The last issue of Warranty Administrator discussed the documentation requirements for wheel alignment claims. It really focused on how the before and after specifications are not only required but also a perfect example of cause and correction - the before specs relating to the cause and the after to the correction.
Alignment claims are also a perfect example of how everything in warranty is much more complicated than just noting a set of specs and measurements. If the printouts and alignments specs look in order, a Ford auditor will usually turn his attention to the actual cause of failure. As we know, Ford covers under its warranty failures due to defect in materials or workmanship. With alignments, this is implying that the vehicle left the factory out of spec.
However, since Ford tells you that they check alignments when they roll off the factory floor, you can believe an auditor looks for another reason why the vehicle needs alignment.
Most obvious is that the customer damaged the vehicle or a road hazard knocked the vehicle out of alignment. Actually, the initial diagnostic procedure for testing for alignment related problems includes a visual inspection of the tires and rims for abrasions and damage.
Therefore, I suggest that the technician specifically note the results of that inspection to answer any future questions that might arise. A simple note like, "examined tires and suspension and found no sign of damage or impact" helps clarify Ford's responsibility for the repairs. Taking these thoughts forward, you might also look at some of the complete diagnostic routines for a given customer complaint. Let's use excessive tire edge wear as an example.
According to Ford's service publications there are several possible sources for excessive wear that include:
u Vehicle overloaded
u High-speed cornering
u Incorrect tire rotation intervals
u Under-inflated tires
u Incorrect wheel alignment.
Of the five sources listed, only the last might result from a warrantable defect. With the other four sources, Ford says to give the vehicle back to the customer and tell them they've worn out the tires. Oh wait a minute. On under-inflated tires Ford also tells us to adjust the tire pressure and then toss the customer the keys. Again, if we wanted to add some extra protection to a claim then we should answer these questions on the repair order.
Another contributor to misalignment is modifications to the vehicle. Because of this Ford doesn't allow (as in the claim will reject) alignments on incomplete vehicles. But the same is true if the vehicle is substantially modified in other ways. One example is on a van equipped with a chair lift. The dealership had sent the van out for the up-fitting, so there was an internal bill in the history file for that work. That was enough for an auditor to debit a subsequent alignment claim.
In addition to determining the root cause of the alignment problems, Ford also determines warranty eligibility for this adjustment based on time and mileage. As stated in the Warranty & Policy Manual wheel alignments are reimbursable one time only during the first 12-months/12,000 miles. Be careful that the vehicle is within those limits and that it doesn't appear someone changed the date or miles to force the
vehicle within those limits.
On the other end of the scale are those alignments done on extremely low mileage vehicles. While Ford doesn't specifically excluded low mileage alignments, in audit situations the practice is discouraged. The fear is that a dealership might be overly aggressive in looking for alignment issues during the predelivery inspection. Having to align the occasional new vehicle isn't much of an issue, but if Ford sees evidence of a trend in this matter then you can expect some unwelcome attention. Again, the 'before' printout will be the best thing in supporting the actual need for repair.
Finally, Ford will only pay to correct conditions due to a misalignment done at the factory. That means they will only want to pay for a wheel alignment once because after a dealership performs an alignment it becomes their responsibility.
Ford kills off FMVA, reverts to Ford name
Back in 1998, Ford came up with a new scheme for providing warranty coverage to customers. They formed a company call the Ford Motor Vehicle Assurance and said that in a majority of states they no longer provided warranty coverage for vehicles, but it was instead provided by FMVA. Ford would set aside money every year for the FMVA and then FMVA would account for the outflow of claims.
Ford told us that all this money shuffling was done for an accounting and liability benefit to the company and shareholders. Likely, Ford was no longer deriving the benefits from the accounting transaction or it wasn't worth the extra bother.