Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health insuran...

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Chris Harrigan has an economic degree from Limestone College and an MBA from Clemson University. He previously managed auto insurance claims for Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Currently, he is using his business and insurance expertise to provide insurance data analysis and visualizations to enhance the user experience.

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Reviewed by Chris Harrigan
Former Auto Insurance Claims Manager Chris Harrigan

UPDATED: Aug 11, 2021

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Here's what you need to know...

  • Car insurance is designed to cover unexpected and sudden losses but not wear and tear
  • In some cases, engine failure due to fire could be covered under an insurance policy
  • If you carry full coverage on the vehicle, some physical damage losses will be covered
  • Damage losses filed as a result of engine failure while the car is moving may be covered
  • If you carry an extended warranty on your vehicle, it may cover engine breakdowns

When you own a car, there will come a time where you’ll have to deal with a breakdown or a failure. Sometimes it comes with age. Depending on the car and how you drive, it could happen sooner than you imagine. Every car manufacturer has a limited time warranty once their cars leave the lot. The coverage slowly decreases with time and miles. Some drivers choose to buy an extended warranty for mechanical breakdown insurance and other protections. Your standard collision and comprehensive coverage does not cover standard engine failure.

While some components are more important than others, the engine does the most work and is more prone to failure than any other vehicle component.

Unfortunately, engines can fail even when you schedule routine maintenance and look out for red flags. When it does happen, it’s also the most expensive thing to fix or replace.

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What does an insurance company consider to be wear and tear?

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You can buy optional car insurance to help you cover unexpected repair costs, but that doesn’t mean that all types of repairs and claims are covered.

After hundreds and thousands of miles of operation, it’s only normal for parts to suffer from wear and tear.

Unfortunately, virtually all car insurance policies have a wear and tear exclusion that’s built into the policy to reduce the carrier’s liability for system breakdowns that aren’t caused by a covered loss.

Insurance is strictly designed to help you recoup from a catastrophic and unavoidable loss, not from something that gradually grew worse over time.

You might know that your insurance has provisions written into the contract that prohibits claims for wear and tear, but that doesn’t really help you grasp the meaning of wear and tear.

Since it’s normal and expected that car parts and body parts will fail or deteriorate over time. It’s specifically something that’s not covered by the car insurance carrier. Therefore, a car insurance company may cover body damage if your car is in an accident because one of your axles fell off (due to a bad boot or other part). But they would not necessarily cover the wheel and axis. They may exclude it if it’s seen as a product of negligence. Likewise, if you were in an accident because your engine stopped while you were driving, an insurance company may look at the condition of the engine before paying.

In some cases, wear and tear can be referred to as depreciation. This is because the value of the car drops as the quality of the vehicle is expected to degrade.

Since the decline in the value is expected and inevitable, it’s something that can’t fit the definition of a sudden and unexpected loss.

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What Are Damage Claims Your Policy Won’t Cover?

Even though wear and tear are specifically excluded, there are scenarios where a worn part might be replaced in a larger and more comprehensive claim.

Even though many consumers buy full coverage policies, there’s a long list of claims that will be automatically denied because of the policy terms.

Here are some of the things your policy won’t cover that all policy owners should know about:

  • Wear and tear
  • Freezing
  • Tire tread damage
  • Electrical breakdown
  • Mechanical failure
  • Nuclear weapons discharge
  • War
  • Radioactive contamination
  • Confiscation or damage caused by authorities
  • Intentional damages
  • Vehicles used for racing

What types of claims will physical damage coverage pay for?

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After scanning through the fairly long list of physical damage exclusions, you might be left wondering what your full coverage actually covers.

While the industry term ‘full coverage’ can be misleading, it’s thrown around quite a bit when policies are being sold or discussed.

Even policies that meet the ‘full coverage’ classification have the exclusions above.

They will cover damage for the following scenarios:

– Comprehensive

Comprehensive physical damage coverage will pay to repair or replace your car when it sustains unintentional and unexpected damages while it’s parked or in some cases being operated.

The incidents that are covered under comprehensive coverage may include fire, theft, vandalism, weather, explosion, falling objects, collision with a live animal. This could also include a rock or construction debris hitting certain parts of your engine while driving creating a hole.

– Collision

Collision coverage is another form of optional physical damage coverage that pays to repair your vehicle up to its fair market value.

Like comprehensive, it’s purpose is to help restore you to the place you were in prior to your loss.

The main difference is that collision pays for car accident losses when the vehicle is moving and collides with real property. In some cases, collision coverage may pay when your car is damaged in a hit and run as well.

When Is Engine Damage Covered?

As you read through what is and what is not covered, you might come across some different losses that could lead to engine failure.

It seems unfair to say that the damage won’t’ be covered under comprehensive coverage because the engine wasn’t in new condition.

What you need to know is that there are moments in time where an engine that suffers wear and tear might be replaced because of a claim.

It’s not ordinarily due to the cost of a new engine, but it can happen when the repairs don’t exceed the value of the car. The most common reason engine damage would be covered is when the components under the hood caught fire. This might also be covered under your car’s warranty depending on how long it’s been since you bought it or if you have an extended warranty for mechanical breakdown insurance.

Since fire is covered under comprehensive, it’s a valid claim that can be filed. The mechanical breakdown insurance warranty and auto insurance coverage are separated by what caused the fire in the first place.

In this scenario, the car is often totaled due to the severity of the damage done. Another reason engine failure could indirectly be covered is when you hit an item and it leads to cracked hoses that cause a system breakdown.

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How You Can Protect Yourself


Car insurance might not pay for mechanical failures, but there are ways to protect yourself against these type of events. One way is to put away money every month to pay for unexpected losses.

Another is to invest in warranty coverage that pays for bumper to bumper breakdowns. These warranties often cover a car for a specific number of years or up to a certain mile limit.

If you would like to buy a more comprehensive insurance policy, it’s time to price plans. You could call your current insurer direct to add coverage, but this doesn’t give you an idea of how much you’ll pay elsewhere.

After you talk to your agent, use an online rate comparison quoting tool and see what other carriers will charge you for the broad coverage.

Only after you have a good idea of the rates can you make the best-informed decision.

Enter your zip code in our FREE tool below to compare car insurance rates now!