Legal position with car bought at dealer but has suffered catastrophic engine failure

My Father-in-Law (a 79 yr old OAP) bought his Grandson a second hand car from a local dealer in Aug 2012 so that he could get to his University placement as he is training to be a Paramedic and is posted to various hospitals to gain 'on the road' experience as part of his syllabus.

The car concerned is a 2004 Renault Megane 1.5Dci which had done 91,875 miles when purchased at a price of £2600. At the time he also purchased a 3 month warranty upgrade. On 23 Dec whilst returning home for Christmas the car broke down on the M5 at Taunton at approx midnight. The AA retrieved it and towed it home. The AA engineer suggested that a big end bearing may have failed.

The following day I called a local independent garage with a good reputation to collect the car and asked him to fully inspect the engine and to provide an estimate for repair. He called an hour later asking me to visit him to sight what he had found. It turned out that the engine was considered beyond repair as the auxiliary drive belt looked to have frayed and thereafter sheared which then took out the cam belt and the drive pulley. This made the car a write off as it was beyond economical repair as the estimate provided to do so equalled the original cost.

My son had only done 4,100 miles since purchasing it. I then checked all of the paperwork provided by the dealer with the car to see what was done to the car as part of the original sale. It states that it was fully serviced as part of the sale and that a leaking water pump seal had been repaired. In my professional opinion as an Ex-RN Artificer and Officer if the car was indeed serviced then both belts would have been inspected and checked for correct tension and fitting.

Also if the water pump seal was changed then this would also support a close inspection of the belts etc. on completion of the seal change.

On discovering the material state of the car engine the original dealer was called and a meeting was held in his office. After fully explaining the position the dealer offered all of the expected reasons why it was nothing to do with him and that as the warranty had expired then it wasn't his problem.

I believe that under the Sales of Goods Act that the warranty doesn't effect the original purchase and is in addition to any other rights. I reminded him of this, which seemed to take him somewhat aback. He then got very obstructive. He asked me what I wanted so I asked for a full refund, which I didn't believe he would entertain.

He then stated that as an act of 'Goodwill' he would make an offer of £150, which I found to be derisory. Trying to keep things as amicable as possible I turned this down outright. What I also know but didn't mention to him having checked out the Citizens Advice website, is that if the goods fail within a six month period of purchase then the onus is on the seller to categorically prove by independant means that the fault wasn't on the goods when sold, as I now believe, and that the checklist provided at the time of sale does not suffice to verify this. After six months then the onus shifts to the purchaser to prove this.

He then proceeded to suggest that I buy a re-con engine off E-Bay and he would get his mate to fit it at a total cost of approx £300. Anyone of sound mind would know just how half cocked this suggestion was let alone a professional engineer. I obviously turned this suggestion down immediately. He then stated that he would ask his mate (at the garage immediately next door) to price up a re-con engine locally and to add the cost of fitting it so that my son and I have a rough idea of estimated cost to do this work.

Although I have provisionally agreed for him to do this I do not feel confident in any way that he will do anything but the minimum and that the repair won't be of much value or longevity.

My son and his grandfather are both in some distress over this as they are not experienced in these sorts of matters and neither has the additional money to try and recover this situation as what they spent in buying the car was done so in good faith.

Personally, I fully believe that this dealer is a confidence trickster, although I haven't voiced this and that he should be fully liable for the costs of repairs, minus a small contribution for the mileage that my son undertook in the car before the engine failure. This would only be fair.

Asked on 30 December 2012 by Steve Hearty

Answered by Honest John
If he fixes it in his terms, that is all he has to do.

Law here:

In fact, what you describe is quite a common problem with this engine. The aux belt snapped, wrapped itself up in the timing belt and caused consequential damage to the engine.

When cases like this go to the small claims track of the county court the plaintiff usually wins, but this is not guaranteed in this case.
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