"Is it lawful to use aftermarket parts (Non-Original Equipment Parts) on my Audi?
Is my new Audi warranty automatically voided once the aftermarket part is installed?" - (Tech Tip No. 8)
Some things should be obvious. If your Audi came with ABC
"original equipment" spark plugs, you can legally replace them with cross referenced XYZ aftermarket spark plugs. Currently, approximately, 70 percent of parts, service and repair are done by the
aftermarket industry. The law specifically supports consumers using parts and service of their choice.
However, aftermarket parts are legal to use only if they meet
certain requirements. In fact, if they do not meet these requirements it is classified as "Emission-Control Tampering." Since the Clean Air Act of 1991, there is a $2500 fine to the owner of the vehicle,
and others for tampering with emission sensitive parts. Some examples of emission sensitive parts are ignition systems, engine computers, chips, cams, throttle bodies, air filters, and certain exhaust components.
In some states it is even illegal to advertise aftermarket parts
without a disclaimer!
If you read aftermarket magazine ads carefully, you will see
disclaimers like: "Legal only for off-highway use (except in California or states that have adopted California emissions standards)" or "Not legal for sale or use in CA, OR, NJ and MA."
On the other hand, the ad may state: "50-state legal,"
"California Air Resources Board (CARB) exemption," an "EO" number, or another statement that indicates its legality.
Be cautious when there is no disclaimer. The part may not be
legal to use in your state!
The Specialty Equipment Market Association has instituted an
emissions-sensitive product identification program. To aid consumers in identifying aftermarket parts SEMA-member manufacturers may use the following numeric/color square diamonds on their parts to indicate its
The number 1 in a green diamond
indicates that the product is legal in all 50 states and has been granted a California Air Resources Board exemption, an "EO" number, or is a direct or consolidated replacement part.
The number 2 in a blue diamond
indicates that the product is legal only in states that have not adopted California standards for emissions. This is the tricky one. As an example: Did you know that Massachusetts has now joined the list of states that have adopted California standards?
The number 3 in an orange diamond
indicates that the product is legal only for competition, racing, marine use, or off-highway use (except in California or states that have adopted California emissions or standards) where it is still illegal.
This is only a brief summary. A booklet explaining the complete
identification program can be obtained from SEMA, or requested from Intended Acceleration.
Now about the new vehicle warranty. Rarely does the use of
aftermarket parts violate a new-vehicle warranty. The only case where a vehicle manufacturer can void the warranty is if the aftermarket part is proven to be responsible for the warranty claim. Further, it is also
illegal on the part of the dealer to state that the use of an aftermarket part will void the warranty.
There are also emissions warranties. Federal law (the Clean Air
Act) requires two emissions warranties:
A Performance warranty
A Defect warranty
The "Performance" warranties require the vehicle
manufacturer to make repairs, at no cost to the owner, should the vehicle fail to meet certain levels of emission performance during the warranty period.
The "Defect" warranties requires the vehicle manufacturer
to produce a vehicle which, at time of sale, is free of defects that prevent it from meeting required emissions levels for its useful life.
You are actually protected under a parts certification program
administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
If the aftermarket parts manufacturer certifies its parts under
this program, the vehicle manufacturer cannot void the emissions warranty even if the certified parts fail and/or is directly responsible for an emissions warranty claim. In this situation, the vehicle manufacturer
must arrange a settlement with the aftermarket parts manufacturer, but the new-vehicle warranty is not voided under the law.
The law is clear: Simply because aftermarket equipment has been
installed on a vehicle, the vehicle manufacturer cannot automatically void the warranty.
What can you do to protect yourself?
First, know your rights as a consumer.
Second, buy only aftermarket parts that are legal for use in your
Remember, only parts that are a direct replacement, those with a
CARB number or those labeled with the number 1 in a green diamond are legal in all 50 states.
Now a few words of caution:
"warranty does not cover damage or malfunctions which are the result of...use of the vehicle in competitive events."
This could include timed runs at quattro club events! Quattro club
Safety Seminars themselves without speed and timing equipment are not competition events and should not affect either your warranty or insurance, but let someone drag out a stopwatch and the picture changes.
by Ned Ritchie
Originally published in the quattro quarterly