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Jenny, Solicitor
Category: Law
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Experience:  Qualified Solicitor specialising in Employment Law and general legal matters. Please start your question For Jenny Only
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I have a question regarding a problem with my Ford Focus

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Hi. I have a question regarding a problem with my Ford Focus which I bought from new approximately 2.5 years ago.
In August 2014 it broke down owing to a faulty pipe in its cooling system leading to a blown cylinder head gasket. As a result it had to have an entire new engine installed.
At that time Ford admitted responsibility and covered the cost of the repair plus a hire car for the 6 weeks it took to carry out.
Since that time the car has performed well until the weekend just gone when, having just arrived in Northumberland on holiday, it broke down again seemingly with another blown cylinder head gasket, though in this case root cause has yet to be determined. (It doesn't appear to be the same pipe)
On this occasion, however, Ford Customer Care are refusing to accept responsibility on two grounds:
a) the vehicle, although less than 3 years old, has now done over 60k miles - and they say their warranty is for 3 years or 50k miles whichever occurs first.
b) (and this seems to be their main point) they say that I have not had the vehicle serviced regularly. In particular that I did not have it serviced in 2014. They do acknowledge, however, that it was serviced in Jan 2015.
To me, however, this second argument seems entirely irrelevant to the present problem for two reasons.
a) While I accept that the car was not formally serviced in 2015, it did have an entire new engine fitted in August that year. If I'd had a service carried out before then, it would have been on an engine that is no longer in the car. And to have had a service carried out on a brand new engine seems patently absurd - instead I waited 6 months and had it serviced then.
b) The problem is definitely connected with the car's engine which is a new part, only a little over a year old and which has done far fewer that 50k miles. As this has been serviced in accordance with the schedule since its installation and not involved in any form of accident or other misuse, it seems to me likely that it contained a fault from the very beginning. Which in turn makes me feel that Ford should accept some responsibility - if only to examine the vehicle and prove me wrong - at the moment they are refusing to do even this!
Do I have the law on my side in this? And if so, how should I proceed?
Your views would be much appreciated.
With thanks in advance
Hello my name is ***** ***** I am happy to help you today.
So are you saying that you believe the problem is to do with either the new engine or the fitting of it?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

On the basis of what the AA have told me the problem is a blown cylinder head gasket ie a component of the new engine.

So, yes, it's a problem with the new engine.

Ok in that case you do have rights under the Supply of Goods and Services Act even in the event that they can argue that their warranty is invalidated.
This is because you have the right to expect the car to be of reasonable quality. If the repair has only lasted 1 year then this would suggest that they are in breach of the ACT.
You should write to say that if they will not accept liability you will claim for costs of repair under the Act. You should offer them the opportunity to inspect the vehicle or say that if they refuse to do so you will have no alternative but to engage an independent expert and say that if they agree that the cause is the engine or work on it done by them you will have no alternative but to claim for the repair cost plus the cost of the initial report.
You should state in the letter that in the event that the warantee has expired (which you deny) your basic consumer rights under the Supply of Goods and Services Act remain in place and protect you in this situation.
You can also contact trading standards to report the issue and to get a reference number that you can use on correspondence.
If you have any further questions please do ask.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Thanks Jenny, that's useful and is in line with my understanding of the law too (for what that's worth!)

One follow-up. The situation at present is that my local Ford dealership ow has the car, but except for a very quick check to see that the root of the problem was not the same cracked pipe as the 1st time (for which Ford have since issued a general recall), the are refusing to examine further unless I first accept responsibility for all costs.

This to me seems most unreasonable and I am very reluctant to do so.

What are your thoughts?

(Having the vehicle towed else where, however, would also be expensive!)

I would write them a letter setting out your rights as I've set out above. You should ask them to reconsider their position in the light of your letter and say that, in the invent they refuse to inspect the vehicle at their cost you will have the vehicle towed to an independant garage for inspection and will add the cost of doing so to a subsequent claim.
If you have any further questions please do ask. If I have answered your question I would be grateful if you would take the time to rate my answer. Thank you and all the best.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

OK. Thanks for that Jenny.

One last question, before I give you an 'Excellent' rating.

Thinking ahead, even though you say the Warranty issue is not crucial, I guess that they may still try to insinuate that the fact that I missed a service implies I was not caring correctly for the car, and that this was what caused the problem.

My view , however, is that since the only missed service was from BEFORE the new engine was fitted, and it has been serviced to schedule from thereon, this argument is weak/falacious.

Does that sound reasonable? (Or is it too technical for you to comment on?)

The service is only relevant to the argument of the validity of the warranty.
The Supply of Goods and Services Act does not require a warranty to be valid for you to have rights against the dealer.
The warranty is therefore irrelevant.
But yes, your point is exactly correct from the point of view of your general consumer rights, rather than under a warranty the terms of which will be set by the retailer.
The end result is the same.
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