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USA Trailer Store, 20 years in business.

Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act

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Stand up for the freedom to customize!

Non-original-equipment parts and your motorcycle’s warranty.

Here’s a popular urban legend you’ve probably heard: If you install non-OEM parts or accessories on your motorcycle, you will void the manufacturer’s warranty. This bit of false consumer wisdom has been making the rounds in the motorcycle industry for decades and it is completely false. In fact, it has not been true since the mid-1970s.

That’s when congress passed - and President Ford signed - the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. This piece of legislation makes it illegal for manufacturers to refuse warranty coverage because non-OEM parts have been installed - unless they can clearly show that the aftermarket part caused the specific problem in question. Let’s review some of the key elements of the act.

In addition to protecting consumers and allowing the aftermarket business to exist, the act was created to clarify warranty coverage, so consumers could take it into consideration when shopping for products. The legislation calls for manufacturers to use plain language to describe a warranty, making it easier for buyers to understand exactly what is covered and whether there are limitations on that coverage. The act is also very specific about what constitutes either a full or limited warranty.

For motorcycle aftermarket suppliers like The USA Trailer Store, Magnuson-Moss is critical to the success of their business. The company, which produces and markets a variety of  pull behind motorcycle trailers designed to be towed by motorcycles, relies on the legislation to protect their customers.

As you might expect, towing a pull behind motorcycle trailer could cause a dealer to balk at providing warranty coverage for certain items, such as the clutch. For example, former Wisconsin politician and famed million-mile Harley-Davidson rider Dave Zien caused quite a stir when he reported that the manufacturer had declined to honor the warranty on his trike’s clutch because Zien rides with several large flags attached to the rear of his bike. They claimed the added wind resistance caused the clutch to fail.

If Dave Zien, who is famous for, among other things, putting more than one million miles on is 1991 Harley (a bike which now resides in the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame in South Dakota) can have warranty problems, anyone can. The fact remains, however, that the burden of proof is on the manufacturer to show that the aftermarket parts (or in Dave Zien’s case, flags) caused the covered components to fail. As far as we know, H-D has not relented, despite having received thousands of negative reviews of their actions online.

If you have installed, or are planning to install, aftermarket products on your motorcycle, the best way to protect yourself is to establish a relationship with a dealer you trust, particularly when your bike is still under warranty. A reputable dealer will not try to get out of performing warranty service based on installed aftermarket parts or accessories. If they do, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) suggests you ask to speak to the manager, contact the manufacturer or take your business to another dealer. If none of those solutions work, you may file a complaint with your State Attorney General, local consumer protection office or the FTC itself.

The bottom line is: If you install­­ aftermarket accessories or parts and a problem occurs, the dealer must clearly show that the items you installed directly caused the problem. Anyone who tells you otherwise is still spreading around the old urban legend.

Links of interest:

The Federal Trade Commission provides an overview of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act and offers some great advice at this link.

If you’d like to read more detailed information – and wade through some “legalese” The Center for Auto Safety has details on who can sue whom and for what on this page .

If you REALLY like to get down and dirty with the law, the Cornell University Law School offers everything you ever wanted to know about warranty law here. You might want to pack a lunch. 

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