So, cold air intakes, warranties, and legalities. What’s the answer?
It’s tricky to give you a definite answer here. In reality, you need a lawyer to examine your case individually.
Adding a cold air intake may void the powertrain (engine and transmission) warranty section.
However, remember that a cold air intake is illegal in most states. So, while the warranty might not specifically mention cold air intakes, it might still become void if you illegally modify your car.
For the above reasons, a cold air intake might void your warranty. You should approach this on a case-by-case basis, though.
If you’re looking for a clearer answer, follow this advice: a cold air intake might void your warranty. Therefore, it’s probably not worth the risk.
In this guide, we will explain how a cold air intake might impact your warranty.
Note: this page doesn’t contain legal advice. You should consult a lawyer for a personalized, accurate idea of what to do.
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How Do Cold Air Intakes Work?
For a more detailed explanation of cold air intakes and how they work, see our other articles on Auto Chimps.
You’ll have seen cold air intakes before, whether that’s in real life or on the big screen. They’re typically brightly colored and make a rumbling, throaty noise.
In short, cold air intakes suck air into the engine from a cooler spot. They allow more oxygen into the chamber.
The result of this is (marginally) increased power and efficiency.
Does Fitting A Cold Air Intake Invalidate A Warranty?
Fitting a cold air intake will probably void your warranty. It all depends on the individual document’s wording.
In certain circumstances, you might – might! – get away with it.
For example, if your car goes in for an electrical fault, it should still be covered by the warranty. That is if the policy wording covers this.
The presence of a cold air intake is irrelevant in this situation. It won’t affect your warranty, and the repair should be carried out as expected.
Sadly, the above theoretical circumstance doesn’t consider legalities and technicalities. It also assumes that the dealership mechanic doesn’t report your mod to the manufacturer (most wouldn’t).
Below, you’ll find more realistic interpretations of the law and how that impacts you.
Are Cold Air Intakes Legal?
Almost all of the time, cold air intakes aren’t street-legal. That is, you aren’t allowed to use them on road cars.
There are some exceptions, such as this range from K&N, for example. But the vast majority are for racecars or permanent off-roading.
You should check your state’s laws. Most prohibit any interference with the emissions systems of your car. Under legal definitions, this usually includes the air intake.
A police officer could fine you for having an illegal mod and even seize your vehicle. In most traffic stops, they won’t lift the hood – unless your car’s making excessive noise, of course.
That doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to try to get away with it!
Illegal Modifications Can Void Your Warranty
A cold air intake installation is almost certainly against the law, as explained above.
Even if the warranty wording doesn’t contain anything explicitly preventing you from installing one, it will prohibit illegal mods.
This falls into the same category as catalytic converter deletes or radar jammers. They’re quite simply not allowed and could get you in serious trouble.
Your warranty probably has sections detailing the consequences if you modify your car illegally. It’s most likely to mean all coverage is void.
Magnusson-Moss Warranty Act And Your Rights
If you’ve been researching the effect of cold air intakes on warranties, you may have come across the Magnusson-Moss Act.
Warranties are a tricky, fiddly, and awkward subject. Manufacturers aren’t obliged to supply you with one, but they must follow these laws if they do.
This Act governs how warranties are drafted and protects the rights of consumers.
In relation to cars, a key thing to note is that using aftermarket or recycled parts can’t invalidate a warranty. This includes parts that aren’t produced by the vehicle manufacturer or OEM.
The purpose of this law is to protect you and ensure you carry out regular maintenance.
Here’s where it gets complicated. Many sites will claim that, under these laws, you can fit a cold air intake to your vehicle.
The Magnusson-Moss Act covers reasonable like-for-like replacements. A cold air intake is completely different from the stock component.
The Act also assumes you aren’t doing anything illegal when working on your car. And, as shown above, cold air intakes are just that.
A Cold Air Intake Might Still Void Your Warranty
A cold air intake – unless it’s a replacement for a stock version – isn’t anything like the original. This could cause you problems. For instance, have a read through the hypothetical situation below.
Let’s say your car develops an engine problem. Perhaps mechanics establish that you have broken piston rings.
The only way to repair these is with a complete engine rebuild. Under normal circumstances, a new car warranty would (probably) cover this vast cost.
Before doing this, though, the warranty provider will want to establish the root cause.
In this circumstance, they might conclude that the cold air intake puts too much strain on the engine. This means the manufacturer’s design hasn’t failed and isn’t responsible for the problem.
Thus, the liability rests with you.
In this case, the provider would be perfectly within their rights to refuse to pay out.
You could challenge this with another independent inspection to look for the underlying problem. You could even take it to a court of law.
Unfortunately, in situations like these, your chances are slim to none. It’s best to avoid them in the first place.
How Do I Know If A Cold Air Intake Voids My Warranty?
Remember that all manufacturers draft their own documents. The only way to know for definite is to:
- Read through your warranty terms and conditions.
- Phone the manufacturer.
- Ask a lawyer to look through it.
Most would consider the last bullet above to be completely unnecessary. However, you might decide it’s better to be safe than sorry.
If you are considering installing a cold air intake, remember it’s illegal. You might get in trouble with the police (although it’s unlikely).
Conclusion: Will A Cold Air Intake Void My Warranty?
In generic terms, it’s impossible to say a definite yes or no. The main advice to take away is to be very careful and endeavor to follow the laws of the land.
Overall, a cold air intake will probably invalidate your warranty’s powertrain section at the very least.
It might also void the entire thing if the policy wording explicitly prevents any illegal modifications – as almost all cold air intakes are.
In short, you’re likely to run into significant legal issues.
If you’ve bought a new or used car and it’s still covered by its warranty, don’t do anything to jeopardize it.
Cold air intakes look great, and they’re excellent for your street cred. In the end, though, they don’t make that much difference to performance.
They aren’t worth the risk.