Repeated clutch failure

The consumer’s issue:

“I purchased a new car in March 2016, and after almost two years, I started experiencing problems with the clutch and the car wouldn’t go into gear. I took it to the business, and they told me that it would need replacing. They said this wasn’t covered under warranty and that the damage had been caused due to my driving style. However, less than two months after the repair, I started to experience similar problems with the clutch, and again I was told that I had damaged the clutch, that it needed replacing, and that I had to pay. I’m unhappy that I was made responsible for the problem, as I believe there was something wrong with the car. In fact, I’ve been driving for years and have never had any issues with the clutch.”

The accredited business’ response:

  • The car was recovered to us in December 2017, and it was identified that the clutch was breaking up, indicating it had failed due to wear and tear. Therefore, a new clutch kit was fitted.
  • In February 2018, the clutch plate had once again failed due to excessive wear and it had also caused damage to the flywheel.
  • Following the repair, we noticed there was a slight leak on the clutch slave cylinder, which may have been caused by the operation of a worn clutch. However, this hadn’t been identified at the time of the two prior repairs. This particular repair was covered under the warranty.

The adjudication outcome:

  • The Motor Ombudsman adjudicator looked into the complaint, but didn’t uphold it in favour of the customer.
  • He said there was no evidence to suggest that there was an inherent fault with the car or that the business had done anything wrong.
  • The consumer disagreed with the adjudication outcome, and asked for the case to be looked into by an ombudsman.

The ombudsman’s final decision:

  • The ombudsman partially upheld the consumer’s complaint. This is because she said that the customer had driven the car for almost two years and covered approximately 33,000 miles.
  • This was above average use, and therefore, there was insufficient evidence to show that the clutch was faulty when the car was bought. In this case, no refund was awarded for the initial repair.
  • The ombudsman also said that there was no evidence that the consumer had asked the business to retain the parts until three days after they’d collected the car, by which time the business had disposed of the clutch.
  • However, the ombudsman went on to then look at the second repair. She said a new clutch had been fitted, and less than two months later, the clutch had failed.
  • She said it wasn’t possible for the consumer to have caused such severe damage to a new clutch in less than two months when he’d previously driven the car for almost two years and covered 33,000 miles without any clutch issues.
  • She went on to state that, even after this second repair, the car required further work as the business had noticed the slave cylinder was faulty.
  • While the slave cylinder repair was covered under warranty, the ombudsman concluded that it was quite probable that the slave cylinder had caused the damage to the clutch, and that the business had failed to identify this during the repairs.
  • Therefore, the ombudsman recommended that the business refunded the full cost incurred by the consumer for the second clutch replacement.