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What to Expect from a Warranty

Warranties that come with new pieces of foodservice equipment cover a lot and can add value to a purchase. But in order to get the most value out of a warranty it is important to understand what they do and do not cover. A veteran service agent shares a few insights into this complex and important topic.

So you’ve bought a new piece of foodservice equipment and your mind’s at ease. The warranty means no worrying about the cost of maintenance for a full year. Right?

Not so fast. Warranties cover a lot, but they don’t cover everything. Foodservice operators should take certain steps to keep their warranties valid and get the most out of them.

Start with understanding what warranties do and don’t cover. Having a warranty on a piece of equipment means the manufacturer will cover the cost of repair if there’s a defect with the product itself. That, in most cases, is it.

According to Bonnie Brooks, warranty manager for Baltimore-based service agency Electric Motor Repair Co., warranties don’t cover planned maintenance, i.e., the regular checkups and deep cleaning that service agencies provide to make sure equipment runs properly. In addition, some warranties don’t pay for the replacement of consumable parts that, like windshield wipers in a car, are made to get worn down. Common un-covered consumables include belts and gaskets, she said.

Also, warranties typically do not cover work performed outside of the unit as part of the installation process. For instance, factories aren’t responsible for repairing or maintaining a new gas valve or electric wiring that’s put to run a new piece of equipment, Brooks said.

In addition, warranties don’t cover repairs that come about due to misuse, mistreatment or neglect. To police this, many factories require service agencies to send them defective parts. The manufacturer will then analyze the part and determine whether the warranty covers the malfunction.

One common example, said Brooks, is equipment that gets hosed down. If water gets in the electronics and causes a short, the warranty does not apply. The same goes for units that malfunction because of their location in a kitchen. For instance, if a refrigerator sits too close to the hot line and breaks down due to overwork, the warranty may not apply.

In many instances factories will still pay for these repairs the first time they’re necessary, said Brooks. “I do have situations where factories say, ‘I’m going to cover it this time, but you need to keep these units clean.’ The factory will send out information on proper care and maintenance. It’s not very often that I’ll see a factory say, ‘That’s it, we’re not going to cover this,’ without some sort of forewarning of, ‘this is why it’s happening, this is what needs to be fixed.’ ”

Not every mistake operators make risks invalidating their warranty, though. In fact, one mistake, if rectified, may lead to more repairs being covered than thought.

According to Brooks, most factories by default start the warranty clock within a few weeks of selling a unit to an equipment dealer. Operators need to contact the factory when they purchase a piece of equipment in order to set that clock back to zero. “If you wait, those service calls [can be] costly. You could easily cut yourself out of a good three or four months of warranty,” she said. And while manufacturers will accept proof of purchase even after a unit has malfunctioned, the best case in that situation is wasted time and effort, while the worst is not being able to locate that information at all.

Registering their equipment isn’t the only thing operators need to do at purchase. They should also give serious thought to buying an extended warranty. There are several factors that go into this decision, including how mechanically complicated the piece of equipment is, how expensive it would be to repair or to replace and how hard it will be worked. “If you’re in a kitchen that’s being used a lot, extended warranties are definitely beneficial,” said Brooks. A fryer in a 24-hour diner is more likely to need an extended warranty than a fryer in an elementary school cafeteria, for example.  

While warranties don’t cover everything, they do provide a good level of protection. Taking just these few steps can help ensure that operators keep their warranties in effect and get every last bit of coverage they’re entitled to.