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Does using my own oil invalidate my car's warranty?

We understand that making sure not to void your vehicles warranty is very important, it is a common misconception that you have no choice other than to use OEM supplied oil, bought direct from the manufacture and have servicing done at a garage within its manufacturer's network in order to keep your warranty intact, however this is not the case, plus you could potentially save small fortune by buying and taking oil to servicer of your choice. Continue reading and you'll find all the facts that you need to know.

Does using my own oil invalidate my car's warranty? In short; No:

Using your own oil, or using an independent garage instead of a franchised dealer will not invalidate the warranty on a vehicle, provided that you perform the work to at least the same standards as a franchised dealer. Please read on for full details.

Following a 2003 study by the Office of Fair Trading, a code was introduced to require the car manufacturers to drop conditions attached to warranties that require a car to be serviced at a garage in its manfacturer's network. The lifting of ties avoided the possibility of formal action by the OFT under EC competition law.

The Motor Industry Code of Practice - New Cars states:

"You will continue to benefit from the manufacturer's new car warranty whilst the car is serviced to the manufacturer's recommendations, even if this service is carried out by an independent service/repair outlet."

You can download the Motor Industry Code of Practice - New Cars document from the Motor Industry Codes web site.

Please note that to protect your interests you should:

Keep records of work completed, including receipts for servicing/repair if your car has been serviced by an independent service/repair outlet, and ensure that the service/repair was completed according to the manufacturer's requirements if you have taken your car to an independent service/repair outlet. In general terms warranty repair work would only be covered at no cost to the consumer so long as it is undertaken by a franchised / authorised outlet.

This means that the work done must be to the same standards as if the manufacturer's franchised garage had done the work. When choosing an oil, this means that you must choose an oil that meets the specifications stipulated for your car. If your handbook says that you must use an ACEA C3 0w-30 oil, then this is what must be used. Common new car manufacturer's engine oil specifications include BMW LL04 (aka BMW LL-04 or BMW Longlife 04), VW 504 00 (Volkswagen's latest spec for petrol engines), VW 507 00 (Volkwagen's latest spec for diesel engines ) and Mercedes MB 229.5 / MB 229.51 (Mercedes latest specs for petrol and diesel cars).

Below is an extract from the report prepared for the Office of Fair Trading in 2006. For the sake of brevity, the full report is not shown below, but is available to download from the OFT web site.

In 2003 the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) carried out a market study of new car warranties. This identified restrictions in some warranties which required owners to have their cars serviced at the garages of franchised dealers approved by the manufacturer in order for the warranty to remain valid. There was widespread confusion amongst consumers about the terms of warranties. Servicing at franchised outlets was significantly more expensive than at independent garages.

The study concluded that the servicing restriction in the warranties operated to the detriment of consumers. Following publication of the report the OFT called for an end to the warranty restriction, entered into discussion with trade associations to develop codes of practice, and carried out an information campaign to improve consumers' awareness of their opportunity to choose where to have their cars serviced. This report assesses the impact of the 2003 study and subsequent actions. It also draws general lessons for the conduct and evaluation of market studies.

Key Developments

Manufacturers have now dropped the specific restrictions which tied the warranty to servicing at a franchised garage. Information on this is available in the SMMT code of practice approved by the OFT in 2004. However the freedom to have the car serviced at an independent garage is generally not highlighted in manufacturers' guidance. Servicing at a franchised dealer or authorised garage is still encouraged by some manufacturers.

Franchised dealers continue to be more expensive for servicing than independent garages.

The market share of independent garages has risen since 2003. However, our survey results show that franchised dealers still hold 86 per cent of the new car servicing market, in terms of number of private customers.

The EC Cars Block Exemption Regulation (BER) came into force in October 2003. This enables independent garages to compete on a more equal footing with franchised dealers including the opportunity to become authorised to carry out servicing by manufacturers. So far only a small number of independent garages have become authorised under the BER. This may reflect a reluctance to invest in equipment and training and continuing uncertainty about the attitudes both of manufacturers and consumers towards authorised garages. It is still early to be able to assess the full impact of the BER.

Impact of the OFT actions

The market study and the follow on actions by the OFT had a positive impact on the market. Warranty restrictions related to servicing have been removed and there has been some improvement in consumer awareness and understanding of their servicing options. Consumers have benefited from these developments.

The market study and the follow on actions by the OFT had a positive impact on the market. Warranty restrictions related to servicing have been removed and there has been some improvement in consumer awareness and understanding of their servicing options. Consumers have benefited from these developments.

Improving consumer awareness

The car servicing market is influenced by continuing consumer perceptions that the validity of their warranty will be prejudiced if servicing is carried out other than at franchised dealers. Such perceptions remain widespread amongst consumers despite the OFT's initiatives. Although the warranty restrictions have been removed, some manufacturers continue to encourage consumers to have servicing carried out at franchised or authorised outlets. In this way, the extent to which the servicing market has been opened up to non-franchised outlets has been constrained.

The restriction on servicing under warranty had been in place for a long time and past history continues to colour consumers' perceptions. 70 per cent of consumers who still thought that their warranty restricted where they could have their car serviced said that they would consider going to an independent garage if there was no restriction.

Actions taken by the OFT following the 2003 report

3.12 Following the 2003 study, the OFT took a number of actions to deal with the problems identified.

3.13 First, it called on the trade to drop conditions attached to warranties that require a car to be serviced at a garage in its manufacturer's network. In May 2004, the OFT announced that all major makes of new car in the UK would, in future, be sold without servicing ties as part of their warranties.6 The lifting of the ties had avoided the possibility of formal action by the OFT under EC competition law.

3.14 Second, the OFT conducted a publicity campaign in 2004 to raise consumer awareness of the terms of car warranties. In the information campaign the OFT:

Designed and printed an information leaflet, 600,000 of which were distributed through inserts in car magazines, and 18,000 of which were distributed via entities such as Trading Standards, and issued a video news release.

3.15 Third, the OFT liaised with trade associations to include appropriate provisions in their consumer codes of practise. One of the most significant developments was that the SMMT became the first industry body to secure the OFT approval for its consumer code of practice under the OFT's Consumer Codes Approval Scheme (CCAS) in September 2004.7

In total, it was estimated that 99.7 per cent of the UK new car market would be subject to the provisions of the code, which promised the following key benefits related to car warranties:

However, the code cautioned consumers:

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