Do I have any legal rights over the selling dealer after a timing belt failure on my Ford Focus?

I bought a 55-plate Ford Focus with 51,000 miles on the clock back in February 2009 for £6500. It has now developed an engine fault that my local Ford dealership tell me will cost either £400 plus VAT or £1500 plus VAT to resolve. The problem is that the on-board computer cannot tell them if they need to replace just the intake camshaft timing unit and timing belt kit, or whether they also need to replace the cylinder head assembly as well. I believe that if the car was fully functional it would be worth around £4200 (it now has done 64,000 miles) so potentially the repair bill is half of the value of the car.

When I bought the car I asked about the timing belt because my old Volvo needed a new one at 60,000 miles, and was told that it would be good for around 120,000 miles. From the quotes it appears that this is not the case and I wouldn't expect a car that is just under five years old to develop such a serious fault (maybe I am being naive, however). Do I have any legal grounds to approach the dealership that sold me the car and ask them to do the work for free or for a discount? Is there a reason why Ford or their servicing team cannot identify the actual problem, so I know whether I'm about to spend £1,000 unnecessarily having the cylinder head assembly replaced?

Asked on 5 August 2010 by Simon Wolf

Answered by Honest John
Between the lines you are saying that the engine suffered premature timing belt failure, but you don't say at what mileage. Electronic diagnostics cannot tell the damage. That will only become apparent when it is dismantled. Since you asked the specific question, you may have a case against the supplying dealer and should refer the matter to him asap.
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