Will your new-car warranty cover track driving?

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Living in a golden age of high-performance, isn’t it great to know you could buy the quickest and fastest muscle cars and sports cars ever made and take them to the track without any worries about what happens if something breaks? You’ve got a warranty! Yes, you do. If only you didn’t have to contend with those pesky little things in the warranty booklet called “exclusions” or “things not covered.”

As it turns out, while makers of sports and muscle cars constantly remind us how their new cars have decades of racing heritage behind them, most do not cover damage caused by racing. Some get more specific about track driving, and one carmaker goes so far as to ban airstrip driving and threaten non-coverage if you break any law in the car.

That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your hot new car on a track. It just means that if it breaks while you’re doing that, the cost of repairs might be coming out of your pocket. There are exceptions, and so before you take your new high-performance car to any kind of track, you’d be wise to spend more than just a few minutes reading the warranty very carefully.

Here are some examples:

Chevrolet Camaro and Corvette

2016 blue c7 z06 corvette on track front three-quarter

You may have heard or read that the warranty on Chevy’s Camaro and Corvette covers track driving. This is true. Spokesman Chris Bonelli confirmed that Chevy’s warranty will cover the C7 and C8 Corvettes and certain high-performance Camaro models for track use. There are certain conditions to meet, however.

First, “track driving” means just that. Here’s the exact language from the warranty booklet: “High-performance features are intended for use only on closed tracks by experienced and qualified drivers and should not be used on public roads.”

And, when Chevy says track, it does not mean racing. “We do not cover racing, which would be formalized and/or paid contests,” Bonelli says. This stricture likely applies to both time-trial events… and autocross events.

Next, in addition to the Corvette, this policy extends to the Camaro SS, ZL1, and any 1LE-equipped trim, “if all are track prepped according to the owner’s manual and are not heavily modified,” Bonelli explains.

So yes, that includes the turbo-four and V-6 Camaro, if equipped with the 1LE chassis and brake performance package. Despite sharing the SS model’s 455-horsepower LT1 V-8, however, the Camaro LT1 model is not included. “The LT1 is not considered track-capable, as it does not have the brakes, suspension, etc. to qualify,” Bonelli says.

The track-capable Camaros come with a High Performance supplement for the owner’s manual. Included in the supplement are several pages of track-prep instructions, starting with vehicle break-in and then a section on burnishing the brakes. That process involves about 75 braking applications from 60 mph, including moderate and hard applications. The instructions also include a comprehensive chart of tire pressure and alignment specs, tailored to six different handling scenarios.

Dodge Challenger and Charger

2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon front

Even the “slowest” of the current V-8 Challengers, the base R/T, can run the quarter-mile in the 13s stock, and the Hellcat is down in the 11s. Just how great is it to have a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty? That depends on how you use your car.

Dodge’s 2020 warranty booklet conveys this warning: “Your warranties do not cover the costs of repairing damage or conditions caused by racing, nor do they cover the repair of any defects that are found as the result of participating in a racing event.”

But wait, don’t they build these cars for drag racing? Dodge’s legal eagles have an answer for that, too: “The implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose does not apply if your vehicle is used for racing, even if the vehicle is equipped for racing.”

As it turns out, there is some leeway for drag strip fun for some Challengers. FCA U.S. product spokesperson Claire Carroll explained: “The SRT Hellcat and SRT Hellcat Redeye are specifically engineered for performance, including recreational track use. So, track use does not automatically void the warranty. However, non-OEM vehicle modifications, abuse, and/or sanctioned competitive racing can result in unintended damage, which is not covered by warranty. Each warranty claim is evaluated and considerations such as the type of failure, driver action, and/or specific instance will determine coverage.”

Challenger stick-shift fans should keep the following in mind, as well, when trying to cut another tenth or two from the ET: “Manual transmission clutch parts are not covered under the powertrain limited warranty.” (The warranty booklet puts that sentence in all caps, because everyone knows that means the Dodge folks are shouting.)

Ford Mustang

2020 Shelby GT500

Ford has steadily built the Mustang into an all-around performer, as capable on a road course as it is on a drag strip, and the company’s marketing and PR efforts steadily push the car’s track capabilities.

So, what happens if you follow that message and take a Mustang to the track? As it turns out, Ford walks the walk.

“Taking your Mustang onto a track does not void the warranty,” confirms Matt Leaver of Ford Performance communications. “However, if the car features non-OEM modifications, is involved in competitive racing, or is damaged due to driver error or driver abuse, the warranty will not cover that damage. Defects in material and workmanship that are not pilot error or track-related would be covered. This is the same for any Mustang, from an EcoBoost up to the Shelby GT500.”

Leaver explains that even the base EcoBoost Mustang does not need to have the optional Performance Package to be covered for track driving. As long as you follow Ford’s reasonable conditions, the company will honor its warranty obligations.

Nissan GT-R

Nissan GT-R NISMO driving
Nissan GT-R NISMO

Godzilla gets its own warranty booklet, separate from the workaday Sentras and Rogues. The basic coverages are similar, but Nissan needed extra pages to issue some stern warnings.

Based on the language in these warnings, it’s a safe bet that Nissan knows the GT-R customer base very well, and its lawyers probably watch YouTube videos. Damage caused by the following will not be covered:

  • Racing and/or competitive driving of any sort whatsoever, and/or use on a track or driving on any airstrip.
  • Misuse, which includes, but is not limited to, operation in violation of any applicable law, overloading, or using the vehicle to tow.
  • Dynamometer testing except a dynamometer test performed to comply with applicable local law for emissions testing.
  • Alteration, tampering, or improper repair, including but not limited to installation of exterior parts or components that alter intake or cooling airflow.

To keep your Nissan GT-R warranty valid, you must return to the dealer for no-cost Performance Optimization Services after the first 1000 miles, and then on the car’s 12-, 24- and 36-month anniversaries. And, remember, your GoPro videos can and will be used against you.

Porsche

2019 red porsche 911 carrera s front three-quarter

Porsche may infuse its sports cars with race-proven tech, but when it comes to track driving, the company may say “Nein!” to warranty coverage. The 2020 Porsche warranty booklet clearly states: “Components and/or parts that fail during racing or driving events (including Porsche sponsored events) may not be covered by the new car Limited Warranty.”

Take note of the phrase “may not be covered.” That doesn’t sound the same as “will not be covered” for track driving. Porsche North America spokesman Frank Weismann clarified the policy for Hagerty.

“In the event of a warranty claim, the Porsche factory trained service technician must diagnose the failure,” Weismann says. “If through this inspection process it is determined that the failure is due to the workmanship/material of the part, then it would be covered. If it is determined that the component failed due to the track event in which the part was pushed beyond its intended use, then no, this would not be covered. An example of this would be a missed shift causing an over-rev event which results in engine damage.” 

Before taking your new Porsche on a track, you might want to talk to a Porsche expert about those “intended use” limits.

Much of what can go wrong at a track-driving event is due to driver error, either with car preparation or driving. If you hope to get any defect-related mechanical breakage covered by a new-car warranty, first get to know your car and read the warranty carefully. Consult with a dealer service manager about any doubts. Seek advice on mechanical prep before you turn a lap, and be honest with yourself about your driving skills.

Most importantly, be careful out there.

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