Gearbox and clutch assembly failure

The consumer’s issue:

I purchased a three-year-old ’63-plate hatchback in May 2017. At the time, it had a recorded mileage of around 36,000. Following the collection of the car, I noticed on the drive home that the tracking was out, as the car kept pulling to the side. But as I live quite some distance from the dealership, I decided to have this rectified at my own cost (£60), but the seller refused to compensate me for this.


Shortly after, the rear seat bench began knocking and was not secured, so I got a local dealership to repair it, and within the first one to two months after buying the car, I noticed there was an intermittent squealing noise emanating from the car on tick over. I therefore returned to the same local dealership, but they refused to repair the vehicle under warranty, as the business was not of the same manufacturer as my car.


I therefore took the vehicle to an independent garage that specialised in the make of my car, and they investigated the issue and found the water pump had failed, and this could have been caused by the noise. The pump was therefore replaced in August 2017, and as the noise disappeared initially, I assumed this fault had been resolved.


However, the noise returned, and in August 2018, I took the car back to the independent garage and they said the gearbox bearing had failed, and that the clutch had worn prematurely for a car that had done 53,000 miles. Therefore, a new clutch and dual mass flywheel were needed at a cost of £1,218.


I am therefore looking to be compensated by both the seller and the local dealership for the cost of the repairs that I have had to undertake, which total around £1,300 (i.e. £1,218 for the aforementioned work and £60 for the four-wheel tracking).”

The accredited business’ response:

  • We sold the car to the customer with a manufacturer approved used guarantee.
  • At the time of sale, the vehicle was over five years old. and had already covered approximately 36,000 miles. Therefore, it’s not unusual for it to develop faults during its lifespan.
  • The water pump was replaced quite soon after purchase, but this is in no way connected with the subsequent failure of the clutch and flywheel, nor is there any evidence to connect the two issues.
  • The consumer was able to use the car for 15 months and covered over 18,000 miles before the fault with the clutch and flywheel developed. In addition, they have not provided any evidence to show what the cause of the failure was, or that it was likely to have been present when the car was sold.
  • The customer also didn’t give us an opportunity to inspect and repair the fault, which the law offers us. Therefore, we can’t say whether the failure resulted from the consumer’s own driving style.
  • We believe that the vehicle was of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose when it was sold, and we should not be held responsible for covering the cost of the clutch and flywheel repairs. However, we would be happy to reimburse them for the tracking, subject an invoice being provided to us.

The adjudication outcome:

  • The Motor Ombudsman adjudicator noted the proximity between the date of purchase, and when the tracking was completed (i.e. a day after), so it was more likely than not that the tracking was out when the vehicle was sold. Therefore, it was concluded that the selling dealership should reimburse the consumer the cost they incurred for this.
  • However, the adjudicator also found that there was no evidence to show that the clutch and gearbox faults had been a result of an inherent fault that was present at the time of sale, and couldn’t uphold this aspect of the complaint.
  • The consumer disagreed with the adjudicator, as they believed the clutch and flywheel had failed prematurely, and shouldn’t have occurred, seeing as the car was only five years old at this point.
  • The customer therefore requested a final decision from the ombudsman.

The ombudsman’s final decision:

  • The ombudsman considered the information provided by both parties and acknowledged that the water pump was faulty at the point of sale due to it failing within four months of the consumer buying the car. She was also satisfied that a successful repair had been completed.
  • In August 2018, she noted that there was a fault with the gearbox and clutch assembly when the overall mileage of the car was nearly 55,000 miles, after the customer had owned the vehicle for 15 months and completed 18,238 miles during this time.
  • The consumer took the car to an independent garage for repairs, and there was no evidence to suggest that the selling dealership had been given the opportunity to investigate the issue prior to the repair, or what the cause of the issue was.
  • The ombudsman also noted that the consumer reported an intermittent squealing noise since buying the car, an issue that was raised when the water pump was replaced, but was not mentioned at the time to the seller. Therefore, the selling dealership cannot be held responsible for this.
  • The evidence also showed that the customer sought an independent opinion from a garage specialising in the same make of car, and that also replaced the gearbox and clutch assembly. They said that the failure had been premature based on the age of the car, but the ombudsman noted that this opinion was provided nine months after the repair was completed.
  • Based on the time that passed between the purchase of the car, and the failure of the gearbox and clutch assembly, the burden was on the consumer to show this resulted from a fault that was present, or was developing at the point of sale.
  • Therefore, the ombudsman concluded that, based on the considerable mileage covered by the consumer (i.e. the 18,000 miles), this would not have been possible had the clutch and gearbox been faulty when the car was sold.
  • The ombudsman also went on to point out that, under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, the selling dealership should have been offered an opportunity to investigate the fault prior to repairs being completed, but this didn’t happen on this occasion.
  • As a result, this element of the consumer’s complaint was not upheld in their favour.
  • The ombudsman noted that, soon after purchase, the consumer noted that the tracking had been rectified at their own cost, and had provided suitable evidence of this. Therefore, they upheld this part of the complaint in the consumer’s favour, and asked the selling dealership to reimburse the customer for this, but without incurring any interest on this amount.