Car rear brakes seized within 2 months of purchase in warranty - who is to blame?

We bought a car from a small garage in November. Before we got the car it needed an MOT and service, which the garage did for us as part of the deal of buying the car.

When we got the car we first checked all the fluid levels of the car to ensure they were all adequate (I know it had only been serviced, but just in case something important was missed - I have Asperger's and like to make 100% sure that things are ok - other people have said to me it moves doesn't it so whats the problem?)

When we checked the fluid levels we noticed the coolant fluid bottle was empty, all other bottles were full, so we just topped up the coolant and left it at that.

We then got an offer from the local Vauxhall dealer of £25 for a winter "safety" check (25-point safety check). We thought that's alright, I know we've only just bought the vehicle and this guy seems to have a good reputation around here - but for £25 - plus we get a free £20 bag of stuff like snow shovel, etc we might as well go for it.

There website states that they check the following "We will inspect your vehicle’s brakes, tyres, exhaust, steering, wiper blades ".

When the vehicle came back it came with a sheet with all ticks on what they'd checked. The only one problem it came back with was slight corrosion on the front discs, but the guy at the garage said to us that is nothing to be worried about.

We were quite shocked then when travelling down a 60mph road the back brakes suddenly locked on, causing the car to skid down the road. Thankfully I managed to keep control of the vehicle, but this left us in a very dangerous situation. We were unable to move the vehicle at all, it was stuck on a 60mph A road (although quite a number of cars were doing more than 60), in the pitch black.

I thought to myself - well this vehicle was supposed to have a "safety check" from Vauxhall and they give it all ticks for brakes - and I don't really call a car that slams on the brakes at 60mph very safe.

The recovery firm came out and took a look and told us that nobody had checked the brakes properly as the calipers were full of rust and this is why they'd seized. He said you can tell no-one has checked this because there is still rust on the wheel bolts, and they're over tightened.

We complained to Vauxhall about their safety check and all we got back from them it was a visual check only and we didn't remove anything, we just looked at the brakes from underneath and they looked fine. I find this to be totally unbelievable and really can't believe they'd claim to have checked brakes for safety just by looking underneath - you can't even see the brakes from underneath, never mind assess whether they should have a tick in a box to say they're safe or not - apparently the tick box also includes the checking of brake pads, but I don't know how on earth they checked the brake pads if they couldn't see the rust on the calipers. I would have thought that a visual check of the brakes would be to at least take the wheel off and have a look at the braking mechanism so they can see it!

Anyway we're just wondering who is in the wrong here? Is Vauxhall in the wrong for certifying that those brakes were safe, when clearly they were not. Is the garage who sold us the car in November in the wrong for not checking the rear brakes properly when servicing it? Will our three month warranty cover the rear brakes, or is it something that could go at any time?

The Green Flag guys said to us that those Zafira's are prone to this type of problem with the rear brakes. Is this true and if so is there anything we should notice before it happens again? Is there a set mileage to have the calipers changed? Obviously brakes stopping the vehicle if they fail is safer than them not stopping the vehicle, but I would prefer them to be a little bit more controlled than just fully locking and causing the vehicle to skid.

Asked on 24 December 2013 by Theklf99

Answered by Honest John
For £25 (which gets you a £20 bag of stuff) you were never going to get anything more than a cursory check. Wheels are not removed during a routine service or an MoT either. The liability for the brakes being rusty and seizing on rests with the dealer who sold you the car because they were obviously rusty on the date of sale. So you need to take it up with him. Law here: www.honestjohn.co.uk/faq/consumer-rights/
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