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Shoddy service at a garage - any advice folks?


Adam69
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Hi Folks

 

Here's a good one for you....

 

We took our car to a garage to have a head gasket replaced- actually a friend of mine took it for us as we were away on holiday a few days after it broke down. The service took a little longer than promised due to parts arriving late, extra parts being needed, and such like. After we eventually got it back (took 2 1/2 weeks instead of the week as promised) a piston shattered in the engine the following morning. We had driven it for perhaps 15 miles. The AA towed us back to the garage and after inspection we were advised a piston had broken and the engine was a write off. The original job sheet from the garage (for the head gasket repair) advised 'slight piston knock' but when we questioned this we were told not to worry too much, it was a common issue on our car [Rover 218is], and although it would eventually require a further repair, the car was safe and in good order- this was before we took it back. The garage are denying liability although we had not noticed this knocking before it was serviced. Consumer Direct advised us that the garage should take responsibility and passed the matter to Trading Standards.

 

Trading Standards are not interested saying it isn't an issue of safety- we disputed this as we felt that a piston shattering on a dual carriageway at 60-odd mph wasn't particularly safe! Trading Standards say we should refer the matter to another motoring party of which the garage is a member but we are concerned that this organisation will not be impartial. The garage have offered to fit a new engine for free but we have to pay for the engine- perhaps £700 and having spent £500+ on the repair we feel this isn't on- the car was worth perhaps £1200 tops, as it's a special edition. We thanked them for the offer of free fitting, saying it was kind but not satisfactory.

 

We have written to the garage to advise of our claim and have asked for the cost of the repair, the value of the car plus reasonable compensation, all of which they refuse to pay out. They deny liability, and also deny that we had a contract with them as my friend took the car in and gave his details as we were overseas. We paid the bill thus creating (and ending) the contract, and my friend made it very clear that the car was not his and he was doing all this on our behalf. Each time they called with a problem or new part cost, he advised them he would have to contact us and call them back, so they can't really deny our contract exists. They also still have the head of the engine and have not returned it, saying we can collect as detailed under their terms and conditions- they returned the car to us after the 2nd breakdown but minus this part which we understand is worth around £250 2nd hand.

 

They have offered to submit the car for an independent inspection via their trade body or the RAC, but again we're not comfortable with the impartiality, and we don't want to fork out another £300 for a 3rd party inspection. We are prepared to take out a small claims court action but would rather try to find an amicable solution without the bother of court action. Please note that I have made successful claims before so I'm not concerned about taking action, I'd genuinely rather not face the hassle!

 

We are convinced from the way the service was done (they admitted to fitting it in between other jobs and that they'd messed up the parts order) that it was not of a good enough standard and from talking to friends, colleagues, etc, we're not the first people to have had problems with this garage. We are prepared to negotiate on the sum we are expecting- should we offer this option to them or would this look like we're backing down? The real thorn in the side is that we're still paying for the car!

 

All we want is for them to say sorry, we messed up, here's something towards your costs, a refund for the shoddy work we did and something towards the cost of the car we helped become a write-off, we don't think it's too much to ask under the circumstances.

 

We have suggested that they're in breach of the Supply of Goods and Services Act.

 

The only thing is that this has been dragging on since early October and due to me being out at work for 12 hours a day I've not had much spare time to deal with it, I'm hopeful it's not too late now. My immediate thought is to write back, saying that we still feel our claim is valid, give him the opportunity to make a settlement offer within 14 days or that we will submit a claim in the county court.

 

Any ideas, thoughts, suggestions? All welcome! If you need any more details posted please let me know and I'll detail/clarify whatever I can.

 

Thanks in advance,

Adam

Any advice or opinion given is done so in the spirit of goodwill and assistance, but please note I'm not legally trained or qualified, only hoping to help. My advice or opinion is based on experience in my life, and research from forums such as this and other useful sites.

 

Please seek professional legal advice if you are in any doubt about what to do next with your personal case.

 

There are many threads on this forum to help you and I do recommend searching around to see what steps others have taken. You're in good hands with CAG-

buy a ConsumerActionGroup.co.uk email address, and help to keep this forum going!

 

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Thanks for that- had a look and it seems to be new cars only. We did contact another organisation but they confirmed this garage were a paid up member, I'm genuinely concerned that this type of concilliation will favour the member and not the consumer.

Thanks again!

Any advice or opinion given is done so in the spirit of goodwill and assistance, but please note I'm not legally trained or qualified, only hoping to help. My advice or opinion is based on experience in my life, and research from forums such as this and other useful sites.

 

Please seek professional legal advice if you are in any doubt about what to do next with your personal case.

 

There are many threads on this forum to help you and I do recommend searching around to see what steps others have taken. You're in good hands with CAG-

buy a ConsumerActionGroup.co.uk email address, and help to keep this forum going!

 

If you like what I say, feel free to give those scales a tickle :-)

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I repair a few vehicles and have just rebuilt the engine in my own car.

Shattered pistons are caused by the piston striking another part of the engine. Have a Google for "shattered piston" and theres a few sites with pictures and the causes.

 

ie: piston slap/knock worn piston in the cylinder. The piston has excess clearance between the cylinder wall and moves around. This sort of failure would be preceded with excessive oil consumption. The extra gap lets oil past the piston into the cylinder head (burns with the fuel). Damage would show in the cylinder bore and on the piston. Scoring on the cylinder wall and damage to the bottom part of the piston.

 

Alternatively the piston can be broken by striking against the valves in the cylinder head. Possible causes are incorrect valve timing, cam belt failure, cam belt tensioner failure. Damage would include bent valves in the cylinder head.

 

I'm not familiar with the type of engine in the Rover 218. However to identify the cause of the failure you would need both the bottom part of the engine and the cylinder head in the same place to compare the damaged parts.

 

For proof that the garage were negligent you would need to find evidence that the valves had struck the top of the piston. The valves for that cylinder would need to be removed and found to be bent from the impact. More than probable that other valves in the cylinder head would also be bent. Did the garage fit new cam belts and tensioners when they carried out the head gasket work?

 

Without a proper examination it's difficult to say what went wrong. My engine suffered sudden failure of the con rod bearings which also causes piston slap (tick tack noise) and luckily the piston didn't make contact with the valves.

 

If you can retrieve the cylinder head from the garage take it to an engineer/engine rebuilder with a few pictures of the bottom end of the engine and they should be able to tell straight away what caused the damage.

 

If you need an engine ask at the car breakers using ebay as guide the engines can be picked up for £150-200.

He didn't come looking for trouble, but trouble came looking for him.

When the smoke clears, it just means he's reloading.

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It's tricky.

 

I'm not a mechanic, and therefore I can't say whether this fault is at all related to the work they did or something they should have been able to predict. It might well be that it's a freak occurrence and that the garage cannot be held responsible. This is probably where an expert opinion is needed.

 

Their defence will be that they are not responsible for a separate fault which occurred after the work they had done and could not be predicted, therefore you will need to be prepared for this and be able to argue against it.

 

There's no harm in negotiating and being reasonable. After all, if the fault does turn out to be independent and not attributable to the garage, then you would be liable for the full costs - so if that were the case, free fitting in itself might not be so bad.

 

To go to court, to be honest, you would need a report done on the car to provide the judge with evidence that the fault was attributable to the garage - it's almost impossible to decide who is liable otherwise.

 

This is probably why it was deemed by TS not to be a safety issue, as they would need to be able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the garage were at fault with their work and directly caused the car to be unroadworthy. This wouldn't affect your individual civil case anyway.

Please note I'm not insured in this capacity, so if you need to, do get official legal advice.

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The Rovers are prone to head gaskets for sure.

 

I would say your best bet is as Louiboy suggests get hold of a used engine and take the garage up on their offer to fit it. You may also change the cam belt for safety at the same time.

 

If you had the new engine then you would also get the benfit of it so it is a bit swings and roundabouts.

 

What is the mileage on your Rover?

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Thanks for the info and advice folks.

 

In answer to a few points/questions raised:

The engine is a 1.8 twin cam VVTI or something, pretty much a GTI engine or so I'm told, the model is a 218iS, apparently some sort of special edition. The mileage is 98k I think- sorry I'm a bit vague but it's actually my other half's car. The head gaskets are a known pain, she had another Rover some years ago and we had the same problem, but she saw this, liked the colour and the fancy lights and had it.

 

We've had an offer for the wheels and the shell of the car as it is, so I think she's going to take it, might make back what we (well, I!) spent on the repair. If anyone's got a guide on what the shell might be worth (think the offer was £500) I'd be grateful. I'm told the alloys are worth about £200, and as I (again!) paid for top-notch Avon tyres, £90-odd each, I think my mate's offer of £150 is a bargain for him, pity she promised them to him before she had another offer of £400, be a bit mercenary of us to say he was outbid??

 

Cheers-

Adam

Any advice or opinion given is done so in the spirit of goodwill and assistance, but please note I'm not legally trained or qualified, only hoping to help. My advice or opinion is based on experience in my life, and research from forums such as this and other useful sites.

 

Please seek professional legal advice if you are in any doubt about what to do next with your personal case.

 

There are many threads on this forum to help you and I do recommend searching around to see what steps others have taken. You're in good hands with CAG-

buy a ConsumerActionGroup.co.uk email address, and help to keep this forum going!

 

If you like what I say, feel free to give those scales a tickle :-)

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