They offered a warranty, and then the wheels came off her car

shutterstock_185750471

The wheels just came off Paul Hamel’s case, and he needs our help putting them back on – figuratively speaking.

Hamel bought a new Hyundai Elantra for his college-bound daughter in 2012. He wanted her to have reliable transportation.

“The car came with four 60,000 mile-Hankook tires,” he says. “I harped on my daughter to be sure she checks the pressure every two weeks or so and to also rotate the tires each time she gets the oil changed.”

Still, the tires only lasted half as long as they should have, even though his daughter had a record of maintaining and rotating them. Hamel returned to Orlando Hyundai, the dealership from which he purchased the car, and asked it to honor the 60,000-mile warranty.

Here’s what the warranty said:

LIMITED WARRANTY FOR ORIGINAL EQUIPMENT PASSENGER CAR & LIGHTTRUCK TIRES INCLUDING TEMPORARY TIRES.

1. WHAT IS COVERED AND FOR HOW LONG.

Hankook warrants that a tire manufactured by Hankook and equipped originally on the vehicle is free from defects in materials or workmanship in normal use for the life of the original usable tread.The life of the original usable tread ends when the tire tread has been worn down with only 1.6mm (2/32nds inch) remaining, at which point the tire is considered to be fully worn out. 􏰀

PASSENGER CAR AND LIGHT TRUCK TIRES

A. Free replacement If Hankook Radial Passenger & Light Truck Tires fail as a result of defect in material and/or workmanship within the first 25% of treadwear, the tire will be replaced with a new, comparable Hankook Tire at no charge including mounting and balancing charges. B. Pro rata replacement Tires not qualifying for free replacement will be allowed a credit toward purchase of a new, comparable Hankook Tire based upon the amount of tread actually worn. The cost of mounting, balancing and any other service charges or applicable taxes shall be paid by the user. Otherwise adjustment for compensation will be made on a prorata basis calculated by multiplying the actual current dealer selling price by the percentage of remaining usable tread depth.

“Too bad,” a representative told him, “We don’t warranty these.”

The manufacturer declined to honor the warranty, too.

“Neither will stand behind their product,” says Hamel. “They won’t do anything.”

Here’s the final kiss-off from Hyundai:

We apologize for any inconvenience or frustration caused by this experience. The Hyundai Motor America written limited warranties cover repair or replacement of eligible components originally manufactured or installed by Hyundai that are found to be defective in material or workmanship under normal use and maintenance, as determined by your local authorized Hyundai dealership. We are unable to provide assistance in this matter.

If a non-Hyundai part causes failure in any component, the needed repairs to correct the failure would not be covered under the Hyundai warranty. You can find complete warranty information in your Owner’s Handbook and Warranty Information booklet. The Hyundai Limited Warranty information can also be accessed though our website at http://www.HyundaiUSA.com/assurance/america-best-warranty.aspx.

We hope we were able to address your concerns in a satisfactory manner; however, if you have any additional questions or concerns regarding your Elantra that we can assist with, please feel free to reach out to us again. We can be reached again by email at ConsumerAffairs@hmausa.com or by calling our toll-free customer service number, 1-800-633-5151.

How frustrating. Our advocacy team asked Hamel to send us the paper trail, and he says most of the conversations took place either by phone or in person. So he’s trying to get written proof that Hyundai and Hankook declined to honor a warranty that they should have.

If it turns out that Hamel was promised something that wasn’t delivered, I’m inclined to take this case. But I’m also inclined to say something right now: What the hell do we have warranties for, anyway?

It seems as if we receive regular complaints from consumers about promises that aren’t kept. Products that slip out of warranty. Warranty records lost. Warranties partially honored. Warranties ignored.

Even when a company honors a warranty, it often seems as if it does so grudgingly – because it “has to.”

Increasingly, companies have turned to two-tier warranties. A free “basic” warranty, which covers nothing, and an “extended” warranty, where you pay more money so the manufacturer will fix or replace the product in the event something happens.

But let’s take off our business defender, free-market hats for a moment, my friends. Let’s put on the consumer’s hat.

Shouldn’t a manufacturer stand behind its products? If I sell you a blender or a refrigerator or a tire, shouldn’t it come with an implicit guarantee that it’ll work, as advertised?

Why would you pay extra to “protect” your product? (I’m talkin’ to you, Apple!) Answer: You shouldn’t have to, at least from a consumer’s point of view. While it’s great to put a warranty promise in writing, customers assume you’ll do the right thing if a product breaks. The best companies don’t charge more for that. They do the right thing every time.

Our Good News Guy, Andrew Der, has documented several cases of companies doing right even without a warranty. And yes, that’s what customers expect.

So when I hear about a dealership and a tire manufacturer letting a customer down, I can almost hear the pro-business, laissez-faire commenters saying, “He was probably out of warranty. He deserved it.”

And you know what I’ll say, right?

I don’t care about the warranty. If someone told him his tires would last 60,000 miles, then they should have. Fine print be damned.

“For me, this is more of a principle issue,” says Hamel. “It’s hard to understand how or why they would act in this way, from a customer service standpoint.”

I agree.

Should we take Hamel's case?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on our help forum.

More Posts - Website - Twitter - Facebook - LinkedIn - Google Plus

  • William Leeper

    Here is the thing, the warranty is only kind of based on the mileage. The mileage is a “how long should the tires last” number. If the tread were to separate during that time, yes it would be warrantied, if the tire were to bulge, yes it would be warrantied; however, the tire just being worn out is not something that a warranty covers. Everyone’s driving style differs, and therefore everyone will wear tires out at a different rate. Once tires get below 1/16 inch tread remaining, they are considered to be worn out. Just like most all product manufacturers, the warrant only covers defects, and the fact the tires were worn out is not a defect.

    A few manufacturers do warranty tires on date and mileage, but to take advantage of it, one must have the mileage at install on the receipt, and must have proof of proper rotation, alignment, and any suspension repairs that are required. Also, if all 4 tires did not wear evenly, the warranty is void, and even then, it is a pro rated warranty. For example a set of 40,000 mile 5 year Michelin tires wears out in 30,000 miles after 4 years, the set would be replaced, the customer would pay for the replacement less a discount of 20%. The 20% comes from the fact you received 80% of the warrantied period of 5 years even though you only received 75% of the rated mileage.

  • Rebecca

    Everyone knows that tires aren’t covered under a car’s warranty. Hyundai isn’t going to (and shouldn’t) cover tires. The manufacturer of the actual tires? Then maybe they’re covered. I don’t quite understand what the complaint about the actual tires is, and why they need to be replaced. Is the tread worn? Are they punctured? I can’t make a determination about anything without knowing what’s actually wrong with the tires.

  • Tom McShane

    Yes, I think you should look into it more. It seems like Hankook (Is that John Hankook?) should warranty the tires

  • Regina Litman

    I was undecided on this one because I felt so bad about the gin and tonic case I didn’t get to vote on, and you ended up not taking his case. I know, the two cases have nothing to do with each other. But I was in the mood to get someone’s case taken and, with liuck, resolved in the consumer’s favor.

  • Pat

    There is nothing in the warranty to indicate that it covered tread life. I have never bought a new car that had a tread life warranty on the tires. And from the way the story is written there is nothing to indicate the dealer said it was anything but defects. It appears that Mr. Hamel assumed something that was not the case. Even when you buy tires from a tire store, most tires do not include a tread life warranty, though you can pay extra for that. I just do not see anything to advocate.

  • Peter Varhol

    I have to make a comment here. I am a runner, and have a set of Knuckle Lights, from the company of the same name. I’ve had them for about a year and a half, and after a particularly difficult run in a rainstorm, one stopped working.
    This are not terribly expensive ($40), so I ordered a new pair, but also asked online if there were restrictions in using them in the rain. Two hours later, I received an email from the founder and CEO, Dan Hopkins, offering me free replacements. I suggested that he keep my new order, and simply replace the one that failed, and he sent me an entirely new set. This was incredible customer service, and I wanted to take this opportunity to call it out.

  • Éamon deValera

    I completely understand the pro-rata warranty, that is not at all unusual on car parts – tires, batteries, and similar consumables.
    However if they warranted to last 60K miles, and they last 30K you should get a 50% credit toward the purchase of a new set. If they fail very soon after installation- perhaps 2 or 3 thousand miles of course they should simply be replaced (or the one that fails replaced it is unlikely all 4 would have a defect).

    That said if a company fails to honor the warranty and there is documentation to show that they were maintained to manufacturer’s specifications then simply sue them. The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (15 USC 2310) protects consumers. The Act encourages (strongly) manufacturers to set up programs for warranty disputes. I’ve found, without fail, writing to a manufacturer and requesting their procedures for warranty disputes and the Act. The manufacturer almost certainly has someone or some office that handles this. Often it is the legal team. I’ve always been satisfied when I inquired as that seems to escalate the warranty claim beyond naysaying clerks.

    If they don’t have any such dispute program bring that letter to court and a copy of the Act. It should be very persuasive.

  • Jim

    How where the tires worn? Was it an alignment problem? Was it a worn front end part such as a tie rod end or ball joint? It’s great the pressure what checked and tires rotated, but an alignment that is off will wear out even the best tire in a fraction of the mileage the tire warranty.

  • Patrica

    Yes, questions to be asked and answered before I will vote on this! When i saw “wheels came off” I couldn’t imagine the disaster., Twasn’t the situation As it is, I can only assume that it’s tread wear on all four tires. It would be a very good thing for the dealership OR the tire manufacturer to give a pro-rated discount, determine what were factors in the tire problem…as it may happen again.

  • Jeff W.

    What is the current mileage of the cars/tires? Although I agree with most of the people in that normal wear and tear on tires (and batteries and other stuff) is typically not covered; you might have a better case depending on the miles. If the daughter only drive the car 20K miles, the tires should not be worn out. 50K miles, tougher case.