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Engine Failure - Small Claims Court?

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I bought a used car from a main dealer in July 2015 for £21,000.

At the time the car was 2 years old and included a service pack with the main dealer until the car was 5 years old.

The car was serviced by them in May 2017, in line with the service requirements of the car.


In January this year the car suffered a severe engine failure that required a replacement engine, turbo and other parts.

I initially took the car to an independent specialist (not the original dealer) as I knew it was now out of warranty.

They made the initial diagnosis that the engine needed replacing and that they believed that a contributory factor in the failure of the engine was a mis-fitted oil filter on the previous service.


At this point I contacted the garage where I bought the car and asked if there was anything they were able to do to help

- either recover the car to their garage or send out an engineer to inspect the car

- they said this wasn't possible.


On the advice of the independent garage I asked an expert motor engineer to inspect the car.

They initially found that the oil filter was the cause of the failure, but following questions from the dealer where I bought the car who identified a couple of errors in his report, he retracted his finding that the mis-fitted filter was to blame. I followed this up with the expert, but he was unable to give me a definitive reason for the engine damage.


There was a lot of communication with the dealer where I bought the car, but at no point did they indicate that they were willing to take responsibility for the fault.

I allowed them to view the car and some of the failed components, but at this stage repairs had already begun so they were unable to see it in it's original 'failed' state.


As I was without a car I had no option but to continue with the repair at a cost of £12k (including some discretionary parts/labour such as replacement clutch) in the hope I'd be able to recover the costs at a later date on the basis of the initial report from the expert.


In total the car was off the road for just over 4 months.

The dealer where I bought the car has said that in their mind the matter is closed and have suggested I take the case to the Motor Ombudsman.


I'm considering taking a claim to court as the independent garage has offered to support me as a witness and provide whatever evidence is required.

They also have some experience of taking claims to court in support of their customer's consumer rights.

I have some concerns however that I could use some help with;


Given the value of the claim is likely to exceed the small claims track limit (£10k) and therefore be allocated to the fast-track,

to what extent would I be liable for the defences legal costs should I lose?


I'm planning to represent myself in court to reduce my own costs - would this have a bearing?

Given how much I've lost already, I'm obviously reluctant to risk losing more to cover the costs of a failed court claim.


Would it be possible to reduce the value of the claim below this £10k small claims threshold?

I read somewhere that this is frowned upon by courts as you're not properly representing the full value of the claim.

Is it possible that due to the complexity of the case that it would be allocated to the fast-track anyway?


Given that I not longer have the evidence of specific negligence supported by an independent expert witness, is it better to argue the case that the car wasn't of satisfactory quality and that the service wasn't carried out with reasonable care and skill?


I understand that the consumer rights act covers up to 6 years after purchase, but does it require specific cause of failure and/or negligence?

In my view, a relatively new car that requires a completely new engine seems unreasonable, but would such a generalisation be valid in court?


The car was bought prior to the implementation of the consumer rights act, so would this weaken my rights?

The car was serviced in 2017, so would be covered by the consumer rights act.


Apologies for the length of the post, it's been quite a complex and lengthy process and I wanted to keep it as succinct as possible.

I'd appreciate any advice on the issues above, thanks for reading.





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surely if the oil filter was not fitted correctly you would have had oil pukeing out all the time or regularly using lots of oil?

or did it just introduce a lack of oil pressure around the engine?

please don't hit Quote...just type we know what we said earlier..


if everyone stopped blindly paying DCA's tomorrow

the biggest financial industry in the UK, DCA;s would collapse overnight.



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There's no such thing as the small claims court, just a small claims track allocated to later in the process if the claim fits the criteria.
Depending on how you make a claim in E&W (CCMCC, MCOL or online civil money claims pilot), it could take 4 months+ before the claim is allocated.
At any time before allocation, the defendant can use the full menu of CPR to apply for your claim to be struck out costing you £2k+ in solicitors fees.


Edited by miteaide
explain CPR

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