Is My Overheated Engine Covered Under My Extended Warranty?

Dear Tom and Ray:

I was driving to work recently, and my car overheated, which caused the engine to smoke and fail. I received no warning. The temperature gauge did not go up, and no lights came on. But my extended-warranty company is refusing to pay for the overhaul of the engine. They are stating that it was my thermostat that broke, and that since I drove the vehicle after it overheated, I was guilty of abuse, which is not covered. But if the gauge doesn't tell me the thermostat is broken and the engine is overheating, then how am I supposed to take responsibility for it? It's a 1999 Ford Explorer. I bought it eight months ago with 36,000 miles, and I got a warranty for an additional 24 months or 24,000 miles. It now has 47,000, so it's still covered. What do you think? -- Heather

RAY: I think this is why "Judge Judy" was invented.

TOM: I don't think they can know that a bad thermostat caused the overheating. It could be the exact opposite. It could be that the overheating ruined the thermostat. We've seen that happen, too. I think they're just trying to weasel their way out of paying up, Heather. Have you ever read John Grisham's "The Rainmaker?"

RAY: Here's a plausible scenario: If the temperature gauge or the temperature sending unit, which sends the temperature to the gauge, were broken, then there's no way you would have known that the engine was running hot. And in that case, they should pay not only for your engine, but for a new gauge, too.

RAY: If I were you, I'd have the vehicle towed to a mechanic you trust. Have him remove and test your TSU and your temperature gauge. If either is faulty, have him write a letter saying so, and you'll have a slam-dunk case in small-claims court.

TOM: And even if both parts check out fine, then you have to consider the possibility that a) they're misbehaving intermittently, or b) you're a ditz.

RAY: But if you're convinced that you had no warning, I'd still take the company to small-claims court. They're the ones who have to prove "abuse," so the onus is on them. I think you'll win because you don't sound abusive to me, Heather. Good luck.

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