The consumer’s issue:
“I purchased a new ’63-plate car in January 2014. Around three years later, in June 2017, the turbocharger failed, and it was repaired under warranty. However, in October 2018, it stopped working again. The car was still within the manufacturer’s warranty, but the manufacturer wouldn’t cover the cost of replacing the turbo, because they said it failed due to irregular servicing and maintenance.
I acknowledge that the most recent service on the car was late, but the turbocharger should have lasted longer than 16 months. I think the component was faulty, and the manufacturer hasn’t provided any evidence to show that it failed because of irregular servicing. I feel they are being unfair in declining the warranty claim and I would therefore like them to cover the cost of replacing the turbocharger under warranty, which equates to the sum of £1,750.”
The accredited business’ response:
- The first failure was at 126,084 miles and, as a goodwill gesture, we agreed to contribute towards the cost of the repairs despite the customer having failed to service the car in accordance with the recommended servicing schedule i.e. it was 6,000 miles out.
- However, 16 months later, the turbo failed again. The consumer had covered another 43,000 miles, and again, the service was out by 4,000 miles.
- The irregular service has, in our opinion and the opinion of the technicians that inspected the car at the dealership, caused the turbocharger to fail.
- Our warranty terms and conditions state that cover will not be provided where the recommended service schedule hasn’t been adhered to, and the failure of the component is believed to be a result of the irregular or incomplete service
- As a result, we are unable to provide any further goodwill on this occasion.
The adjudication outcome:
- The Motor Ombudsman adjudicator reviewed the information provided and said a regular service involves the replacement of oil and oil filters which are crucial to the lubrication of the turbocharger and other mechanical components.
- If the consumer fails in their duty to care for the vehicle and its upkeep, this may release the business from their liability under the warranty unless it is reasonably proven the failure was not related to the lack of servicing.
- The issue is that the turbo is an oil dependent component and mechanical in its operation. This means it requires adequate lubrication to prevent it wearing unduly, and this wear causes failure.
- The turbo can fail at any time if not being kept lubricated, and the failure to change the oil is commonly known to accelerate the wear on those parts to the point of failure.
- Without suitably technical evidence to dispel this assertion, the adjudicator could not conclude that the failure was not associated with not servicing the vehicle in accordance with the recommended schedule.
- The adjudicator also explained that there was no evidence to show that the turbocharger had failed due to an inherent manufacturing fault.
- As a result, the complaint could not be upheld in the consumer’s favour. However, the customer disagreed with the adjudication outcome and requested an ombudsman’s final decision.
The ombudsman’s final decision:
- The ombudsman noted that the turbocharger had failed twice. However, she said she couldn’t consider the initial failure as this had previously been investigated by one of our other ombudsmen. So, she focused on the second turbocharger failure and whether the manufacturer was liable for the repair costs under warranty.
- The ombudsman highlighted that the manufacturer is only responsible for covering the cost of repairs under warranty if the failure is a result of an inherent manufacturing defect. She said a manufacturer is not responsible for paying out for failures which come about as a result of lack of service and maintenance, wear and tear or external influences.
- She emphasised the importance of adhering to the manufacturer’s service schedule, which she said are set out to optimise the longevity of mechanical components and prevent premature failure.
- She noted that the consumer had covered 43,000 miles in the space of 16 months, and they had serviced the car as per the warranty recommendations. She pointed out that turbocharger failure was generally associated with oil starvation, wrong oil or oil contamination. In addition, a lack of servicing or irregular services would impact the operation of the turbocharger.
- The ombudsman equally remarked that the consumer had said that the repairing dealership had found the sump to be full of sludge. She said this was again an indication that irregular servicing had contributed to the failure.
- Furthermore, she explained the warranty makes it clear that servicing intervals need to be adhered to in order for the consumer to benefit from the warranty. And, as the car wasn’t serviced in line with the terms and conditions of the warranty, and there was no evidence that the failure was a result of an inherent fault, she couldn’t uphold the complaint in the consumer’s favour.
- Neither party responded to the ombudsman’s final decision, and the case was closed.