Engine oil leak

The consumer’s issue:

In 2017, I bought a used ’10-plate luxury saloon. It is in immaculate condition, has 56,000 miles on the clock and a full service history, and no faults were found at the last MOT in February 2019. On the 11th March 2019, we noticed smoke coming from under the vehicle whilst I was driving, and the following morning, there was some oil on the driveway.

I called the dealership where I purchased the car from to tell them about the issue, and they told me to stop driving the car immediately, as oil was dripping from the exhaust and could catch fire. The vehicle was recovered to the business, and they explained that a new sump would be needed, and the engine would need to be removed, all at a cost of £2,500. I agreed to have the work done, as I was told that there would be a two-year guarantee, and was led to believe that this would solve the problem.

 A week later, I spoke to the dealership, and they said that they had saved us money, as the problem wasn’t what they first thought, and they replaced the oil cooler to stop the oil leak at a cost of £2,500. However, around two months and 500 miles later, the car stopped dead in the road, and I had to arrange for it to be recovered back to the dealership. After further investigation, the business told me that the engine had seized, and could have been caused by oil starvation, and could even have happened a long time ago. They also offered no help with the cost of replacing it, which was quoted at £17,000+VAT and labour.

Since, I’ve already paid them to fix the car once, I want the dealership to repair the fault and provide me with a fully working car at no cost to myself.” 

The accredited business’ response:

  • The car was recovered to us with oil leaking from the engine.
  • We cleaned the engine and identified the sump area as being the source of the oil leak, which required the engine and gearbox to be removed.
  • However, during this work, we found that the oil was coming from the oil cooler.
  • The engine was therefore stripped, rebuilt, and there were no signs of any leaks after conducting the road test.
  • Nevertheless, we were later informed that the car broke down around 500 miles after the repair, and asked the customer to bring it back to us for further checks.
  • After inspecting the engine, we found the oil to be at the correct level, and the oil cooler was fitted correctly, but the engine had seized.
  • We informed the customer that, without stripping the engine, we would not be able to identify the cause of the problem, but it may have been run low on oil.
  • We provided a quote to fit a new engine and details of a reconditioned engine supplier, and also advised the customer that they could have the issue checked by an independent engineer.
  • However, we were not negligent in our repair, so we won’t be providing any further assistance to the consumer.

The adjudication outcome:

  • The adjudicator explained that there were two key factors to take into consideration when delivering the outcome. The first was around the actual repair works, and whether they caused the engine to seize. The second issue was whether the business gave the consumer the right advice for them to make an informed decision as to whether to repair the car.
  • The business correctly identified the source of the oil leak, and fixed it by replacing the oil cooler at a cost of £2,500.
  • However, the engine seized, and the dealership recommended that the engine was replaced, as they were unable to rebuild them.
  • Nevertheless, with the engine not being stripped for inspection, the cause of the seizure was unknown, and the business could only take an educated guess that it resulted from insufficient oil.
  • Since the engine seized shortly after the repair, the adjudicator also presumed that the fault with it was caused by a lack of oil.
  • Therefore, based on the evidence, it was concluded that it was difficult to say that the work carried out by the business caused or contributed to the failure of the engine.
  • Also, the adjudicator was of the opinion that the engine damage had already been done, and was on its way to suffering from a full failure.
  • Their actions in repairing the oil leak did not cause or contribute to the engine seizing.
  • However, at the time of fixing the oil leak, most of the engine damage had already been done, so the engine was already on its way to suffering a full failure.
  • The business would not have known the extent of the engine damage without stripping down the engine, which would not have been deemed appropriate with the car being nine years old.
  • In this case, the evidence showed that the business had failed to inform the consumer that damage may have already been done to the engine and any repairs would not guarantee that the issue would not get worse.
  • The adjudicator explained that the business had failed to act with reasonable care and skill and a breach of the Service and Repair Code had occurred.
  • Therefore, the adjudicator upheld the complaint in the customer’s favour, and was directed to refund the £2,500 charged for repairing the oil leak.


  • Neither party has requested appeal of the adjudication outcome, and the case was closed.