In case you have missed it, earlier this week Ford announced that the 2015 Mustang will be equipped with an old skool drag racing tool: line lock. Line lock allows the front brakes to remain engaged, locking a vehicle in place, while the driver puts heat into the rear tires, (read:spinning them!). While this has obvious hooning benefits, primarily creating huge, smokey burnouts, line lock’s primary use is to allow a car to hook up and haul ass down a drag strip. Of course this has sent many internet based
morons gearheads into a tizzy as they think Ford is giving them a license to go racing in their new ‘Stang. They couldn’t be more wrong.
For years, pretty much every owner’s warranty guide has contained a clause that says something to the effect of “taking part in any form of competition will render a vehicle’s warranty void”. The cats at Motor Authority did some reading and found the line “Racing your vehicle will void your warranty” in the Mustang’s paperwork, so they set out to find out exactly what that meant by speaking with some of the engineers involved in the project. Basically, what they are saying is that an owner can partake in a track day, but the first time there is actual competition, the warranty is kaput.
Some of the comments on that story are fantastic, but one stands out. “How can they tell if you are racing?” That is a good question, one that short of first hand accounts will likely not be easily answered. The grey area of allowing owners to go on the track, but not to actually race is going to be very easy to police.
When I worked as a service manager, I tried to be a good guy for both sides. If something failed that shouldn’t have, even if you were driving on a track or off-roading a truck, I would ensure that warranty would look after you. If something was clearly use related, then you paid for it. If it was a bit murky, I would usually explain it to the manufacturer, have them supply the part and the customer pay for labour and usually both ends were happy. Unless of course you were a prick, and then I would just say no and send photos of whatever you had done to the manufacturer’s warranty office and then let them deal with you. Let me give you a couple of examples of those ones.
The first one actually isn’t mine, it was a colleague at another local dealership. Back in 2007, Mitsubishi had a bit of a problem with Lancers busting their front engine/transmission mount when they were launched hard repeatedly, as in launched at a drag strip. A young kid came into his local dealership (which happened to be the closest Mitsu dealer to Toronto’s closest drag strip), cursing about the noise from the front of his car and explained that the POS mount had broken and that it should be under warranty. The car came into the shop and the tech noticed that indeed the mount was broken and the front wheel wells were jammed full of shredded rubber. As the tech got into the car, he noticed a time slip from the local strip sitting on the floor. It was dated from the previous day. Busted. The service advisor gave him a quote for the part, which was something stupid like $40 and a half hour labour. Under a hundred bucks, for something he caused. The guy went ballistic. He then began a tour of all of the other dealers in the city. The problem was that he was such a dick that the service manager had taken a photo of the evidence and passed it along to all of the other stores and the manufacturer. Karma’s a bitch.
I had a similar customer during a brief visit to a Mazda store a year or so earlier, when a fifty-something year old Doctor brought in his Miata, complaining of a noisy right front wheel bearing. I went out to look at the car and my trained eye noticed a few things right off. The car had a Hard Dog roll bar and 5 point harness. The tires had that glossy sheen that tires get after many heat cycles and the fronts had been scuffed half way up the sidewalls due to under-inflation & understeer. At the right front there was alternating red and white paint stuck between the rim and the tire. I knew that there had been a Miata club event at Shannonville a couple of weeks before. If you haven’t been there, I’ll give you one guess as to the colour of the track curbing. This guy also went ballistic over being given a quote for a new wheel bearing. He too complained to the manufacturer. He too was denied.
How does all of this relate to the Mustang’s new line lock feature? Well, despite being incredibly cool, it has the potential to set up some showdowns between dealers and consumers over the distinction between going out and having fun at the track and all out racing. My best advice to consumers in this case is don’t be a dick when you walk through the service department door.
One thing is for sure though: there are going to be a lot of empty wallets as owners burn through rear tires!