Heater failure

The consumer’s issue:

“I took my vehicle for a MOT at the garage on 7 February 2017. It failed for a couple of minor issues, and the repairs were booked in. At the same time, I asked for the heater to be investigated as it wasn’t working. I was told this was probably a water issue, and 30 minutes later, I was told water had been added, but the expected outcome of an air release hadn’t happened. It was agreed that the car would be left at the garage for another week. On 13 February 2017, I was told the car was fixed, the MOT had been passed, and the heater failure was due to a valve. However, this was followed by a call on 15 February 2017 to say that the car was not responding and the engine had seized. The next day, I was informed this was due to a lack of maintenance by the previous owners and that there were several possible causes including bad or thick oil, a bad air filter or a broken cylinder. I believe that the garage has done something to make the engine fail and I want them to pay for the repairs.”

The accredited business’ response:

  • We found no water in the car’s system upon our investigation into the heating issue and also found evidence of poor maintenance and took pictures of this.
  • We believed the vehicle had been fixed after the works had been carried out, but then the vehicle wouldn’t start, and we believed this to be due to a lack of maintenance.
  • We then received an e-mail asking for £750 and the details of our insurers, which we provided.
  • Our insurers sent an assessor who believed the failure to be due to a lack of maintenance. We have offered to reduce our bill, as a gesture of goodwill, and think we’ve done what we can to help in a difficult situation.

The adjudication outcome:

  • The adjudicator didn’t uphold the customer’s complaint. He felt that the technical evidence didn’t support a conclusion that the garage had either caused the problem, for example by leaving the vehicle running unattended as alleged by the consumer, or contributed to it through poor workmanship.
  • The adjudicator did feel that communication could have been clearer, and that the garage used a lot of jargon in their responses, but didn’t feel that a financial award was necessary.
  • The consumer rejected this outcome and asked for an ombudsman to review the complaint.

The ombudsman’s final decision:

  • The ombudsman, on reading all of the technical evidence, including the insurance assessor’s report and an independent report obtained by the consumer, as well as the photos of the vehicle, found that the garage’s belief that poor maintenance caused the problem was supported.
  • Evidence of water loss was found by the independent inspector and the report showed it had been around 6 years and nearly 30,000 miles since the vehicle’s last service. It was therefore likely that this caused or contributed to the engine’s issues.
  • The consumer’s technical report did cast some doubt on the garage’s diagnosis, as the garage had found the engine to be seized, whereas the technical report said this wasn’t the case, but that this on its own wasn’t enough to rule in the consumer’s favour.


  • The customer’s complaint was not upheld. The consumer had recently bought the car, and was advised to get in touch with the seller to see if they were willing to help.