What is a Powertrain Warranty?
  • Buying Guides

What is a Powertrain Warranty?

By Autolist Editorial | March 20, 2020

A powertrain warranty is a type of limited warranty that covers the parts of a vehicle that are directly involved in moving it forward or backward. These parts include the engine, transmission, and drivetrain. Powertrain warranties are usually provided by car manufacturers on new vehicles, but they can also be purchased from dealerships or third-party warranty companies.

Many new vehicles come with a manufacturer’s powertrain warranty of around five years or 60,000 miles, whichever comes first. If any of the powertrain components fail, the manufacturer pays for most, if not all, of the costs for repairing or replacing it. A powertrain warranty is different from a bumper-to-bumper warranty because the powertrain warranty does not cover the cost of repairing non-powertrain parts like the brakes, suspension, electrical system or any other component outside the powertrain.

shutterstock 151647728 (1)

What does a Powertrain Warranty Cover?

The parts covered by a powertrain warranty vary depending on the manufacturer, make, and model of a vehicle. Most plans cover the engine, transmission, transfer case, drive systems, and differentials. Engine coverage typically includes the cylinder block and heads, seals and gaskets, fuel injectors, and water and oil pumps.

Most warranties also cover the engine mount, valvetrain, flywheel, and timing belt. In vehicles with turbocharging or supercharging, those components are also usually covered. Some warranties cover axle shafts, exhaust and intake manifolds, and wheel bearings and hubs.

All the components of a powertrain connect in such a way that none can function without the others. The engine creates the raw power that propels a vehicle; the transmission, or gearbox, adapts the engine’s output to the drive wheels; the drivetrain delivers power to the wheels and the differentials allow wheels to rotate at different speeds so that the vehicle can navigate corners. The transfer case moves power from the transmission to the rear axles in four-wheel and all-drive vehicles.

A powertrain warranty comes in handy because repairing or replacing any of these components can cost anything between several hundred and several thousand dollars.

shutterstock 118548643 (1)

What is not Included in a Powertrain Warranty?

As a rule, a powertrain warranty does not cover any component that does not help a vehicle move forward or backward. This includes body panels, suspensions, air conditioners, as well as the brake, safety, electrical and entertainment systems. Most plans also exclude auxiliary components of the powertrain such as the hoses, sensors, cooling lines, and electrical connectors. Parts that easily degrade due to wear — such as clutches, oil filters, tires and windshield wipers — are not covered either.

Additionally, a powertrain warranty does not cover third-party and aftermarket parts or any defects caused by these parts. A car manufacturer cannot cover the cost of repairing a failing powertrain if the failure can be traced back to bolt-on engine modifications or other alterations it did not sanction.

It is important to note that the only defects a powertrain warranty covers are those that arise out of faulty materials, workmanship, or design. It does not cover defects caused by normal wear and tear, accidents, contaminated fuel, or insufficient maintenance. Vehicle owners are not just responsible for things like oil changes and engine tune-ups; they are also responsible for any engine or transmission defects that may occur if they neglect to service their vehicles. Powertrain coverage also excludes problems customarily covered by insurance such as vandalism, theft, fire, flooding, and other environment-related damages.

shutterstock 406431103 (1)

How Long does a Powertrain Warranty Last?

The length of coverage usually varies depending on the make, model, and type of vehicle. A general standard has been around five years or 60,000 miles, whichever comes first. Some heavy-duty pickups and commercial fleet vehicles usually get more mileage. A line of Chevrolet’s heavy-duty pickups with 6.6-liter V8 engines, for example, has a powertrain warranty of 5 years or 100,000 miles.

A powertrain warranty shows the level of trust a manufacturer has in the quality of its vehicles. The longer the coverage, the more committed a car maker is to its vehicles and, in extension, to its customers.

Is a Powertrain Warranty Transferable?

Some manufacturers base powertrain warranties on vehicle identification numbers and consider these warranties valid regardless of changes in ownership of covered vehicles. In most cases, if you buy a used car that is still under warranty, the warranty will remain valid until the specified time interval or mileage has passed. However, this can vary depending on the automaker and the model, so be sure to check if such a warranty is transferrable, regardless of whether you’re buying new or used. Buying a new car with a transferable warranty means that when you sell it, you could potentially use the transferable warranty as a selling point too.

Some automotive manufacturers specify that the terms of their powertrain warranties change when the vehicle’s ownership changes. For some Hyundai and Kia models, for example, the original ten-year/100,000 miles warranty changes to a basic five-year/60,000 miles powertrain coverage when the car transfers to a new owner.

Note that the warranty is based on the date of original purchase and not on the model year. A five-year warranty on a 2013 model might expire in 2017 if the first owner bought the car in 2012.

How is a Powertrain Warranty Different from a Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty?

A powertrain warranty only covers parts related to the propulsion system of a vehicle. A bumper-to-bumper warranty is more comprehensive. It covers the cost of repairs for nearly everything between the front and rear bumper of a vehicle. Some new cars come with a bumper-to-bumper cover of at least three years or 36,000 miles, whichever comes first; others offer even longer warranties.

Since powertrain warranties tend to be longer than bumper-to-bumper warranties, you still get coverage for the critical components of your vehicle when your comprehensive warranty expires.

A bumper-to-bumper warranty, like a powertrain warranty, has its limits. It does not cover body panels (including the bumpers themselves), interior trims, brakes, tires, and other wear items. Some warranties also exclude the powertrain because it is covered by a separate warranty. Everything else—from the air-conditioning system to suspension parts—is covered, but only if it fails due to manufacturing defects in materials or factory workmanship.

Should You Buy a Powertrain Warranty?

When the powertrain warranty on your car expires, you may consider purchasing a similar plan from a dealership or third-party warranty company. Some third-party plans offer coverage of up to ten years or even 150,000 miles — whichever comes first — and allow subscribers to take their vehicles to any ASE-certified mechanic when a powertrain component fails.

An extended protection plan or service contract can pay for costly repairs and increase your car’s resale value. Getting one is also a good idea because powertrain components tend to fail outside the warranty timeframe given by the manufacturer.

If you intend to keep your car for a long time, or if your car model is known to have powertrain problems past a certain mileage, getting a new powertrain plan can give you peace of mind and potentially save you thousands of dollars in unexpected repairs. If you would rather have more coverage for your car, consider getting a bumper-to-bumper warranty instead.

Read the Fine Print

Before you buy a new or used vehicle, find out what the powertrain warranties of the vehicles you’re considering cover, what they exclude, and under what conditions the manufacturers assume responsibility for repairs. A powertrain warranty is a contract between you — the buyer — and your vehicle’s manufacturer. Like many legal agreements, it contains many “ifs” and “buts” that limit the manufacturer’s liability. Most of these “ifs” and “buts” are hidden in small print. Unfortunately, like many car owners find out later when something breaks down, the small print can take away the implied promises of the large print.