Incorrect oil specification

The consumer’s issue:

My timing chain failed on my vehicle. I tried to get the repair covered under my warranty, but the claim was declined because I had serviced my car independently. They had, according to the accredited business, used the incorrect specification of oil. The independent garage said that this was a mistake and printed me out a sheet with the correct specification, but the accredited business refused to accept this and didn’t tell me why. I would like the accredited business to pay for the timing chain repairs to my vehicle”.

The accredited business’ response:

  • The vehicle has been serviced outside of our network, so we requested the oil grade sheets to check the oil grade used.
  • This was submitted to us, and it was found that the incorrect oil had been used, and therefore, the warranty could not cover the cost of the repair.
  • A further data sheet was supplied with the correct oil grade, but this was declined and the repairs will therefore will not be covered under the vehicle warranty.

The adjudication outcome:

  • The Motor Ombudsman adjudicator upheld the customer’s complaint on the basis that the accredited business had not given sufficient reasoning for declining the second oil grade sheet.
  • She felt, therefore, that the accredited business should be paying for the claim because it was unreasonable to decline it without reason.
  • The accredited business responded with their reasoning, and the independent garage involved also gave some information about what had happened.
  • The case was referred to the ombudsman for a final decision.

The ombudsman’s final decision:

  • Contrary to the adjudication outcome, the ombudsman couldn’t uphold the customer’s complaint.
  • She agreed in principle that the accredited business needed to give a good reason for why the claim had been declined.
  • With a fault like a timing chain, the service history is crucial – particularly the type of oil used, as it is common for incorrect oil usage to cause engine problems like this.
  • This was a justified reason for declining the claim, and the ombudsman considered this to be fair.
  • Every consumer has a right to service their vehicle where they wish, but it is very important to keep accurate records of this if a warranty claim needs to be made.
  • From the information provided, the servicing invoices did not include any indication about the type of oil used.
  • The two data sheets provided, which were supposed to demonstrate the type of oil used, dated from 2012, which was before the consumer’s vehicle was built, and February 2018, which was after the warranty claim had been made. Neither, therefore, are reliable sources of information.
  • As such, it was reasonable for the accredited business to decline the claim on the basis that no accurate information about the servicing had been provided.
  • It was deemed to be highly likely that the use of incorrect oil caused or contributed to the timing chain failure.


  • The accredited business was not found to be in breach of the Motor Industry Code of Practice for New Cars, and therefore, no award was made to the customer.