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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 71050
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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I have a Vauxhall Corsa, 5 years old 60,000. It has only ever

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I have a Vauxhall Corsa, 5 years old 60,000. It has only ever been serviced & repaired through the Vauxhall dealership where I purchased it in Sept 2011. 7 weeks ago I took the car in because it was not running as well as it should. I told them the windows steamed up & would not clear & there was a burning smell coming from the air vents, that I had to keep topping up with water & the cooling fan was constantly cutting in. They said it would be £60 for a 'diagnostic' check. On collection they said it was a sensor that needed replacing & explained that this sensor had only been replaced on its last service (8 months previously)so they said they would replace it again as it must be a manufacturing fault. My Husband ask where was the water going if we had to keep topping it up they said it was fine. Monday evening the head gasket blew on my car & I had to be towed to the dealership. They now say they have checked all the service records & they could not have picked something like this up. Are they at fault? Also I am right in thinking that a 5 year old car with 60,000 mles on it should not have the engine blowing up, does this fit with a 'not fit for purpose' law? Please help the dealership want over £1,000 for me to repair it. Thank you

Thank you for your question. My name is XXXXX XXXXX I will try to help with this.

How much did you pay for the vehicle please?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I cannot remember exactly but in the region of £7-8000

After five years, the provisions of the Sale of Goods Act do not apply so "satisfactory quality" and "fit for purpose" are not relevant here.

Under the Supply of Goods to Consumer Regulations goods have to be free from manufacturing defect for six years. The burden of proof is on the consumer to prove that the defect existed at the time of manufacture. That is not particularly easy to do.

From what I know about cars, constant topping up with cooling water and overheating is a sign of a head gasket problem which would probably be classed as wear and tear.
However my understanding is that the cost of replacing a head gasket which has gone and the cost of replacing a head gasket that was leaking (which it would appear to be the case) is virtually the same.

I am not a mechanic and therefore the issue of the sensor would be something for another mechanic to advise you on. If the sensor failure caused the problem and you can prove that with another engineer's report, then you have a claim against the garage that did the last service and that fitted a faulty part.

To answer your question, the fact that the water was leaking and the car was overheating should have been picked up on the diagnosis seven weeks ago and whether that diagnosis was defective would really depend on what has happened in the last seven weeks.

What is possibly relevant in addition to the Regulations I mentioned earlier other provisions of the Supply of Goods and Services Act where any service which is provided must be carried out with reasonable care and skill. Therefore if the diagnostic was defective because this was not a sensor but was a head gasket, you have a claim under the Supply of Goods and Services Act.

However your claim would be for the difference between them carrying out the diagnostic correctly and carrying out the diagnostic incorrectly.

As the head gasket would have required doing anyway, it is likely that the cost was no different, it just needed doing seven weeks later.

Until you get an engineer's report as to what exactly caused this and what went wrong, I am unable to tell you any more.

Can I clarify anything for you?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

The staff at the dealership did tell me that this was a common fault with this particular make of car & this was well known to them. Would it be reasonable for me to expect, when I told them about the losing water problem, that as the experts & skilled mechanics, they would check for this problem knowing it was common?

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Sorry I meant to say, I have not had the car for 5 years I purchased it less than 3 years ago. Thank you

If this is a common fault with this particular car and it is well known to them, it would be reasonable for you to expect them to check for that problem.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Although the car is 5 years old, does it makes a difference that I purchased the car less than 3 years ago, when you look at what you mentioned about the provision of sale of goods?

The Sale of Goods act would not apply if you around the vehicle for three years.
There is already case law which limits that to 12 months.
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