Whoops should have checked ALL the paperwork
April 7, 2008 7:03 PM   Subscribe

Ooops. Really should have checked the service history before I bought the car...

I recently bought a second-hand car, a Mazda, from a local non-Mazda dealership. Unfortunately, in my excitement about buying the car, I forgot to check one thing (actually, I forgot to check a few things, but this one's a whopper): the service history.

According to the paperwork... it doesn't have one. Not even the pre-delivery checkout is filled in according to the warranty/service book, even though there's a separate checklist form that shows it was actually complete - at the official Mazda dealership which sold the car, new. That same book contains a stern warning that "Failure to properly maintain your vehicle can result in your warranty being voided in whole or in part". I think that the car has been maintained and looked after properly, but I can't prove it.

Some details: the car is a 2006 Mazda 6, 21000 miles on the clock, and visually is absolutely flawless. As far as I can tell, it's also mechanically flawless, there's no sign of any problems at the moment. I have a full year's state inspection certificate to show that the car is in good condition from that point of view. However I deliberately bought a car within the manufacturer's warranty period to get the associated peace of mind that I'd be covered if anything went wrong.

I know I was a complete idiot for not checking the service history before I agreed to buy. During a recent trip to my local Mazda dealership (not the one who sold the car originally) because of an engine warning light, I took the car in to the service department. They didn't ask to see paperwork, but cleared the fault on the car computer (it was due to loose gas cap) and said there was no charge, as it was under warranty (based on the VIN, which proved the age).

My questions:
- The (non-Mazda) dealership sold the car to me as having "the balance of the manufacturers warranty". If I am refused warranty coverage by Mazda in the future, do I have any legal comeback against the dealer who sold me the car?

- The (non-Mazda) dealership have confirmed to me (verbally) that they performed a service on the car according to the schedule before I bought it, just before the 24-months mark (when one would be due). Should I get them to fill in the appropriate box in the warranty book, even if that leaves 3 or 4 boxes unfilled before it?

- The local Mazda dealer fixed a problem "under warranty" based on the car's VIN (granted, it was effectively a "free" fix for them, taking 3 minutes and using no parts, but they'll doubtless have billed Mazda for the work). Might they have access to the car's service history, if it had been done at another Mazda dealer (e.g. the original sale dealership)? Should I ask them, and risk them declaring my warranty invalid from this point onward?

My alternative seems to be the "head in the sand" approach and hope and pray that if anything goes wrong, I can get them to honor the warranty at that point - perhaps "lose" the book completely...

I'm in Texas, if that makes any difference to the answers you give. Anonymous to avoid potential legal implications with who-knew-what-and-when.
posted by anonymous to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total)
I don't see how it could hurt to call your local Mazda dealer and informally ask if they have records of services done at other dealerships.. if they don't, don't despair yet..

since it's an almost-new car, I would then try calling the Mazda dealer who originally sold the car to see if they have serviced it.. They should have it on record by the VIN.. If that fails, try other Mazda dealers in the same vicinity as the original sale dealership. If you find it that way, you could ask them to print out a record of it. If none of them have any records, all that proves is that they weren't the ones who did the service. I got a decent amount of service history of my (older) car by going down a list of dealers in the city that the previous owner lived in until I found the one s/he took it to.
posted by everybody polka at 7:48 PM on April 7, 2008

Most dealerships share their service history for this reason. They can look to see what work was done and when...assuming the servicing was done at a Mazda dealer. Also, pay $15 and get a carfax on the car. Many times, dealer servicing is shown on that record (you should never buy a used car without a carfax unless it's really cheap or ancient, in my opinion).

Start with a carfax, you can run that right now, in a few minutes. See what it tells you. If nothing, call a dealer asking about the car. It's not like they're going to blacklist you. Tell them you just bought the car and the promised receipts were thrown out, and you're curious about its service history. Ask them if anything is due and make noises about bringing it in for a routine service. Most dealerships are fairly helpful in this regard.

I don't think your momentary lack of sound reasoning in the face of the exciting purchase of a new-to-you car is the end of the world.
posted by maxwelton at 9:14 PM on April 7, 2008

Stay cool, it doesn't sound like there's anything wrong here. Most modern cars don't need much done by the 21,000 mile mark. I'm sure your warranty's still valid.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:19 PM on April 7, 2008

fwiw, I have a 2004 Mazda 6 that just went over the warranty period (50k miles). I've had it serviced at the dealer 90% of the time, but never had them fill out any pages in the manual, and occasionally got an oil change elsewhere. Unless there's evidence of abuse or tampering, I doubt any dealership is going to void your warranty due to an incomplete history. To be honest, you could probably get up to 21k miles with nothing other than the occasional oil change and still be fine with your warranty. It's had warranty service done now, so don't worry -- you can always keep going to the dealer and strenuously point to the fact that they've already acknowledged it's under warranty.
posted by mikeh at 9:58 PM on April 7, 2008

What's more, the burden of proof that you have failed to properly maintain your vehicle is on them, not you. While a dealership could make ridiculous claims, the parent company is going to look upon them poorly if you complain up the chain, considering there's less than two years of average wear on this car.
posted by mikeh at 9:59 PM on April 7, 2008

Yeah, nobody is going to try to void your warranty unless they suspect clear bad faith on your part, like you beat the crap out of the car, never maintain anything, and expect them to make up for that. 21k miles isn't even enough time to do that. You're not going to have any problem, especially if you just say you bought it at 21k and the records weren't turned over to you.
posted by ctmf at 10:37 PM on April 7, 2008

I know I'm a little late on this, but you really should try to get the service history from any dealerships that may have serviced the car. My fiance had a 2005 Mazda 6, and he did some of the maintenance himself (used to be a mechanic) and some at a Jiffy Lube or some such place. After 2 years his engine siezed and they refused to cover it under warranty because they said it hadn't been maintained, and he had no proof. We paid to replace the engine.
posted by thejanna at 6:02 AM on April 8, 2008

By 21,000 miles, the only maintenance it should probably have is oil changes. Check the schedule in the owner's manual to be sure. But if it's only little things like oil changes, air filter, spark plugs, these are all things many owners (like myself) would do in the driveway. Hence there would be no "service history" of these actions being performed, other than my word that I did them.

In other words, I think there's no problem for you here.
posted by knave at 7:02 AM on April 8, 2008

They are likely not going to require any documentation of maintenance unless something goes horribly wrong. Dealerships are the eyes and ears of the manufacturer as far as deciding whether or not to honor the warranty, and they usually won't go out of their way to say you're not covered. Think of it this way - say your power windows quit working. Is it worth it for the dealership to ask you to produce your maintenance history to prove that you are holding up your side of the warranty? If they denied you warranty service on that, would you ever buy another Mazda again? Where records tend to come into play is in major problems. If the engine spins a bearing at 40k miles, then they're going to want you to show that you've been keeping up on the oil changes before they eat a $3000 repair.
If you do your own oil changes, keep a copy of the receipt from the auto parts store, and write down the car and the mileage. This is your proof that you've done it. (Although it's getting to be less and less worth it, since it's hard to find 5 quarts of oil and a filter for cheaper than a complete repair garage oil change these days.)
posted by azpenguin at 7:54 AM on April 8, 2008

Yeah, stop into "your" Mazda dealership and tell them you bought it used and would like to change the registered owner to you. And in the process ask for the service history.

And don't worry about it. All cars are going to have trouble sometime. A two year old car with a lot of service records *could* just mean that all the problems are fixed and it will be fine forever.
posted by gjc at 5:54 PM on April 8, 2008

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