MOT clutch failure

The consumer’s issue:

“My daughter’s vehicle went to the dealership for an MOT test. When she collected it later that day, the clutch felt different and was extremely stiff, whereas when she had dropped the car off, it was in perfect order. When we returned the vehicle to the dealership, they agreed it was heavy and stated that it looked as if the clutch had worn out and that it must have been like that when it was dropped off.

The business wanted to charge us £500 to fit a new clutch, so I took the vehicle elsewhere and had one fitted for £170. I therefore feel that the dealership should reimburse me for this cost, as the car had no such issues when it was left in their care.”

The accredited business’ response:

  • The customer brought their car to us for an MOT, which was failed on a rear license plate bulb. This was replaced and the car passed its MOT.
  • When the customer returned, we tested the clutch and its operation felt fine, but the consumer contested that it wasn’t. We did confirm it did feel a bit heavy, but this would be expected for a vehicle of the age and mileage.
  • The customer contacted us the next day to advise the vehicle was un-driveable, and we agreed to inspect it to see if we could find a reason for this and consider any adjustments to the clutch.
  • However, there were no possible adjustments to make to the clutch, so we recommended that, if the clutch had worn to the point of the consumer being unable to use it, that replacement would be required.
  • We do not feel that the work we carried out could have affected the operation of the clutch. As it sits within the bell housing, and can only be accessed by removing the gearbox, it would not have been feasible for us to have had an influence on it.
  • As a result, we cannot accept the fault was caused by our actions.

The adjudication outcome:

  • The Motor Ombudsman adjudicator noted that the Service and Repair Code and relevant legislation did not allow the consumer to argue simply because something felt different after the vehicle was in the business’ care.
  • Instead, it requires evidence that, the issue that was found (i.e. a worn out clutch) had been instigated by the dealership’s inability to care for the vehicle correctly or was the result of an action that they had taken which could have caused the failure.
  • In this case, the actions that the dealership took could not caused the vehicle to fail in this way and it was more probable the clutch was on the cusp of failure when the car went in for the MOT. Therefore, the dealership could not have done anything to prevent the failure that followed.
  • As there was no evidence, either mechanical or a professional opinion to the contrary, it was considered more probable the vehicle was already suffering with wear to the clutch, and just so happened to suffer the failure when the car was in the business’ care,
  • As there was no evidence of a failure by the business to meet their legal obligations, or those required by the Service and Repair Code, no award was made by The Motor Ombudsman to the consumer, and no final decision was requested from the ombudsman.