Can I replace a car air filter and still maintain the full warranty?

Will replacing an air filter maintain the car warranty?

When it pays to use parts of “like kind and quality”

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Q: I have to change the air filter on my Volkswagen. Do I have to buy the original air filter model for the car to maintain the full warranty? Are there any parts that have to be original equipment parts for the warranty to still apply?

—Amanda C. in Toronto

A: A manufacturer cannot require you to use their branded replacement part for routine maintenance unless i) it is provided at no charge as part of a prepaid service plan or warranty repair, or ii) they are the only supplier of the component. When it comes to replacement parts like an air filter that can have a role in the prevention of internal damage to the engine, the requirement is to use parts of “like kind and quality.” This means you can use a replacement the part that meets the performance standards of the original

When it comes to replacement parts like an air filter that can have a role in the prevention of internal damage to the engine, the requirement is to use parts of “like kind and quality.” This means you can use a replacement part that meets the performance standards of the original part but is made by an independent supplier. This type of component is called an “aftermarket” part in the industry.

Reputable aftermarket parts to maintain your engine are typically about 30% cheaper than the “original equipment” components supplied with your vehicle; you may be surprised to learn they sometimes promise superior quality and are more expensive! In some cases, the original and aftermarket parts are one and the same, since the automaker is likely ordering their part from a major independent supplier to meet their specifications, but putting it in a box identified as their brand.

In some cases, the original and aftermarket parts are one and the same, since the automaker is likely ordering their part from a major independent supplier to meet their specifications, but putting it in a box identified as their brand.

It’s not feasible for you to actually test an air filter to see if it matches the performance of the original equipment. The alternative is to stick with a brand name aftermarket supplier; for air filters, FRAM, MANN, Purolator, and WIX come to mind. This is what most non-dealer repair shops do, and usually, they, not the vehicle owner, are the ones making the decision on what parts to use for service and repairs.

In the alternative, when a component has to meet an industry standard, your owner’s manual may specify that standard (most notably for engine oil). You could look for that standard on the packaging of the aftermarket replacement parts, which is an indication of “like kind and quality.”

For European brand vehicles with extra long oil filter change intervals, there is added security in requesting the original equipment filter; in the event of an engine failure, the manufacturer cannot claim you voided the warranty by using an inappropriate replacement part.

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