Loose sump plug

The consumer’s issue:

“I was called during the servicing of my car and was told that additional work would be needed. This included a gearbox leak which could cost around £4,000 to investigate. I declined this and took the car to a different garage. They found that the sump plug on the gearbox was loose, which was causing most of the oil leak, and there was a small leak at the main oil seal. I think that either the garage left the plug untightened or deliberately loosened it to create work for my car. I now believe my gearbox could have been damaged and I might need a new gearbox as a result.”

The accredited business’ response:

  • We have seen the videos from the other garage and they match our conclusions.
  • We think that the oil leak will return but won’t be able to show this without removing the gearbox.
  • The service didn’t involve the gearbox sump plug, so we couldn’t have left it loose. We offered to strip and show the leak free of charge but this was refused by the customer.

The adjudication outcome:

  • The adjudicator couldn’t find a breach of the Service and Repair Code.
  • As the service hadn’t included the sump plug, it felt unlikely that they had left it loose and there was no evidence to suggest anything deliberate.
  • As such, there was no basis on which to make an award to the customer. The consumer was not satisfied with this outcome, as he thought the garage had been trying to invent work, and requested an ombudsman’s final decision.

The ombudsman’s final decision:

  • The ombudsman agreed with the adjudicator.
  • The video from the garage’s check clearly showed a large quantity of oil on the sump which was inconsistent with them having slightly loosened the plug.
  • It was instead more consistent with the plug having been loose for some time and gradually leaking the oil.
  • Both garages also agreed about the second oil leak. It was also important to note that the garage had only done a visual check of the vehicle and not a diagnosis – so if they had been authorised to investigate further, like the second garage was doing, they may have reached the same conclusion.
  • Additionally, the consumer had not paid for any of the work and there was no proof of any damage to the gearbox.
  • Even if the gearbox was damaged, there was no proof that it had been caused by the garage. As such, there was no breach of the Service and Repair Code, and the consumer’s complaint could not be upheld.