to clamp down on any owners with power programs?
We can only speculate. Note this excerpt from my article:
Taken to its logical conclusion, this policy could be used to void the powertrain portion of a vehicle’s warranty with any exhaust system change, intake upgrade, aftermarket power program or plug-in chip, transmission shift kit, lift kit and so on – with or without a component failure. In the real world, some dealers will not go that far. A large portion of their customer base have made some kind of modification to their trucks due to the popularity of aftermarket accessories. They need the customer base that they have, they can not afford to make customers angry. For now, GM is generally only asking about aftermarket modifications when it is faced with paying for a major component failure... An aftermarket power program, invisibly loaded in the ECM, takes more effort to find and a technician has to have a good reason to go looking. In most circumstances, a technician is not very likely to break routine in order to look up and compare CVN numbers when diagnosing a problem whose symptoms will lead him in a different direction. Still, bringing a truck to the dealer with either an aftermarket power program or a chip does create the risk of loosing powertrain warranty coverage. Be aware of that risk when considering any modification to your truck (italics added).
Interestingly, the maxxTORQUE article was published just a few weeks before bulletin #08-06-04-006D was posted. Coincidence, or is someone at the big General reading the magazine? Again, speculation but if so, we would love to hear from you.
What did happen was a certain degree of panic at various dealer levels. Making the changes to accommodate this bulletin would require considerable adjustments in procedure for dealing with any Duramax equipped truck. And there was still the question of who was paying for the effort involved.

This Never Happened

Then, mysteriously, the incomprehensible and incomplete bulletin disappeared as dubiously as it appeared. Now we have bulletin #08-06-04-006F, which puts us back roughly where we were before the August 4 bulletin. The statement made in the above quoted maxxTORQUE article is still reasonably correct: a technician will only go looking for aftermarket calibrations when he has a good reason to, and GM will only ask for the CVN verification procedure when a major component failure is being dealt with. Still, any who chose to modify their truck under warranty, whatever the modification, do run the risk of loosing their powertrain warranty completely.

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