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Will tracking my car void the warranty?

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This week, we head to the track. But will it void your warranty if it all goes boom? Maybe, as Toyota is proving.

Have a question? Email me!

Question

Mike, I have a G8X I track. I’ve been tracking cars for over ten years, starting with my old 240SX (Cool! – Mike).

I’ve been seeing what’s going on with Toyota and their GR86 situation. Any thoughts on this? Would BMW deny a warranty if they found out you tracked the car?

– Fred

Answer

Fred, this is a fun one. Let’s start with an image directly from Toyota’s website, where they sell the car…

Toyota-gr86
Photo: Toyota

Doesn’t get much more track-oriented than this. Of course they have disclaimers like “Pro drivers, closed course.” And I’m no lawyer, but this feels like false advertising to me. Why would doing this void the warranty?

Pump you up

FR-S
The Toyobaru twins have always encouraged driving antics.

There are a million reasons why an engine might fail on track, but I feel confident in saying that 99% of the time it’s a cooling issue. That’s why cars like Ferrari use a dry sump oil system, compared to a wet sump system for most “normal” cars. Oil starvation in turns is a real thing.

In the case of the GR86, the engine is actually built by Subaru, a boxer four. The specific issue here seems to be that excessive RTV, a sealant used to assemble the car’s FA24D, falls into the motor’s lubrication system and starves the engine of oil, which will then cause you to pull a Han Solo and say “it’s not my fault” out loud.

It’s an issue that might not have occurred during normal street driving because temperatures would never get high enough to melt (?) the sealant.

BMW M8
Cars like the M8 can run reliably all day, every day, due to the extra cooling components.

Allow me to say this: A BMW M car is over-engineered for normal street driving, You do not need a separate transmission cooler to go to Grandma’s house. But it’s there, and though BMW won’t ever tell you the explicit reason why, we all know. You can find many different parts of an M car that go far beyond the spec required for street driving.

Check out BMW testing the S65 to get an idea of one way they develop an engine:

Is Toyota full of it?

Toyota FR-S
Every sports car comes with a “History of racing”.

It’s fair to say you expect an M3 or a 911 to be able to handle track time. I’ve never had a track issue on my cars, nor have any of the people in my phone book. The BMW Performance Center certainly puts cars through hell, though they’d never tell you if one broke. The place has been around for over 20 years, so if those M5s might break down, it isn’t very often.

But Toyota isn’t a premium brand. Are they built to the same standards? No way, although they want you to think it. If you buy a GR86, you get a NASA track session. Here, see for yourself.

We can also quote right from their site: “Guided by our obsessive desire for speed, every vehicle that’s earned the GR badge has been thoroughly pushed, honed and perfected through extensive testing with numerous wins and finishes in the World Rally Championship…” blah blah.

Nissan Z
This car isn’t really meant for track duty either, but there’s plenty of reference to it doing so.

Now if that were true, they’d have known about the sealant issue pretty quickly. Some of these owners were just warming the car up, so it’s not like every GR86s were taking severe punishment at times of failure.

They even have ‘Track Mode” for their stability control. I could go on, but Fred, you can see that Toyota isn’t shy about promoting track usage.

Can you fight an engine warranty denial?

Corvette
A car like a Corvette can handle track time, but if you don’t break it in properly, they can still go boom.

Let’s pretend you’re on a track and you screw up, plain and simple. It could be something like putting the parking brake on after a session and it melts. Happens to newbies. That’s your fault.

But there’s nothing that you can do on a track that can’t be done on a street. In other words, if I want to bomb the back roads over and over again, a performance car should be able to handle it. The fact that it’s on a closed course means nothing.

In the GR86’s case, Toyota is starting to approve these warranty claims because of the type of advertising they do, and because the cars themselves aren’t abused. Simply driven hard.

gr-86
On a track, with a helmet. That red? It’s called, ahem, “Track Red.” Photo: Toyota.

Look to the aftermarket to help as well: the Magnuson–Moss Warranty Act. In the old days, you’d put an intake system on your new car. Suddenly, the rear differential blows. The dealer used to be able to say “Hey, you touched the car, the warranty is voided”. But now they need to prove that the system you modified is responsible for the failure of the part that broke. Of course they can’t do this because the parts are not related, and you’re fine.

And so it is with track time. Though there’s no law to protect you, it’s really the burden of the manufacturer to prove that your session was the reason, not the cause. Most of the time, they give in without you needing a lawyer.

I believe in taking your car to the track

E92 M3
Do this at least once. You will learn so much.

It’s not 100% safe. And expensive. You will absolutely abuse your car. The E92 needed fresh oil and a brake flush after each session. Tires lasted two events. Brakes too, although as I learned I adjusted my brake points and made them last longer.

But what you gain is amazing. Knowing how to handle not just any car, but your own at the limit, is something that could save your life. Plus it’s a ton of fun.

So Fred, enjoy your G8X on track. And if anyone reading has a GR86, know what you’re getting yourself into, but don’t be discouraged. Put that “track-tuned suspension” to good use.

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